Andrew Stembridge doesn’t believe in panic. His years in Scotland at a time that was arguably the worst for hospitality means that he is no stranger to disaster – and he learnt about 15 years worth of hotel knowledge in just two. Now Andrew has taken all that knowledge into his role as Executive Director at Iconic Luxury Hotels which includes award-winning, produce growing, hospitality LOVING tree house heaven: Chewton Glen.
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.
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.
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’.
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.