Episode 50 Steve Groves – Head Chef Roux at Parliament Square

We’re diving deep into the wonderful world of restaurant kitchens this week.  Watching this chef’s career take off has been an inspiring experience for me, not least because Steve Groves started his culinary life working by the sea in Dorset, where we shared a town, and even a seafront some time ago.   

If Steve’s name doesn’t ring an immediate bell, maybe the fact that he was a winner of ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’, will nudge your memory.  It also gives you an idea of the exacting standards he works to, and why Michel Roux Jr snapped him up as a sous-chef, to join the team at The Roux at Parliament Square.  

For the last six years Steve has been Head Chef at this prestigious restaurant, giving its French classical heritage a modern twist and impressing yet more judges, most recently at The Craft Guild’s National Chef of the Year competition, that Steve impressively won.  

But as you’ll hear, Steve is not one for blowing his own trumpet. He’s more interested in developing the talent of his colleagues, making sure the whole team gels, and that they get to see their families at the weekends.  Yes, every weekend. 

And as it’s nearly Christmas, he reveals what’s replacing the traditional turkey on his  festive dinner table. 

Show Notes: Episode 47 – Griff Holland and Friska

Griff Holland is the co-founder of the deliciously different group of fast-food restaurants, Friska. Griff had a vision, one that he just couldn’t get out of his head even when on his travels post-uni. Then, he met Ed, and who helped him not only better his vision, but make it REAL. In this episode, Griff in apologetically himself – guaranteed to make you smile. Let him talk to you about how his love of hospitality is simple, but huge, and the passion he has for his business is truly wonderful.

Episode 47 Griff Holland
Co-founder of Friska

Griff Holland, co founder of Friska, epitomises the enthusiasm and energy you all too often find in some of the awesome humans of hospitality.  Spending a couple of ours in Griff’s company was an utter pleasure.  His level of obsession about just the right amount of avocado that should be any one bite of a sandwich reminded me of why a life of hospitality is so all consuming and almost impossible to nail.  So many details to obsess about. 

One of the great things about setting up a food or drink business is that you have the perfect reason to test – and taste – lots of edible things, in the name of market research.    

Griff, took the work of testing and tasting to impressive (possibly obsessive) extremes. Whether it was offering samples of five different types of chai to fellow diners in India or quizzing American tourists in Vietnam about their lunch habits back home,  Griff was relentless in his quest to work out what makes us feel really good when we go out to eat.  

And his research paid off, because, right from the start the ‘Feel Good Food’ vision of Friska has impressed a succession of funders and has gained a loyal following in Bristol and Manchester. 

But, as you’ll hear, Griff, and his co-founder Ed Brown, have learned hard  lessons too – including the importance of serving great coffee and  having something familiar, like a chicken sandwich, on the menu.  

Matt Grech-Smith

Episode 44 Matt Grech-Smith
Swingers, The Crazy Golf Club

If you think ‘pop-up’ is a cheap and cheerful way of testing a business idea, then this week’s guest, Matt Grech-Smith, might just challenge that.   

Matt is the co-founder of ‘Swingers, The Crazy Golf Club’. Their pop-up covered 7,000 square feet and took the best part of half a million pounds of investment. Luckily, their genius combination of crazy golf, cocktails and street food has led to two even bigger, and permanent sites, in the City and West End of London.   New York is next on the list. 

But, as you’ll hear, Matt and his co-founder Jeremy, have had several roller-coaster, ‘do or die’ moments. This includes a ‘slightly anguished’ conference call discussing whether or not to sign a hefty lease before they’d got planning permission on a 18,000 square foot site.  

All this from a man who doesn’t see himself as an entrepreneur, but is obviously great at grabbing opportunities, particularly in immersive, experiential hospitality. 

Episode 42 Steven Lamb
River Cottage – Part Two

Welcome to the second part of my conversation with one of River Cottage’s linchpins.  He’s Steven Lamb, often fondly referred to as the ‘ham and cheese’ man, because he’s the author of the River Cottage handbooks on ‘Curing and Smoking’ as well as ‘Cheese and Dairy’.  

We’re turning back the clock now, to when Steven’s fascination for charcuterie and cured meats began…