Episode 28 Simon Tolson
Rumsey Holiday Homes

Simon Tolson has had his fair share of highs and lows to get to where he is now in hospitality.  

An early high point was his first paid day as a fisherman. Since the age of 3 he’d wanted to fish and he felt like an astronaut when he stepped onto the deck…. But several years later, now married and with a mortgage, he had to switch careers.  He left the sea for a surprisingly different job – selling printers and photocopiers for Pitney Bowes. 

That led to a new high, because the sales skills Simon developed not only worked for office equipment.  They came in handy when he turned his attention to holiday homes. It was the early noughties, and there were generous tax breaks if you were renovating a property as a holiday let. Simon and a colleague began to build a new business, offering holiday homes as  promising investments. 

So far, so good.  But then in 2007, everything changed…. 

In this programme you’ll hear how Simon worked his way out of the prolonged low that followed… And how, despite challenging odds, he’s now the proud owner of Rumsey Holiday Homes, with beautiful views of the sea and the occasional chance to fish 

Episode 27 Mark Hix
Hix Restaurants

If you decided to open a restaurant that focussed on oysters and meat- on-the bone, you probably wouldn’t have done it in 2008.  First there was the financial crisis and credit crunch. Then there was a lingering memory of the meat-on-the-bone ban, triggered by BSE several decades before.  

Mark Hix’s decision was perhaps all the more surprising because the job he was leaving – Executive Head Chef of Le Caprice restaurant group, which included famous venues like The Ivy and J Sheekey – was the sort of plum role other chefs would give their eye teeth for.    

But it turned out very well in the end: his ‘HIX Oyster and Chop House’ marked the start of an award-winning family of HIX restaurants, in London and in Dorset…and put Mark in the forefront of the modern British food movement, celebrating farmers, food producers and fisherman in his menus and in his annual Food Rocks Festival in Lyme Regis.  

Discover how it all happened for a boy who was more interested in golf than food…and then discovered he was rather good at cooking after all… 

Episode 26 Pete Joy
Bakehouse 24

For someone who had no business plan, but thought he’d be alright because there was a Waitrose round the corner, Pete Joy, at Bakehouse 24 is doing pretty well.

Pete’s love of mixing and kneading emerged out of the blue, one night, when his housemates were at band practice. Having the place to himself, he decided not to do a normal thing like ordering Chinese, but to make a cake instead. This wasn’t a one-off: Pete soon developed a serious baking habit, which led to a 3am-to-midday job at a pioneering sourdough bakery under a Hackney railway arch.

In this episode you’ll hear how the man with no plan is successfully building a team of sourdough bakers (one of whom is also a potter) across two sites in Dorset…and why he gets a bit ranty on the topics of gluten intolerance and interpretations of the word ‘sourdough’…. You’ll probably sympathise by the end of the conversation. Enjoy.

Episode 25 Jason Barber
Black Cow Vodka

My guest this week, Jason Barber, puts it like this: if you’ve been sitting behind a cow for 15 to 20 years, your mind has time to wonder about the best way to use the milk you’re producing.  

The Barbers are the world’s oldest surviving family of cheddar makers. They’ve been making cheese and producing milk for over 200 years – and up until recently, conventional dairy products had done them proud.  But then, in 2012, Jason launched something very different: the world’s first and only vodka to be made entirely out of milk.   

In the last 7 years since it arrived on the scene, Jason’s farm has had to ramp up production of its unique Black Cow Vodka from a couple of thousand bottles a year to between 120 and 130 thousand.   Its fans include local delis, farm shops and bars, as well as major supermarkets and – as you’ll hear – a clutch of A-list Hollywood stars. 

Discover how a piece of yeast, the size of a flea, was the start of this incredible story…and how Jason and his talented business partner Archie turned Black Cow into a global brand.  

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.