Arsenal and England legend Ian Wright has announced that he now supports Willy’s Pies, the lockdown-born, Hackney-based pie company founded by entrepreneurial chefs Will Lewis and Josh Hill.
On the same day that Willy’s launches its first proper food stall, inside Netil Market, Wright has announced that he’s invested in the young company, which has grown exponentially since bike-delivering savoury pies from Lewis’s home in lockdown during 2020.
Today, 7 October, then marks two major evolutions for Willy’s which takes on the hallowed site of recently departed Sonora Taqueria in the east London market which has been the incubator for a number of London’s best-loved small businesses in recent years: Bao, Breddo’s, Lucky Chip, Pockets, and Paradox have all made their name in Netil Market.
Willy’s focuses on shortcrust savoury pies, filled with the likes of steak and ale; chicken ham, leek, and cider; mince and cheddar; or asparagus, ricotta, and broad bean — which at the new stall will be available with mash, gravy, and peas. The brand is loud and boisterous, with Instagram captions always written in all-caps. But it is unmistakable and confident and as well as a now well-established wholesale business, also has a number of football-related collaborations already under its belt — with Leyton Orient and, more significantly, as Watford F.C.’s official pie sponsor.
In a video filmed at the arch, the ever entertaining and gregarious Wright gets involved with the pie-making process — “in the house, in the pie house,” he exclaims as he enters and meets Lewis and Hill on camera.
In the video, Hill says the duo never imagined the renown when freestyling in a home kitchen and with a couple of bikes in the spring of 2020. “We never thought that when we took the arch [Autumn 2021] on or when we started in 2020 that someonelike Ian Wright would be not only interested in what we’re doing, but actually be here to help us make a pie and to help push the business forward,” he says.
Lewis, who worked at at St John and Brat in the pre-COVID-19 London restaurant industry says on film that the mono product business was something he’d always loved the idea of doing. “Doing one thing and doing right ... a British classic,” he says. On linking up with Wright, Lewis says it is “massive,” emphasising that it will give the company the ability to grow, not just from the financial investment but the huge national appeal of such a well-known and much-loved broadcaster and personality. “Even Spurs fans like him,” Lewis said.
For Wright, who has ambassadorial roles with Arsenal and Adidas, as well as being one ITV sport and the BBC’s longest standing pundits, it’s quite simple: “I just want people to eat pies — pies are my life now.”