The Speakers At The Foodie Bugle Lectures at Thyme At Southrop, 23rd March 2012

After months of planning and organising, I am  delighted that the first of The Foodie Bugle Lectures at Thyme At Southrop in Gloucestershire was such a success. On a warm and sunny March day, an enthusiastic group of foodies, ten of them speakers, gathered in the beautiful tithe barn courtyard of the Thyme cookery school.

After teas, coffees, biscotti and introductions on the ground floor, we all climbed the wooden barn steps to the lecture room, where, one by one, speakers from the world of baking, chocolate, food writing, estate and event management, cheese making, food importing and restaurants, styling, wedding venue and cookery school running and spirit distillation enthralled us all with their stories of setting up and running businesses.

At the heart of each talk was a producer-entrepreneur-writer of courage, ambition and perseverance, and each speaker relayed their highs, lows, achievements and moments of weakness. Their advice and guidance to the younger members of the audience were particularly invaluable.

During the delicious buffet lunch feast that was prepared by Chefs Daryll Taylor, Marj Lang and Max Abbott, contacts were exchanged, ideas shared and more meeting opportunities planned. Gemma Phillips and Charley Smith ran the front of house, offering cold drinks, teas and coffees and ensuring the computer connections worked for each lecture. Head Gardener Joff Elphick brought flowers and greenery from the garden to decorate the barn. The photographer Pascale Cumberbatch snapped away with her camera, recording the moments we all spent together. Caryn Hibbert did a tour of the Southrop Manor estate, through holiday cottages, kitchen gardens, lawns and lakes.

Here is a distillation of what each speaker told us, in abbreviated format. After eight hours of each other’s company we all come away with bundles of notes, ideas, inspiration, contacts and learning. Thank-you to everyone who took part – your contribution and sharing is very much appreciated. The next Foodie Bugle Lectures will be held at Thyme At Southrop on Friday 22nd June 2012, starting at 10am. We look forward to seeing you then!

Trevor Herbert, Managing Director of Hobbs House Bakery

Trevor Herbert, father of six children and grandfather of eight, is the Managing Director of the six generation bakery, Hobbs House, with shops, a bistro and a butchery in Nailsworth, Chipping Sodbury, Tetbury and Cirencester. He is the father of Tom and Henry Herbert of “The Fabulous Baker Brothers” book and television series fame.

With a cardboard poster proclaiming “Put bread on the table”, Trevor told us the family history behind the brand name, a business that started after the first World War by his parents. It now produces around 60 000 product lines a week, with 120 employees delivering fresh bread to a 50 mile radius of customers and frozen bread to within a 100 mile radius. The challenges of running a family business are not always straightforward and Trevor was honest and open in his speech.

On a reflective note, he told the audience that the enemy of artisanal bread is the convenient, cheap bread supplied and bought by indifferent customers in supermarkets. His life-long quest, and that of his family, has been to increase education about bread making in the home, to make bread the king of the table.

Through encouraging young apprentices, empowering business “champions” in the company, sharing expertise and encouraging enthusiasm in the work-place {a Hobbs House choir is being formed too!} Trevor promotes the team work and customer-focussed service attitude in his constant strive to make Hobbs House a centre of excellence.

“We cannot keep Hobbs House in aspic – change is an essential part of running a business,” he told us, and he has embraced technology and social media to prove the point.

If he could turn back the hands of time he would have delegated more responsibilities in the company earlier in its history: “How you delegate is key to the business – or else you are left with all the decisions at the top of the business”. He would have established systems, standards and training programmes earlier on too. His advice to aspiring foodie entrepreneurs was that, although finance, administration and operations are all very important bastions of success, marketing is absolutely key. For that he gave thanks to his son, Tom Herbert, who was sitting in the audience with his mother, Mrs. Polly Herbert.


