The Little Chef All Day Breakfast

“Little Chef had its roots in the days before Britain had a motorway network, in fact, there are some who believe that our motorways were built primarily to join up all the Little Chefs.” The Caterer.

My Mum likes to tell a story about how as a boy I was a really fussy eater. It might be true. I do know that my own son was a terribly fussy eater. Once on holiday in Portugal in 1994 I had to take him every night to the same bar for a cone of boiled rice and a Pingu ice cream because it was all that he would eat.

This is a Pingu ice cream…

Getting him to eat was a real challenge but the one place he did like was the Little Chef Roadside Diner at Little Eaton near Derby so in desperation and before he wasted away completely we used to take him there now and again for his favourite meal of chicken gougons and French fries.

This is the Little Chef Diner at Little Eaton.  It was an old farmhouse with character.  It is a Starbucks now…

In 2000 there were almost four and fifty branches of Little Chef across the UK and Ireland. Barely fifteen years later there were just 70. Now there are none. The brand simply went out of fashion.

The relationship between driving and eating can be traced back to the economic boom of the 1950s. People had more money to spend, they had cars, they had time to spare, and they were taking inspiration from American culture and heading out on a road trip. What better place to stop for a meal along the way than an American style diner.

The first Little Chef opened in 1958 and restaurants appeared by the side of main roads nationwide and managed to convince families that their cheap, no-nonsense menus would be better than going to the bother of preparing a picnic.

This is a Petcher family picnic in 1959…

Little Chef was most famous for its all day breakfast which thanks to a standardised corporate menu was pretty much similar in all of the restaurants. If you went for a breakfast then you knew exactly what you were going to get.

The basic breakfast was two rashers of bacon, a pork sausage, two free-range eggs, mushroom, sauté potatoes, griddled tomato, Heinz baked beans (specifically Heinz as though this was some sort of gourmet ingredient) and two slices of toast or fried bread. For some reason a slice of black pudding cost extra. I have never really understood why, it is the same today if you buy a breakfast in Wetherspoons, you have to pay extra for black pudding.

This was most likely a rather unhealthy breakfast but Little Chef had a reputation for serving big calorific meals. The company logo was a cheerful looking chef unashamedly called Fat Charlie.

Some studies have shown the health benefits of eating breakfast. It improves energy levels and ability to concentrate in the short term and can help with improved weight management. That may be so but breakfast means means a morning meal, which literally means to break the fasting period of the prior night. I am not so certain therefore that an ’all day breakfast’ meets the healthy criteria..

A couple of weeks ago I recreated the classic Berni Inn three course favourite of prawn cocktail, steak garni and Black Forest Gateau and this week I made an attempt at recreating the Little Chef all day breakfast.

I was not straying too far from the original for this one…

Two rashers of good lean unsmoked bacon (I am not a fan of smoked food of any sort), one Lincolnshire pork sausage (it has to be Lincolnshire of course), just one egg because one egg is enough, sauté potatoes, grilled tomato, baked beans (served on the side because I don’t like baked bean juice all over the plate), a slice of Lancashire black pudding (at no extra cost) and some toast.

And here it is…

46 responses to “The Little Chef All Day Breakfast

  1. What a fun peek at your family history and Little Chef tales. That ice cream container is a cutie, I can see why any one would want one. And somehow that neat Little Chef turned into a Starbucks? That somehow doesn’t seem right…

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  2. Little Chef was always the epitome of shoddy service, dirty cutlery and watery coffee. I could not stand them I am afraid. Each to their own. An interesting story. There is a diner on the A303 near Honiton where my mum, brother & sister all worked in the ‘80s. It is now called Route 303 but back then was called the Newcott Chef as it was for many years. Little Chef didn’t like another roadside diner to have Chef in the title and tried to get an injunction to get them to change the name. The legal row went on for ages and cost Little Chef in particular a small fortune. They ended up paying Newcott Chef to change their name, which of course they could have agreed years before and saved tens of thousands!

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  3. We used to take our kids to the Little Chef in the school holidays after an afternoon at the cinema.
    Unlike the ones Wilbur visited, our local one was spotless with waitress service. I always loved their cheese burgers and onion rings, far superior burgers to McDonald’s. I was so disappointed when it became an Indian restaurant.

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  4. Nice post sad they are gone, but we had IHOP !!!

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  5. More memories – thanks Andrew. I just got up and am currently eating a healthy bowl of porridge. Rather cruel of you to post the photo of your delicious looking breakfast!

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  6. I bet your all-day breakfast beat Little Chef’s version hands down. And I bet you didn’t have it at breakfast time either, unless you were planning a 20 mile hike afterwards 😉

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  7. The last picture certainly made my mouth water!

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  8. They’re still going, aren’t they? I remember one on the A19 not too far from us and another on the Newark turn off when we were driving to my daughters 🙂 🙂

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  9. The sausage is wrong though… It doesn’t have that weird shiny skin, and the “meat” isn’t attempting to ooze out of the casing! Other than that, it’s pretty much how I remember it. I think the last time I used one was probably around 2006, when I was commuting between Northamptonshire and Cambridge every week along the A14 and by the time I got two thirds of the way there, I’d be so frustrated with the traffic that I’d stop for breakfast. You’ve nailed the look and the amount of calories, I’d say.

    What’s next? Maybe you should look at these for an unlamented blast from the past: https://www.britishcornershop.co.uk/vesta-curry-and-rice-with-beef

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  10. Looks good! I remember Little Chef. Didn’t it die after a Heston Blumenthal makeover?

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  11. what a great look back and i would have loved the little chef too. glad they found a way to keep you going and growing )

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  12. I remember these, and I do like a good fry-up – now it is brunch and I can’t eat anything else for the rest of the day 🙂

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  13. You seem to have eaten the toast before you took the photograph. You also appear to be left-handed (or is that how LC used to lay the table)?

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  14. There’s a derelict one on the A9 we still pass sometimes, though I didn’t realise they had all stopped trading. I used to love them when I was young. I can’t remember exactly what I used to eat, but I’m sure it would have involved baked beans. They might not have been gourmet, but Heinz were certainly the best beans as far as I was concerned. Ditto their cream of tomato soup. I refused to eat other brands.

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  15. Pingback: The Little Chef All Day Breakfast – Titolo del sito

  16. Everything but that black stuff looks good.

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  17. Another trip down memory lane! When our sons were young, we often had family breaks to Dorset and one of the treats, for them, was to stop at a Little Chef en route and have a breakfast – no matter the time of day. Your breakfast looks very tempting!

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