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Episode 56 Harry Lomas
Head of Culinary Wembley Stadium

People often say, in an off-the-cuff way, that something they organised was ‘like a military operation’.  Well, this week’s guest, Harry Lomas, really does know what it’s like to run a kitchen as a huge, well-oiled military machine.  

Harry’s strategic skills have been honed by the 34 years he spent with the British Army.  His amazing career included a stint with The Royal Household; the position of Master Chef with the Parachute Regiment in Cyprus and, to round off, being responsible for feeding troops around the world, including Afghanistan. There he was involved in rebuilding the kitchen at Camp Bastion, which had to serve 25,000 troops at each sitting.  

The statistics become more eye-watering with Harry’s next role, overseeing the catering for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. As you’ll hear, the prospect of serving 147,000 people a day, never seemed to daunt Harry.  That’s probably why he’s the perfect fit for the title he holds now: Head of Culinary at Wembley Stadium.  

At which point, I’ll hand over to the great strategist himself.  Only Harry can explain the complexities of cooking different meals for thousands of football fans  – and making sure they’re back in their seats before kick-off.  

Episode 55 Jody Scheckter
F1 Champion and Laverstoke Park Farm

Two things come up regularly on the podcast.  Firstly, quite a few of my podcast guests have gone through significant career changes to become food, drink and hospitality entrepreneurs.  I’m thinking Rupert Holloway at Conker Gin, who gave up surveying to set up his own distillery, or Claire Burnet at Chococo who swapped marketing for freshly made chocolates.  

As the winner of the 1979 Formula One world championship this weeks guest, Jody Scheckter certainly knows a thing or two about a second career, and in fact even a third!

Secondly, obsession, maybe William Curley creating the very best chocolates or Jethro Tenant and his quest to make the best sea salt.  Jody certainly takes things to the extreme.  He started with such a simple idea.  How to provide the very best, tastiest, food for his family.  That simple seed of an idea has taken Jody on an incredible adventure, learning the most phenomenal amount about every stage of food production, from seed to plate.  In fact, before the seed, Jody and his team of chemists and biologists spent eight years just researching the soil!  As he says, everything we eat, that does not come from the sea, comes from the soil at some point.  So if you have an obsessive nature, are use to winning and always want the best, that is the natural place to start.

Nowadays, as the founder of Laverstoke Park Farm, Jody Scheckter is better known for his commitment to biodynamic and organic farming, and his herd of water buffalo, which provide the milk for award-winning mozzarella and ice cream. 

Laverstoke Park Farm has also diversified into hops and ale; sparkling wine and black pudding. While these products are varied, the vision underpinning them is always the same: to be the ‘best-tasting and healthiest, without compromise’.   

Mercato Metropolitano and Andrea Rasca

Episode 54 Andrea Rasca
CEO of Mercato Metropolitano

As the casual dining sector in general continues to navigate through turbulent times, it is fascinating to see the continued growth of the street food scene.  There seems to be a trend in specialising in one or two dishes and being great, rather than big.  But whilst the consumer is loving the informality, quality, regularly changing dishes, a keen price point and an ethical impassioned owner, they still desire a space to sit, somewhere to enjoy some drinks with friends and spend a couple of hours on a night out, or a longer lunch, rather than just a few minutes refuelling on the street.   

So, curating spaces, communal eating, and easy-access, energised environments for street food vendors to congregate on mass, makes a lot of sense.  Add to that an artisan food market, education programme, social conscience and much more, and you start to get into the head space of this week’s guest – Andrea Rasca. 

Andrea says that on paper, his venture – Mercato Metropolitano or ‘MM’  – should not exist.  He doesn’t advertise; he doesn’t use sponsors or banks; and he certainly doesn’t worry about footfall.  That’s because the first two sites of his ‘City Markets’, in London’s Elephant & Castle and Mayfair,  welcome thousands of people each week.  They’re drawn to MM, not only for the deliciously nutritious food and drink, but also the live music, cookery classes and, at the time I recorded this conversation, a travelling circus! 

As he builds his MM movement through word of mouth, Andrea wants each of his mercatos to become a thriving community. Here, the simple act of sharing a tasty meal will help to combat social isolation and food inequality – and, at the same time, encourage talented men and women to turn their cooking skills into successful enterprises.    

With interest from cities like Berlin, Paris, New York and Boston, Mercato Metropolitano could well be the next business model in hospitality and food retail, challenging the traditional high street of big brands and formulaic dining.  

Enjoy this thought-provoking conversation, with a man who describes himself as ‘Chief Executive Dreamer’ and who also has the drive to make those dreams come true.  

Andrew Parry Norton

Episode 53 Andrew Parry Norton
New Forest Commoner

I think it’s fair to say that, from a global perspective, we’re living through uncertain times. In particular I hope as a listener of this podcast you are asking questions about what to eat, where to purchase our food and how our food choices are impacting the environment and world around us.   

Whilst sometimes these are complicated questions, what’s been inspirational about many of the podcast conversations I’ve now had, is how – despite the politics and complexity – many food and drink producers are just getting on with it, and making a big difference to their local communities. As this weeks guest, Andrew Parry-Norton puts it, ‘What’s on your doorstep is the most important thing.  Once you get that right, it spreads from there’.  

Andrew’s lucky.  He happens to have the beautiful landscape of the New Forest literally, on his doorstep.  As a Commoner, as well as a farmer, his animals can truly range free, through heathland and ancient woods. (Sometimes they range a bit too freely, as you’ll hear!) 

In this programme we explore the peculiarities of Commoning history. We also discover how, and even more fascinatingly, why, we are seeing the return of regional native breeds such as Ruby Red cattle and Saddleback pigs, rather than the influx of larger continental breeds.  It makes good business and environmental sense, especially now that the Commoners have their own shared brand, the ‘New Forest Marque’.  In essence, to support a more artisan, kinder, traditional approach to farming, Andrew needs to charge around 10% more and supply more directly to the end consumer.   

Is this the way other regions could go?

Episode 52 Cemal Ezel – Founder Change Please

Is it possible to change the world, simply by changing where you buy your coffee?

This was just one of many questions discussed at Alex Chisnall’s Entrepreneurs’ Summit in Bournemouth. It brought together a group of inspirational speakers, including Cemal Ezel, founder of the award-winning social enterprise, Change Please.

If you’ve not yet come across Change Please coffee, you soon will. It’s stocked in Sainsbury’s nationwide and it is Virgin Trains’ beverage of choice. If you live in London, Cambridge, Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester or Edinburgh, you might have spotted its distinctive grey carts with a bright yellow circle on the side.

What you might not know is that all the baristas at Change Please have experienced periods of homelessness – but with the right training and support, they’re able to make sleeping rough a thing of the past.

Perhaps the most inspirational aspect to Cemal’s work, is his conviction that businesses with a genuine social conscience will be leading the way, commercially and morally, over the next few years. It’s a point he makes powerfully, first in his presentation, and then in the conversation I had with him afterwards, on stage.