Twitter: @HobbsHouse @Tom_Herbert_ @henry_herbert

Chantal Coady, founder and Creative Director of Rococo Chocolates

Chantal Coady is the founder and creative Director of four Rococo chocolate shops as well as being the founder of The Academy of Chocolate and co-owner of The Grenada Chocolate plantation. The business is now in its 30th year, and Chantal told us the history of her business since its very beginnings on the King’s Road, in London, in the early 1980’s.

Chantal’s life-long ambition, from a very early age, was to own her own sweet shop. She worked in Harrods behind the chocolate counter, but felt that she wanted her own retail outlet to give the kind of intimate service and bespoke retail experience that only a small, artisanal boutique could offer.

As she had no finance to set herself up in business her mother mortgaged her home in order to raise the money, and Chantal told us that the day she gave her mother back the deeds of her house and repaid the loan was one of the very best in her life.

The audience was in awe of her talent in creating such beautiful branding and designs {her most recent Moroccan tile design collection of wrappers has enabled her to sell six times the quantity of chocolate bars previously sold}.

Chantal told us the story of how she travelled to Grenada and came to form a co-operative with the cacao growers there, ensuring sustainability and ethical treatment of all the workers. She told us that “My business and all the people who work in it are like my family to me”. She believes that the Grenadian society needs to rethink the great value of agriculture, because the average age of the growers is now 73 and a new generation of cacao tree growers needs to be trained and operational in the industry or it will die.

If she knew then what she knows now, Chantal would have put stronger financial systems in place earlier on. Her husband is the financial brain behind the company and she confessed that her career drive is passion for excellent chocolate, not profit.

Her biggest business risk to date has been the opening of the new Chester shop. Against the tide of opinion that thought opening in the historic town, inside the Grosvenor Hotel, was not a commercially favourable idea, Rococo opened its doors {with a chocolate-almond scatter bomb explosion no less!} to great acclaim and success. The tills have not stopped ringing.

Her lifelong career ambition remains the same: to educate, inspire and inform all people of all ages and backgrounds about the making and enjoyment of good quality artisanal chocolate. “Combining pleasure and provenance is our goal,” she told us, as we watched photo slides of her work, designs and plantation workers.

Website: and

Twitter: @rococochocs

Sir William and Lady Hanham of Deans Court, Wimborne, Dorset

The audience was enthralled by the beautiful photo presentation created by Sir William and Lady Ali Hanham of Deans Court in Dorset. Home of the Hanham family for the last 500 years, Deans Court, next to Wimborne Minster, is a thriving 17 acre estate which hosts a popular food festival, weddings, open garden days and theatrical events as well as organising a fruit and vegetable box scheme, beekeeping courses, a lunch and tea room and a new cut flower shop.

Deans Court’s bucolic walled kitchen gardens were laid out over the course of 40 years of hard work by William’s parents, and were the very first to receive the Soil Association’s organic certification status. William and Ali have secured the future of the gardens by welcoming volunteers from all over the world to work on their land. By offering them accommodation and food, workers have come to learn English, experience the English culture and organic horticulture, keeping bees and cooking.

We were shown the diversity of the estate’s activities: from free range eggs, to a new flower and vintage furniture shop in a refurbished squash court, running supper clubs, pop-up bars, selling orchard fruit juice, managing 170 of the town’s allotments, cookery demonstrations and hosting musical events and house and garden tours. Chefs Jez Barfoot {a Masterchef finalist} and Matt Davy organise many of the culinary events here and are committed to using the seasonal produce at Deans Court to showcase their modern British recipes.

A shocking moment arose during the course of the presentation when William showed a photograph of the amount of litter and waste that is fished out of the river that runs through the estate: toxic and non-recyclable polystyrene boxes from local takeaway food vendors pile up in the water, endangering wildlife and biodiversity and polluting its course.

From this presentation we learned about the importance of being open to ideas. “We will try anything to see if it works,” Ali told us. The Feast of Food festival has been a great challenge financially, because it is difficult to make money out of the festival when all the time, work, bureaucracy and setting up costs are analysed. Yet it has brought visitors in their droves and given the region’s artisanal food and drink businesses a much needed platform and route to market.

