Episode 61 Andrew Stembridge
Executive Director of Iconic Luxury Hotels

I love the challenges of operating hotels… well, even if I don’t necessarily love them, because it’s really hard, I do at least find them utterly fascinating.  We’ve not been to a hotel for a while, but I so enjoyed chatting to Gareth Banner from The Ned a fair few episodes ago, I thought it was time to return.  This time, instead of one super huge hotel in the city, we’re taking a look at a few stunning properties spread over a somewhat larger area. 

And If you want examples of how hotels can evolve with the times, and bring in new types of guests, without alienating their traditional following, this is the episode for you.     

Andrew Stembridge is Executive Director of Iconic Luxury Hotels. They are a small and impressive collection, including The Lygon Arms, a coaching inn that dates back to the 1600s; Cliveden House, a stately home and Chewton Glen, an 18th Century manor house which has enjoyed half a century of award-winning 5 star-hospitality.  

As you’ll hear, Chewton Glen has led the way over the decades. It was one of the first hotels in the country to open a spa, in 1990. Under Andrew’s leadership, it has also become very family-friendly, with wonderful tree house lodges (more on those in a moment), the Beehive Kids’ Club, and classes at the hotel’s cookery school, The Kitchen.   And by hosting Chris Evans’ Children in Need events, it’s broadened its fanbase even more, and helped to raise millions of pounds along the way. 

So how do you introduce so much change, and still maintain the historical spirit  of a place?  Keep listening, and you’ll find out.   

Show Notes: Episode 60 – James Cochran & 12:51

James Cochran is cool, calm and passionate about cooking in a way that honours his roots and allows his parents legacy to live on. Starting in the kitchen at just 12 years old, James enjoyed the long hours and graft that came with his job back in the day… Going on to wine the Great British Menu and open his own restaurant in London certainly made his old mentors very proud… His aim now is to get himself a cooking show that offers an alternative perspective, and maybe in ten years or so to open a small restaurant in his beloved home town of Whitstable.

Episode 60 James Cochran
Great British Menu & 1251

There is no getting away from the fact that James Cochran is a dude. He’s the chef with no name and his restaurant is named after a song from The Strokes, and if that’s not cool enough, he also happens to be an epic chef, and an all-round entertaining chap.

If you look at James Cochran’s sample menus – from pheasant sausage to buttermilk jerk spiced chicken – you can see the influences that shape his brilliant cooking: Scottish from his dad; Vincentian from his mum.

When James was honing his chef’s skills alongside Brett Graham at the famous The Ledbury, he couldn’t bring these influences to the fore – great though his time with the Michelin-starred chef was. (He really does mean ‘great’, despite the 18-hour days when he never saw daylight and despite regularly missing his tube stop, because he was so exhausted).

James came into his own when he was named ‘Champion of Champions’ on the Great British Menu in 2018 and his Goat Sharing Board and legendary Scotch Bonnet Jam reached the attention of millions.

Now, as the owner of 12:51, he has the freedom to work creatively with the ingredients from his childhood. He says he ‘feels honest every day about the food he does and is happy to carry on his parents’ legacy’.

Show Notes: Episode 59 – John Rensten, Forage London

John Rensten doesn’t describe himself as an expert in foraging, he’s not a chef, or even particularly academic in the way he works. But what John is, is something that is vital to those who work in food and hospitality: outstandingly passionate. Johns knowledge of foraging foods is amazing, and always growing, as he becomes more interested not just in the variations of what can be foraged – but how it grows. In this weeks episode, he names at least four ways you can use the common dandelion.

Episode 59 John Rensten
Forage London

Mushrooms, who knew?  Well, some people do, but most us will be  doing some intensive learning in this episode.  Mushrooms do some amazing things and cover miles and miles of the forest floor without us even knowing. 

By the time you finish listening to this interview with John, you’ll be wondering why on earth we don’t do more of what he does, and why restaurants and cafes don’t feature more food sourced in this way.   

I’m talking about foraging.   

To me, foraging is a no brainer. The foods you come across, whether they are roots, berries, leaves, mushrooms, seaweeds or flowers, are true super foods. The act of searching for them also helps your wellbeing, either because you’re enjoying it with family and friends, or, if you’re on your own, it’s like a form of meditation.  

You might have ruled out this activity, because you live in a town or city.  Think again!  John discovered the rewards of foraging in London, as he explored his local park in Stoke Newington.  You won’t believe how many different species of plant he has eaten from that square mile, but you’ll find out later.  

Now that his home is in Dorset, John’s foraging patch extends to woods and the seashore, as well as different green spaces in the capital. Through his foraging walks, workshops and book, he’s doing his bit to spread the word about wild foods and just how fascinating they are.  

:)