MEET THE MAN WHO PUTS THE WILL IN WILLY'S PIES
It's the lockdown success story we're all obsessed with. Find out how Willy's Pies has become the top cult food delivery service of 2020.
I think we can all agree that a couple of really great things came from lockdown. No, not banana bread and jarring Tik Tok dances, absolutely not, I’m talking about @jtfirstman’s Instagram impressions and of course, Willy’s Pies. Now, while I am completely obsessed with Jordan Firstman and he himself has DM’d me to interview him, I said: “No, I have to speak to Will of Willy’s Pies first.” He understood.
I pinned Will down virtually over Zoom and took my sweet time writing up his amazing story. And in the meantime, bloody Timeout only scooped him up, didn’t they? Big tings.
By now you should be following Will. If not for the pies, then the relentless videos of him annoying his long-suffering girlfriend Jenny. But where did this success story start? With the F word: Furlough.
“I was working at Brat when all this madness started and was furloughed right at the beginning during the second week of lockdown. Me and my flatmate thought: "let’s do it." We went to a local butcher near where we live in Leyton and made that our one form of exercise a day. The first week we sold out but we put it down to our mates supporting us and thought after that it would be a flop but it hasn’t stopped since.”
The concept is simple: pies. One meat, one veg, two sweet pies and every now and then some good old Welsh rarebit. And since starting this winning idea, he’s ditched his old oven and upgraded to a kitchen in Leyton’s Marmelo, where he and his team cook up 220 savoury pies and 120 sweet pies – hold tight girlfriend Jenny on the dessert! The weekly menu is released every Monday at 9am and it only takes a couple hours for him to completely sell out, so it really is SELLING LIKE HOT CAKES.
Which pie is a top seller?
“Beef. Everyone loves a bit of beef. Especially when we add the bone marrow to the centre. But for me, it’s the ones with Newcastle Brown Ale. Plus, I love oxtail. I cook it off and use that as my beef stock. Oh, and I can’t forget the smoked pig cheek and roast chicken pie.”
So tasty and it seems everyone wants a slice (soz!) even Timeout, who made Will their October cover boy in an article named: The London chefs who beat lockdown.
“Obviously I knew I was in the feature alongside some great restaurants and businesses, which was a huge achievement in itself but to get on the cover was mad. I had a 10am pint at the Wetherspoons in Angel to settle the nerves and went for it. There was suggestion of a pie shot for the front page, I was like: Nah, I want to be on it, sorry. I cycled to Liverpool Street the morning it was out and they’d all gone but I managed to get my hands on one later in the day. It was proper surreal.”
Since his breakthrough moment, the young killa has had a big surge of new customers and followers, leading him to open three pick-up locations in north, east and south London. Meaning, it’s even easier to go collect one but fear not, it’s only a fiver for delivery with one of Will’s sustainable bike delivery pals.
So, where does he see all this pie stuff going?
“Probably flog the idea to Deborah Meaden and move to the countryside, plant some veg, have some livestock and wear cords. That, or I like the idea of cracking the football market. Maybe I’ll open a really sick old heritage pie and mash shop in London or down in Margate."
Pies, aside, give us your favourite food spots in London…
Four Legs never disappoints.
Short Road Pizza are doing a pop up at Yardarm in Leyton, it’s affordable and delicious.
I’d also go stretch the legs and pick up a Thai from Singburi too.
Black Axe Mangal for sure
Mangal 2. I think what they’re doing is really exciting. It has a whole new look.
St John’s. This is to anyone coming to London, you have to go.
Brat. It’s a real theatre.
Song Que Café. I’m obsessed.
Who should we be following on Instagram?
Taste Cadets all day
Top destinations for food?
"Greece is one of my favourites. I love coming out of the sea and having a proper fresh Greek salad. Oh, and lamb chops."
Will’s death row dinner:
"Duck liver toast from St John’s. A big bowl of pho with chunks of beef and tendons – the whole shebang. Dessert would be lemon tart. Then a McDonald's coke or a San Pellegrino lemon."
Lastly, Will’s advice for anyone thinking of following in his footsteps…
“Just do it. Working for yourself is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It’s graft but fun and exciting. Also, if you want a Monday off you can have a Monday off. Bliss.”
Willy’s Pies weekly menu drops every Monday at 9am on his brand new, v flashy website. So if you want to get your hands on one, and you obviously do, then turn those Instagram notifications ON and get ready for an unforgettable winter warmer like no other.