The story of William and Ali’s achievements is all the more remarkable because, until five years ago William was an art dealer in London and Ali worked in the shop she co-owns in Tetbury, Sharland and Lewis. They never expected to inherit such a big, historic property, nor the bills that come with it. They have worked tirelessly to create a sustainable future for the estate, without undermining its character and charm, collaborating with the Wimborne community and providing jobs and event opportunities for locals and visitors.


Twitter: @Deans_Court

Thane Prince

Thane Prince’s honest, open and very direct approach to her life story set the room laughing at several points during her lecture. The lead food writer of The Telegraph for twelve years, owner and head tutor of The Aldeburgh Cookery School in Suffolk for twelve years, a television presenter and author of twelve cookery books, {the last of which is the bestseller “Ham, pickles and jam”, published by Anova}, Thane was also a ward sister for many years before entering the world of food writing.

Many of the ladies in the audience sat with bated breath to hear how so many achievements came to be, in addition to raising a family and accompanying her husband across the world.

”Everyone knows how I got the job at The Telegraph,” she said, self-effacingly. “I shared a school run with the features editor of the newspaper. But what people do not ask is how I kept my job for 12 years, because that is not an easy achievement. I kept asking questions: there is no such thing as a stupid question, and if I did not know something I would seek out an expert and go and ask them.”

Despite the huge success of her cookery school, Thane was unflinchingly honest about how psychologically depressing she found rural, coastal life in Suffolk, how she yearned for supermarkets selling good, fresh produce and multi-ethnic food products. A perfectionist, she always wanted every student who came to her cookery courses {paying £175 per head for the privilege of spending a day with Thane} to have the most wonderful experience of their life. She found it very difficult to find local staff who were equally committed to such a level of excellence.

Looking back on her career she felt disappointed that the local Aldeburgh food producers and bookshops did not collaborate with her venture. “Where I live now, in north London, the Tesco cashiers, round the corner from where I live, all know my name. In twelve years the Co-op supermarket cashiers in Aldeburgh didn’t.”

Still writing, teaching, cooking and engaging with her worldwide audience, Thane’s most important piece of advice to the audience was to “Keep up with technology, it is hugely important.” Practising what she preaches she has set up her own Blog and is active on Twitter, relaying her foodie finds, recipes and ideas to hundreds of followers every day.


Twitter: @Thanecooks

Stacey Hedges, founder of Hampshire Cheeses

Stacey Hedges founded Hampshire cheeses in 2004, and her soft rind, flavoursome milk cheese went on to win Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards in 2006, beating 840 other entries. Originally from Sydney, she started her cheese making business from her kitchen table. A mother of three children, in between school runs, she has managed to make Tunworth Cheese one of the most popular choices on the cheese boards of some of the finest delicatessens, restaurants and cheese shops in Britain.

The story of her career is beguiling, because Stacey’s telling of it is so humble. Now making 3000 cheeses a week, along with her business partner Charlotte Spruce, their creations stocked by La Fromagerie, Fine Cheese Company of Bath, Paxton and Whitfield and Neal’s Yard, she still worries about every detail of the cheese making process. Tunworth is a raw milk cheese which means that hygiene standards across the entire production process have to be at the highest level, from farm to shop shelf.

We learned how important it is to ask for help at the beginning of a business: when she started, Stacey said she was “so green”, asking other cheese producers whether she could come and learn from them in their dairy. She found all the support she received to be instrumental in getting her where she is today, and she  reciprocates this generosity to this day by allowing others to visit her dairy in Hampshire and passing on her knowledge.

“There is always a risk that others might compete with you, and come and take what you know to create their own business, but actually what artisanal cheese makers are trying to do is raise the overall game and keep the quality of well-made cheeses up so that everyone eats better food,” she told us.

The theme of family support, a constant throughout the lectures, was also raised by Stacey, who overcame challenges with the help of her husband and three children. She has created a strong and loyal relationship with the farmer who supplies her milk, the people who work with her and her customers.

