Matt Grech-Smith

Episode 44 Matt Grech-Smith
Swingers, The Crazy Golf Club

If you think ‘pop-up’ is a cheap and cheerful way of testing a business idea, then this week’s guest, Matt Grech-Smith, might just challenge that.   

Matt is the co-founder of ‘Swingers, The Crazy Golf Club’. Their pop-up covered 7,000 square feet and took the best part of half a million pounds of investment. Luckily, their genius combination of crazy golf, cocktails and street food has led to two even bigger, and permanent sites, in the City and West End of London.   New York is next on the list. 

But, as you’ll hear, Matt and his co-founder Jeremy, have had several roller-coaster, ‘do or die’ moments. This includes a ‘slightly anguished’ conference call discussing whether or not to sign a hefty lease before they’d got planning permission on a 18,000 square foot site.  

All this from a man who doesn’t see himself as an entrepreneur, but is obviously great at grabbing opportunities, particularly in immersive, experiential hospitality. 

Jennifer Wood

Episode 43 Jennifer Wood
Canton Tea

In the last 15 years, the way we drink coffee has gone through a revolution: from an instant brew in polystyrene cups to beans with known provenance, carefully selected and lovingly roasted. 

Could tea soon follow in coffee’s footsteps? Yes, if this week’s guest, Jennifer Wood, founder of Canton Tea, has anything to do with it.    

To build her business, Jennifer has travelled to remote mountainous regions like the ‘wild, wild Yunnan’, where tea bushes live to a thousand years and grow 40 feet high.  The tea producers and masters she works with take the ritual of growing, harvesting and ageing the tea as seriously as leading vineyard owners do their prize wines.  

When you hear how much hard work and knowledge goes into each cup of Canton’s artisanal tea – whether it’s black, green, oolong or the mind-blowing pu’erh –  you’ll understand why Jennifer thinks that even the most basic cuppa is worth much, much  more than 2p a bag.  Her enthusiasm is so infectious, you’ll also want a ‘Cantonista’, championing quality, loose leaf tea, in your neck of the woods.   

Bring on the tea revolution! 

Episode 42 Steven Lamb
River Cottage – Part Two

Welcome to the second part of my conversation with one of River Cottage’s linchpins.  He’s Steven Lamb, often fondly referred to as the ‘ham and cheese’ man, because he’s the author of the River Cottage handbooks on ‘Curing and Smoking’ as well as ‘Cheese and Dairy’.  

We’re turning back the clock now, to when Steven’s fascination for charcuterie and cured meats began… 

Episode 41 – Steven Lamb
River Cottage – Part One

If I say ‘River Cottage’ to you, what comes to mind?  Perhaps one of its campaigns: Fish Fight, or Chicken Out or War on Waste.   Or maybe you’ve got one of the River Cottage handbooks, diving deep into foodie topics, from cheese to charcuterie.  

That’s the striking thing about River Cottage and its team: the variety of what they do. What started as a docu-drama, following Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s attempts to set up his own smallholding 20 years ago, has now grown into a cookery and chefs’ school; three award-winning kitchens and the base for amazing banquet-style get-togethers.  

Steven Lamb has been part of that journey, pretty much from the beginning. He arrived as the team’s new media expert, helping to build its presence online. But nowadays he’s better known as the Cottage’s curing and smoking guru, as well as its expert on cheese and dairy.    

In this, the first part of our conversation, we’ll explore the evolution of River Cottage and Steven’s own career, leaving Big Brother behind to embrace hospitality ‘from a standing start’.   

Episode 40 Jethro Tennant
The Dorset Sea Salt Company

On a massive rock that juts out into the English Channel, there’s a young man who cleverly mimics the salt lakes of the Camargue.  Ok, what Jethro Tennant has created in the last two years is actually a mini version of these salt plains: carefully extracting the salt from the pristine water around Dorset’s Chesil Beach, and drying it in artificial heat which is powered by solar, wind and biomass energy.  

And in just 24 months, demand for his product – Dorset Sea Salt – is growing steadily, from discerning delicatessens, farm shops and restaurants to big names like Selfridges.  

Not bad for a start-up that began life with Jethro heaving jerry cans of sea water from the beach to his parent’s house, and experimenting with the evaporation process on his mum’s hob… for hours, and hours. (Don’t mention the gas bill!) 

Perhaps the most intriguing thing is what triggered Jethro’s fascination for sea salt in the first place.  I doubt if you’ll guess. You’ll just have to listen to find out.