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Business & Economy

Northumberland miller working at full capacity to meet flour demand

A mill in Northumberland is facing unprecedented demand for its top-of-the-range flour during the coronavirus outbreak.

Gilchesters Organics is run from a Stamfordham farm by Dr Andrew Wilkinson and his wife Sybille, and its customers include many of the country’s top-rated restaurants.

However, since the pandemic forced the closure of restaurants and many bakeries, the business has been inundated with demand from smaller customers wanting their high-quality flour.

Gilchesters are also donating free flour to a top London chef who is providing free loaves of fresh bread to a number of hospitals in the capital.

Sybille explained: “Usually 85 per cent of our business is supplying restaurants and bakeries, but with these customers shutting up shop for the time being, we now have hundreds of smaller customers all needing flour. This puts pressure on our delivery service, but we’re coping well so far.

“Our mills are operating at full capacity and we’re milling all hours of the day to keep on top of orders. We’re a small team and we’re ensuring social distancing which, of course, makes things a bit tougher.

“We’re also delivering our flour as our number one priority is to encourage customers to stay at home, and to protect our workforce. We’re committed to continue supplying local shops, including Corbridge Larder; North Acomb Farm Shop; Moorhouse Farm; Pink Lane Bakery; Matfen Village Shop; Humshaugh community bakery and The Honey Tree.

“This is an unprecedented situation and I think we’re going to be in it for the foreseeable future so it’s important to us to be able to keep these local stores well stocked.”

High-profile London restaurants who use Gilchesters’ organic flour include Holborn Dining Room, The Dairy, Great Scotland Yard, The Portland, Quality Chop House, The Clove Club, The Portland, Marcus at The Berkley, Sorella and Darbys. North East restaurants supplied include: Six at The Baltic, Café 21, Dobson & Parnell and Northern Rye

Andrew added: “We’ve always been proud of the chefs we work with, but particularly so now. When Robin Gill of The Dairy, Sorella and Darbys and his head chef Dean Parker had to close their doors, they immediately started supplying the NHS with freshly-baked bread.”

To date, Gilchesters has donated 650 kgs of flour to Dean and Robin. The co-ordination and distribution is being completed by Cook-19, a not-for-profit initiative providing cooked meals and supplies to NHS staff.

Dean said: “We are making 40 loaves three times a week for the NHS staff and hospitals. We are also making fresh pasta and creating food bags for the NHS staff who are isolating.”