Above all, she cites passion as the engine that has fired her energy through the last eight years of production, which has seen Tunworth Cheese win many awards and medals.


Monika Linton, founder of Brindisa

Monika’s story began in 1988. Although not Spanish {she is, in fact, half Irish and half German}, she studied modern languages and has always been passionate about the culture, people, history, food and language of Spain. She travelled extensively through the country, finding and sourcing the very best ingredients for her fledgling food import business, Brindisa, which means raising a glass. Cheers!

The business that now employs 150 people across a warehouse and three restaurants and a jamon school, sourcing ingredients from over 100 suppliers, started life with a humble Enterprise Allowance loan. Monika held a deep belief that Spanish food, albeit not considered of any gastronomic merit whatsoever in the late 1980’s and beset by several food scares, was in fact delicious, interesting and inspirational.

She single-handedly tracked down some of the best cheese, cured meats, fish and vegetable producers in Spain, bringing the produce back to London, to the growing number of foodie shoppers that was to become her huge and loyal customer base. She begged and borrowed fridge space from milk-men and other cheese mongers in the early days, when the first palettes of cheese arrived from Spain and she did not have a shop.

We saw slides of beautiful landscapes, skilful artisans, enticing plates of food and her own children learning about mushrooms and pasta making. From the humble chorizo bun to the most exquisite iberico carving class, Brindisa caters for those foodies who appreciate good quality food and are prepared to seek it out.

We learned about the Brindisa brand from its beginnings in a cold and draughty Borough Market, to the shiny eateries of Soho and Kensington. Monika’s vision has remained constant: to be inclusive and to hire people who have a deep respect for customers and good food.

Reluctant to spend money on anything other than good food, Monika showed us how Susannah Cook of Allies Design transformed her bull cave drawings into a vibrant, compelling logo when finances allowed the re-branding investment of the company.

“Find pleasure in your work, that is very important,” she told the audience. She has now delegated the responsibility for running part of the business to a Managing Director, Alastair Brown, who she says has transformed the business. “He is a people person, and insists that there has to be fun and laughter in the work place.”

Always ask for advice when you are unsure, try not to be borrow money you can’t afford, be prudent, work out a clear business plan, diversify into different products, create a Human Resources department if your business needs it and make a conscious decision to enjoy your job were just some of Monika’s philosophies.


Twitter: @Brindisa

Jane Cumberbatch, founder of Pure Style

Slim, beautifully dressed and authoritative on her subject, Jane Cumberbatch’s presentation lit the room. We saw photographic slides of how she developed her brand, Pure Style, from food and recipes, to interiors, gardens and lifestyle accessories.

A former decorating editor of House and Garden, she has worked with many magazines to create a simple, modern, accessible lifestyle imprint over the last two decades. Her own houses, in London, Portugal and Spain, have always reflected her love of the pared down, recycled, vintage look that so many have come to appreciate in her Blog.

The William Morris quote that informs her vision has always been “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”.

We learned how very important it is to make the most of what you have in life: be resourceful, upcycle, don’t lose sight of what you need rather than buying more than you need {a useful tip for the kitchen also}. Jane’s world is uncluttered and clean – this philosophy is much more liberating and peaceful.

Jane teaches that lack of money can be a good thing because it makes a person far more creative and bold. She believes in taking the responsibility of marketing yourself, embracing new and social media and blogs, being commercially astute if trying to get work published and creating a community of like- minded followers, readers and supporters who share the same vision as you.

Jane’s “Pure Style” book was published in 1996 and sold over 300 000 copies, making her a “style guru” for a generation of homemakers who were fed up with complicated, expensive and excessive home embellishments. Jane’s “Recipes for Every Day”, the ensuing cookery book published by Anova in 2011, was also a hit, showing how simple, seasonal, delicious food can be created by humble, fresh ingredients. Much of the work was inspired by Jane’s travels to cultures where peasant, home cooking prevails.

