#048 James Mansfield
Field and Flower – grass fed meat by post

James Mansfield, is a master at learning on the job. When he and James Flower, a friend from agricultural college, decided to set up their meat box business, both of them had to perfect the art of butchery from a standing start. They also had to scale up their culinary skills very rapidly, so they could serve mouth-watering dishes to 2,000 VIP guests at Richard Branson’s V Festival.  

I was excited to chat to James since with alot of press recently about eating less meat for the sake of planet earth, I was intrigued to explore some issues around what good and bad practise looks like.  Is it a case of eating no meat, or eating better meat.  Caring more about animal welfare and recognising that how the animals we eat are cared for, what they eat and what drugs they take must surely be part of the informed conversation.  These could be tricky things to ask a butcher, but as expected James was engaging, knowledgeable and happy to educate. 

This willingness to jump in at the deep end and learn on the go partly explains why ‘field&flower’  is so successful today. It’s also because they’ve stuck to their principles: only supplying traditionally reared grass-fed beef, along with free range poultry, pork and lamb. It won’t surprise you to know that they’ve designed their own box packaging too, which is more environmentally friendly than the traditional poly box.  

As you’ll hear now, James’ hospitality career began in the same ‘nought-to-sixty’ vein, front of house at one of London’s most famous restaurants. 

Episode 47 Griff Holland
Co-founder of Friska

Griff Holland, co founder of Friska, epitomises the enthusiasm and energy you all too often find in some of the awesome humans of hospitality.  Spending a couple of ours in Griff’s company was an utter pleasure.  His level of obsession about just the right amount of avocado that should be any one bite of a sandwich reminded me of why a life of hospitality is so all consuming and almost impossible to nail.  So many details to obsess about. 

One of the great things about setting up a food or drink business is that you have the perfect reason to test – and taste – lots of edible things, in the name of market research.    

Griff, took the work of testing and tasting to impressive (possibly obsessive) extremes. Whether it was offering samples of five different types of chai to fellow diners in India or quizzing American tourists in Vietnam about their lunch habits back home,  Griff was relentless in his quest to work out what makes us feel really good when we go out to eat.  

And his research paid off, because, right from the start the ‘Feel Good Food’ vision of Friska has impressed a succession of funders and has gained a loyal following in Bristol and Manchester. 

But, as you’ll hear, Griff, and his co-founder Ed Brown, have learned hard  lessons too – including the importance of serving great coffee and  having something familiar, like a chicken sandwich, on the menu.  

Episode 46 Guy Singh-Watson
Riverford Organic Farmers

When, in the 1990s, Guy Singh-Watson started delivering boxes of organic veg to neighbours and friends, he realised he was onto a winner. People loved the fact that the vegetables tasted great and were grown locally.   

He probably didn’t realise just how big a winner it was. Today Riverford Organic Farmers supply boxes to between 50 and 60 thousand households a week and have a team of 700.  

I was very excited to get to speak with Guy since I’ve read a number of his blogs about the impact of modern farming and monoculture.  Guy really brings to life the impact such approaches of mass production are having on the soil, and how important soil is for all of us to be able to continue to live on planet earth.  Fundamentally I wanted to learn whether ‘organic’ is really important and how much work should we, as the hospitality industry and the general public, be putting in to thinking about not only where, but how our fruits and vegetables are grown.  To say Guy has an opinion or two on this is an understatement.  But he makes the case eloquently and enthusiastically for change. 

While the business has scaled up, the guiding principle behind it has not shifted, as you’ll know if you’ve ever watched Guy’s YouTube series, ‘Guy’s Rants’. For him, respecting the health of our soil, through traditional mixed farming rather than rigid specialisation, is vital for the health of us all. 

Whether you agree with Guy or not, this programme will definitely make you think about consumer choice, and whether the world has gone mad in allowing us to choose delivery times to within 20 minutes or having little gem lettuces flown over from the States.  

Should the era of getting what we want, when we want it, come to an end? 

Let’s discuss…  

Rosalind Rathouse

Episode 45 Rosalind Rathouse
London Cookery School

At 75 years old, when most people are thinking about taking their foot off the gas, this week’s guest has plans to shake up the school curriculum.   

Forget ‘Home Economics’ or ‘Food Technology’. Rosalind Rathouse’s  vision is to offer every child aged between 5 and 15 the chance to go on an annual week-long intensive cookery course.  She believes immersing the younger generation in the delights of baking bread or preparing a roast, would set them up for the rest of their lives – and give them real insight into nutrition and sustainability. 

Rosalind knows what she’s talking about. Her teaching experience spans five decades, starting in South Africa in the late 1960s, with a bit of culinary bribery.  And in the 16 years since her Cookery School at Little Portland Street opened, she has welcomed tens of thousands of students through its doors.   

They include senior figures from all over Africa, taking part in Desmond Tutu’s African Leadership Institute Training Programme.  And if you’re wondering what cookery has to do with executive coaching, all will become clear. 

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.