Episode 63 Mark Rogers
Twinways Orchard and Bees

I’ve waited a very long time to interview this weeks guest.  But patience paid off, and I’m utterly sure this programme will blow, or at least open your mind just a little bit more. 

It’s about those tiny little creatures without whom this podcast would not exist, in the sense that so much of the food and drink we eat is dependent on this insect’s ability to pollinate plants.  

Mark Rogers, owner of Twinways Orchard, has immersed himself in the world of bees for years. Whilst I knew bees were important, and I knew they were being threatened, for a very long time I’ve wanted to speak to an expert about what exactly is going on and why we should be concerned. 

Mark will reveal parts of bees lives that sound like they belong to science fiction – and yet they’re happening all around us, without us noticing.    

For instance, I thought being Queen Bee was a nice gig.  It turns out she’s not the boss at all but the hive’s egg slave, being herded around by her inferiors. 

And did you know that honeybees are greedy vandals?  Give them half a chance and they will rip a hole in the bottom of a flower to get to the nectar, leaving nothing for other types of insect whose tongues were designed specifically for that plant and will pollinate it properly.  

And we haven’t got onto the figure-of-eight dance that bees do, and the amazing things it tells other bees, or how long bees can survive in the post. 

When you listen, I hope you learn as much as I did, and I hope that you will never want to spray your roses, or any other plant, again. 

Mercato Metropolitano and Andrea Rasca

Episode 54 Andrea Rasca
CEO of Mercato Metropolitano

As the casual dining sector in general continues to navigate through turbulent times, it is fascinating to see the continued growth of the street food scene.  There seems to be a trend in specialising in one or two dishes and being great, rather than big.  But whilst the consumer is loving the informality, quality, regularly changing dishes, a keen price point and an ethical impassioned owner, they still desire a space to sit, somewhere to enjoy some drinks with friends and spend a couple of hours on a night out, or a longer lunch, rather than just a few minutes refuelling on the street.   

So, curating spaces, communal eating, and easy-access, energised environments for street food vendors to congregate on mass, makes a lot of sense.  Add to that an artisan food market, education programme, social conscience and much more, and you start to get into the head space of this week’s guest – Andrea Rasca. 

Andrea says that on paper, his venture – Mercato Metropolitano or ‘MM’  – should not exist.  He doesn’t advertise; he doesn’t use sponsors or banks; and he certainly doesn’t worry about footfall.  That’s because the first two sites of his ‘City Markets’, in London’s Elephant & Castle and Mayfair,  welcome thousands of people each week.  They’re drawn to MM, not only for the deliciously nutritious food and drink, but also the live music, cookery classes and, at the time I recorded this conversation, a travelling circus! 

As he builds his MM movement through word of mouth, Andrea wants each of his mercatos to become a thriving community. Here, the simple act of sharing a tasty meal will help to combat social isolation and food inequality – and, at the same time, encourage talented men and women to turn their cooking skills into successful enterprises.    

With interest from cities like Berlin, Paris, New York and Boston, Mercato Metropolitano could well be the next business model in hospitality and food retail, challenging the traditional high street of big brands and formulaic dining.  

Enjoy this thought-provoking conversation, with a man who describes himself as ‘Chief Executive Dreamer’ and who also has the drive to make those dreams come true.  

Episode 49 Rob Wilson
CEO Toast Ale – bread into beer!

Imagine buying a fresh loaf of bread, cutting it in two and immediately throwing half of it in the bin.  You eat what’s left and then you buy another loaf the next day and do exactly the same thing again.  

It sounds crazy, doesn’t it – and not something any of us would do deliberately.  But, across the world, that is what the human race is doing.  

OK, it’s not quite half. It’s actually 44%, which is still an eye-watering proportion.  44% of all the bread we produce is not eaten, at all.   

That is why Toast Ale was born. Set up in 2016, it sells delicious, award-winning beer using surplus bread and its open-source recipe has inspired brewers from South Africa and Iceland to Brazil and New York. Its BHAG – its Big Hairy Audacious Goal – is to convert the whole of the UK’s brewing industry to its way of thinking in the next 15 years. So, whenever we raise our glass, we’ll all be helping to save the planet.  

Rob Wilson is Toast Ale’s CEO. Before he joined the Toast team, he’d already got a serious track record in social entrepreneurship. This includes spending his ‘mega-moon-honey-moon’ in Africa, gathering stories about other inspirational entrepreneurs with his wife.   

Get ready for a life-enhancing conversation, which encourages us all to have fun as we help build a better future for planet earth. 

Episode 48 James Mansfield
Field and Flower – grass fed meat by post

James Mansfield, is a master at learning on the job. When he and James Flower, a friend from agricultural college, decided to set up their meat box business, both of them had to perfect the art of butchery from a standing start. They also had to scale up their culinary skills very rapidly, so they could serve mouth-watering dishes to 2,000 VIP guests at Richard Branson’s V Festival.  

I was excited to chat to James since with alot of press recently about eating less meat for the sake of planet earth, I was intrigued to explore some issues around what good and bad practise looks like.  Is it a case of eating no meat, or eating better meat.  Caring more about animal welfare and recognising that how the animals we eat are cared for, what they eat and what drugs they take must surely be part of the informed conversation.  These could be tricky things to ask a butcher, but as expected James was engaging, knowledgeable and happy to educate. 

This willingness to jump in at the deep end and learn on the go partly explains why ‘field&flower’  is so successful today. It’s also because they’ve stuck to their principles: only supplying traditionally reared grass-fed beef, along with free range poultry, pork and lamb. It won’t surprise you to know that they’ve designed their own box packaging too, which is more environmentally friendly than the traditional poly box.  

As you’ll hear now, James’ hospitality career began in the same ‘nought-to-sixty’ vein, front of house at one of London’s most famous restaurants. 

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.