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 21 Alex Aitken
The Jetty and Michelin star chef

Imagine. You’re about to open your first restaurant to the public. Your wife, who’s front of house, is 8 ½ months pregnant. You’re the chef –and you’ve never cooked professionally before. But you buy a couple of recipe books and some chef whites, and off you go. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Yet this is what Alex Aitken did in 1983.

It was the start of a Michelin-starred career which has evolved in incredible ways and is still going strong. Today, Alex is spreading his love of locally sourced food – whether foraged, fished or farmed –through a growing number of award-winning restaurants, carrying ‘The Jetty’ name.  

As you will hear, his passion for sourcing food sustainably harks back to his teenage years as a deck hand on North Sea trawlers. He’s got hair-raising tales of mistaking World War II mines for bumper catches… and a mischievous tale about why he likes fiddling with the music volume while you’re eating your meal in his hotel restaurants. It’s only a bit of fun… Enjoy

Episode 15 Nick Leach
Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality

In terms of career variety, I doubt if many  can match Nick Leach’s 4 decades in hospitality. One of his first jobs was working as the King of Saudi Arabia’s personal chef on a £9 million motor yacht. After that he found himself ‘catering to excess’, for merchant bankers in London, where £25,000 a week was set aside for caviar alone – served in huge swan ice carvings.

This was in stark contrast to his next role as General Manager at Kings College Hospital, where his daily budget per patient was £1.76 – and that had to cover 7 hot drinks a day, in addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For the last 18 years he’s been drawing on this wealth experience to manage the catering at the University of Portsmouth.  In any one week he has a potential 29,000 hungry students and staff to feed…and he still makes time to take his chefs to see local food producers – from the organic dairy and flour mill to the free-range chicken farm.

Amazing man, amazing stories.  Enjoy!

Episode 5
Andy Lennox – Zim Braai

Andy Lennox started his career as a ‘KP’, a kitchen porter, peeling potatoes.  When he was  21, he teamed up with two friends to create Koh Thai, a restaurant in Dorset, offering authentic Thai cooking with a South of France style of service.  As Andy put it, they ‘knew nothing and learned on the trot’ –  only realising  6 months in that they needed tills, rather than paper to relay orders to the kitchen and the bar.

Soon the pace picked up to a gallop, as the Koh Thai concept took off and 11 more Kohs opened in Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset… It was great, but there were growing pains, as you’ll discover – like the fact that a deal is never sealed until the signature’s on the dotted line…

10 years on, Andy is onto his next concept, ‘Zim Braai’: the earthy, smokey slow cooked oxtail and wild boar potjies…bunny chows, curries in a bun…and ‘braais’ – barbeques that bring people together.Find out more here https://www.zim-braai.co.uk