If she had known then what she knew now, Jane told us she wishes she had had the confidence to stick to her own ideas earlier in her career, rather than be pushed by publishers in their direction and she wishes she had been a technical genius, fluent in the magic art of Photoshop.


Twitter: @purestyleonline

Caryn Hibbert, founder of Thyme At Southrop Manor Estate

Our hostess for the day, Caryn Hibbert, owner of the Southrop Manor Estate and Thyme At Southrop cookery school, was also one of our speakers. Sat in such beautiful and luxurious surroundings, the whole audience was astonished to see the photographs of what the barns and outbuildings looked like when Caryn and her husband Jerry moved here a decade ago.

When the outbuildings that neighboured her home came for sale, Caryn, a doctor specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology, and her father, Michael Bertioli, the inventor of the modern pressure measurement system, set to renovating a complex of derelict cottages, piggeries, stables and barns to create a cookery school, an event centre, a riding stable, holiday lets, kitchen garden and, in addition, an award winning pub, The Swan at Southrop.

Caryn recounted the trials and tribulations of dealing with planning permission, bureaucracy and bringing all the different businesses together, so that everyone worked as a co-operative team.

The big project on the horizon is that they have bought the neighbouring Manor Farm and are converting it to become an 18 bedroom – 18 bathroom corporate and party event venue with a small spa opening to offer holistic, therapeutic health and beauty treatments for guests and visitors.

From foraging courses with ethno-botanist Claudio Bincoletto, to organising weddings and garden tours, stocking the homewares shop and running specialist cookery courses with well-known chefs and experts, we learned how Caryn has worked to create a centre of excellence that tells the whole story of good food and drink, from plot to plate.

Her advice to budding entrpreneurs and new businesses is never to underestimate the power of marketing and branding. Caryn worked with Alison Murray Design to create a very personal brand that evokes the land, the garden, nature and the seasons, resonating her love of colour, texture, photography and artisanal craftsmanship.


Twitter: @ThymeAtSouthrop

Jared Brown, co-founder of Mixellany

Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller are the founders of Mixellany Limited, a multi-award winning cocktail, drink and spirit consultancy. They have published 30 books on their specialist subject and organise master classes, courses, tastings and events for private and corporate parties all over the world. I was introduced to their website by Ailana Kamelmacher, the founder of Story PR in London, and she manages Sipsmith’s media and public relations.

Jared came to talk to us all about how he helped Fairfax Hall and Sam Galsworthy create the Sipsmith distillery. The first copper-pot based distillery to start up in London in 189 years, it is one of only four gin distilleries located within London’s city limits. They produce a London dry gin, a sloe gin and barley and damson vodkas.

Jared told us that he is the only spirit distiller he knows who does not have a degree in chemistry. A former chef, his work is informed by his senses and he uses smell and taste as his preferred instruments of judgement and analysis. He has a deep understanding of the power of botanical tastes and aromas in the world of food and drink and this has always been his guide.

His great skills as a raconteur and public speaker kept the audience enthralled as he weaved the tale of  the journey of his career, across America, France, London and Scandinavia. He and his wife even valued, curated and ran the spirits and drinks museum on the Île de Bendor, a unique island that stands as a monument to Paul Ricard. He erected a museum in 1958 dedicated to housing a “complete and permanent encyclopaedia” of wine and spirits, “Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux”.

We all had a tasting of Sipsmith gin and Jared taught us how to use our nose and palate to seek out the fragrance and taste. On the first nose we detected soft, pine smells, juniper and sweet citrus. As we drank the aroma of summer wild flowers, freshly cut grass and violets envelopped our taste buds. The long, warming notes of coriander and spices left a tingling sensation. Even non-gin drinkers were won over.

Despite being a writer and historian, Jared, a collector of a 1000 book library on the making of drinks and spirits, is a firm believer in modern technology. He Tweets frequently and believes that businesses have a great deal to gain in hiring a dedicated social media person to focus on this part of the marketing effort.

Website: and

Twitter: @mixellany

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