Chris Davies is founder and CEO of Harvest London, a couple of vertical farms in the city of London. Chris is going to help us understand how vertical farms could be part of the solution to feeding the planet. As Chris puts it, this will be part of the solution and not all food will be, or can be grown this way. But the benefits of growing food where it is to be consumed, rather than potentially 1000’s of miles away, the benefits of harvesting food and getting it to the restaurant door within four hours, rather than perhaps four weeks. The benefit of a perfect summers day, every day, no matter the time of year or external weather conditions. The use of tech and automation and the potential for companies to ship their perfect growing recipe to perhaps tweak just a couple of bits of the growing process to grow the perfect leaf. A little more water, 1/2 an hour less light, more blue light than pink light, a slight nutritional change. All of this can effect the flavour of what we grow and eat. And in Chris’s case much of this learning is being done around basil, but can be applied to so much more. And it is clearly a recipe that is working. Chris and Harvest London have just raised over a million pounds of investment, including from the UK governments future fund and demand is fast outstripping supply as they have grand plans for the future.
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It was quite a few months ago when the opportunity crossed my desk to interview Tim Hall, who is the executive chef at Burgh Island. It caught my eye because Burgh Island is such a unique location, as a tidal island just off the south coast of Devon.
I was intrigued to understand a bit more around the complexity of running not one, but three restaurants, on an island that for many hours of the day cannot be accessed at all, or certainly not without its challenges. Add to that Tim’s reputation for excellent food and access to some beautiful foraged ingredients, a new owner of the hotel and a new fish restaurant on the island, and I thought it would make a lovely day out and place to visit. Alas lockdown got rid of the visit element, but it was still nice to catch up with Tim and and learn all things Tim and Burgh.
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Lee Cash was always driven to become self employed in the hospitality sector. He learnt his craft with some of the best, from Robin Sheppard at Bespoke Hotels and chef Raymond Blanc. But all the time driven and motivated to test himself, to learn all he could and get ready to put into practise the art of perfecting 1000 little details to make his own venues successful. I always enjoy chatting to people who really have proper hospitality in their soul. Who understand how spaces feel. How the lighting, the candles, the music, the team, the furniture, the layout, the space itself and so much more comes together to create somewhere special that people enjoy.
I loved Lee’s perspectives about pubs being a great leveller. More so perhaps than restaurants, you are likely to have every type and age of person hanging out at a bar, ordering a decent pint of beer. You’ll get to hear about how Lee and his business partner Hamish bought different skills to the business, and how over the years, at different stages in their growth, these different skills have helped Peach grow into such a fantastic business.
You’ll also laugh at the story of Lee going from being so skint one morning that he had to use his passport as a deposit in an Aussie backpackers, to a few hours later saying yes to his first chef job cooking alone on boat full of divers on the great barrier reef. That say yes now, work out how later, kind of attitude that so many driven entrepreneurs have.
Posted 3 months ago Tagged
We’re going big this week, and actually I don’t mean a big podcast, but a big business, chatting to Jonathan Neame, the chief executive of Shepherd Neame Brewers. With 320 pubs and pre pandemic turnover of £150 million they are bigger than the normal business I chat to on this podcast, but they have a really interesting family history. Having been around for over 300 years, and maintained family ownership I think they qualify as having had a very inspiring independent hospitality adventure.
Topic wise Jonathan is clearly well informed on all that is going on in the pub sector. We touch on navigating the pandemic and at least seeing some growth in the grocery and off sales side of the business, the responsibility of taking over a multi generational family businesses, how to navigate out of the pandemic and how different that may be in London compared to a proper community pub. Changing beer trends, sourcing hops, rents as both a tenant and landlord, future support to enable the sector to bounce back and even Brexit all crops up in our wide ranging chat.
Posted 3 months ago Tagged
From honing his skills in hotels on an employed basis, to learning the art of the restauranteur with his own venues, to taking all of that knowledge and finally getting to apply it in his very own hotel with his partner Rob, Tim has been on a great hospitality journey.
And the captains club is a special kind of place. Wether simply attracting the locals for a light lunch, or a few cocktails as the sun sets on the river, or mingling with famous guests such as Hugh Grant or the Gallagher brothers, they’ve really found a way of becoming the heart of their local community. Tim is very humble and easy to chat to about his journey. He makes it all sound too easy, with a detail here, and the right team member there. But Tim and Robert have an attention for detail and a genuine love for their crazy hospitality adventure, no matter how challenging it gets. And they’ve had their challenges, from planning permission impacting the business model leaving them just £1 million pounds short in enough money to open up. And then having finally got the doors open wondering if they’d run out of cashflow before they could turn their dream into a success.
But 14 years later they are still going strong, or at least they were until the pandemic struck. But in typical Tim style he’s taking it in his stride and whilst nervous about the future, he and Rob are investing in the property and more than hoping, they are planning on re-opening for a busy summer. I hope you enjoy this chat about perseverance and the meandering journey life can take sometimes, but how, if you simply take the first step, then the adventure can be pretty rewarding and exciting.