Episode 24 Gareth Banner
The Ned (Soho House / Sydell)

There has never, ever, been anything quite like The Ned in the UK before. Created from the former headquarters of the Midland Bank, in the heart of the City Of London, the Grade I listed building is now home to 10 restaurants, 250 bedrooms, 6 private event spaces, a spa, a gym and a club with over 3000 members…  

In any given week, 30,000 meals are served on the ground floor alone.  As its managing director, Gareth Banner, says modestly, for a single address there are a lot of moving parts….’  

Just three years ago, when he was looking through the dust and the scaffolding at what was the final phase of five years of renovation, he knew it would be special.  As you’ll hear, his career – which takes in stints with global brand The Marriott as well as iconic boutique hotel, The Hempel – is also impressive. It went some way to prepare him for this amazing project.  But actually, as you’ll hear, the biggest learning has happened since The Ned opened its doors to the public two years ago. 

Episode 23 Emily Davis
Blue Vinny Cheese

‘Unique’ is often misused as a word, but this week you’ll hear about a delicious food product that really is one of a kind.  In the early 1980s, dairy farmer Michael Davies resurrected a 300 year-old recipe for Dorset Blue Vinny – a subtly veined cheese which is much more delicate than Stilton, its nearest relative.   

Nowadays, Michael’s daughter Emily is in charge of production – overseeing the only farm in the world that has the legal right to produce this type of blue cheese. 

Today you’ll hear how the patient Davies family had to put up with blue mould on their cornflakes, in the early days of Michael’s cheese experiments…and why Emily describes beta versions as ‘nuclear’! 

You’ll also discover how a disappointing trip to a farmers’ market led to a whole new branch of the Blue Vinny business…and why wonky cucumbers and misshapen cheese off-cuts have a special place in Emily’s heart… 

Enjoy the conversation… 

Episode 22 Jonathan Downey
Street Feast

The world’s disused car parks, markets and office blocks need Jonathan Downey. In Street Feast he’s taken the idea of street food to a whole new level. At night, what were neglected sites come alive with tantalising smells of pizza, steamed buns, tacos and chicken wings …along with the buzz of conversation and glowing light boxes of all shapes and sizes.

JD’s hospitality journey over 20 YEARS is exceptional. Match Bar, Sosho, Milk and Honey, Street Feasts, 2 million visitors a year, Dinerama, Giant Robot, Hawker House…hold on tight…it’s quite the adventure!

The four very different Street Feasts bring together speciality bars and food traders who each do just one thing, and do it really, really well… And it was because London in the 1990s wasn’t doing nightlife well, that Jonathan decided to combine his corporate lawyer role with a new career as a bar and club operator. It was a crazy thing to do – suited and booted by day, scrubbing walls by night – but it worked for a while…. until the inevitable ‘ouch’ moment arrived. But when that came, Jonathan freed himself up to work on more amazing hospitality ideas.

Episode 21 Alex Aitken
The Jetty and Michelin star chef

Imagine. You’re about to open your first restaurant to the public. Your wife, who’s front of house, is 8 ½ months pregnant. You’re the chef –and you’ve never cooked professionally before. But you buy a couple of recipe books and some chef whites, and off you go. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Yet this is what Alex Aitken did in 1983.

It was the start of a Michelin-starred career which has evolved in incredible ways and is still going strong. Today, Alex is spreading his love of locally sourced food – whether foraged, fished or farmed –through a growing number of award-winning restaurants, carrying ‘The Jetty’ name.  

As you will hear, his passion for sourcing food sustainably harks back to his teenage years as a deck hand on North Sea trawlers. He’s got hair-raising tales of mistaking World War II mines for bumper catches… and a mischievous tale about why he likes fiddling with the music volume while you’re eating your meal in his hotel restaurants. It’s only a bit of fun… Enjoy

Episode 20 Joy Michaud
Sea Spring Seeds

Michael and Joy Michaud at Sea Spring Seeds are chilli growing experts who took the world by surprise one April 1st, when they revealed they’d developed the world’s hottest chilli plant, the Dorset Naga. It wasn’t an April fool, even though it seemed absurd that this world record-breaking chilli had been reared in a lush, damp corner of Dorset, far removed from its original Bangladeshi home.

The patience and dedication it takes to develop a unique and world first type of chilli was a real eye opener.  The Dorset Naga is just one of many wonderful chillis  grown by the couple – along with a wide range of vegetable seeds, carefully selected for their productivity and flavour, like the tender sweet roots of the Primo carrot!

In this programme I get some great chilli-culinary tips  from Joy… as well as an insight into the huge dedication and patience that goes into creating those tiny miracles: seeds….