Restaurant 23 Sommelier Sebastian Haudebourg
When Sebastian was born in 1972 in Saint Calais in the French Loire Valley, it was expected that he would become an expert sommelier. Not only was he born into one of France’s foremost wine regions, his father was heavily involved in the restaurant business. Inspired by his dad’s passion and stories, Sebastian was excited from an early age to follow in his footsteps, but chose a very different path.
Sebastian started his career at the prestigious Jean Drouant Hotel School in Paris, and, following completion of his military service, started work in La Marée, a Michelin starred restaurant. This was followed by a stint working with Pierre Koffmann at his London La Tante Claire restaurant. However, Sebastian wasn’t quite ready to settle down and commit.
A period followed where he worked at his father’s brasserie, whilst taking time out to travel to various places around the world. When Marco Pierre White opened Quo Vadis in London Sebastian joined him, but found the wanderlust had not yet been sated, so he signed up with Crystal Cruises and sailed around the world on a luxury cruise liner. The paradise island of Bermuda called him next; while working as Head Sommelier in a top restaurant he met his long‐term partner, and when they had a son together they decided that moving back to Europe was the best thing. Initially, this meant France, where Sebastian opened his own fish restaurant (La Chasse Marée in Brittany). After a few years England beckoned, and Sebastian joined prestigious London restaurant Angelus as Head Sommelier, before deciding to move closer to family in Stratford upon Avon and teaming up with Peter Knibb at Restaurant 23 in 2008.
As sommelier, Sebastian is responsible for all wine‐related things at Restaurant 23, from researching and buying in fine wines, to creating the wine list and advising guests on the best wines to accompany their food. It is a job he loves and is passionate about.
“Peter and myself have built up a great understanding over the years and he trusts me to get on with things and ensure that we have the right wines to match his fantastic dishes. I love researching wines and developing our wine list, and of course helping our guests make the most of their dining experience by ensuring they have the perfect wine with their meal, is incredibly satisfying.”
Martyn Pearn, Executive Head Chef, Peel’s Restaurant
Peel’s Restaurant by Martyn Pearn is housed in the atrium of Hampton Manor. This historic boutique hotel is a grand backdrop to the contemporary fine dining restaurant that opened in 2009.
Martyn has a classical background and has held Michelin stars at La Reserve in Bordeaux France and at Buckland Manor in Worcestershire. For Peel’s Restaurant, Martyn’s demonstrates his craft by delivering perfectly cooked, modern British food with bold and gutsy flavours.
Who taught you to cook?
Michel Bourdin at The Connaught in London.
What is your favourite dish to cook?
Game because it is not available all year round and it lends itself to many different preparations, it’s available only for a very short season too and one of the very few meats that is now still literally wild.
What are your favourite ingredients to use?
Luxury ones! Fresh truffles, foie gras, dry aged fillet of beef.
What are you most proud of?
Achieving a Michelin Star at Buckland Manor as it was totally unexpected! I had just landed from a holiday to India, picked up our dog from the kennels, taken him on a very long walk and failed to notice the congratulations card on our door mat! This was of course before Facebook and Twitter otherwise I think I’d have known the day it was awarded! Anyway I was literally walking on air, I was so thrilled!
Also winning Warwickshire and Worcestershire Life Restaurant of the Year 2012, it is a ‘well deserved pat on the back for the whole hotel and restaurant team’
What can diners expect at Peel’s?
Uncomplicated, serious food using quality ingredients cooked with passion, served with style, in an historic but modern contemporary stunning environment.
Do you use any local suppliers?
Warwickshire and the surrounding counties provide inspiration to source local produce where possible, so we feature Aubrey Allen, Berkswell Cheese and rare breed meats from Richard Vaughan on our menu.
Where have you eaten your best ever meal?
I had the most memorable cutlet of veal at Le Manoir, it was sublime and to die for!
Who would you like to cook for and what would you prepare for them?
I have thought about this long and hard, it’s a tough question! But thinking of the fascinating history that surrounds Hampton Manor, I’d like to cook for Sir Frederick Peel who inherited the land from his Father Sir Robert Peel, he then built Hampton Manor in 1855.
I’d like to show him how we have kept all of the original features of this stunning property and how we are using some of the wild animals on the estate within our cooking, namely the monkjack, which would have been around during his day, not literally the same ones of course!
Rachel Russell, The Cracking Good Food Company
Have you ever had a kitchen table moment when you think you’ve created an amazing new food product? Rachel Russell has and by launching The Cracking Good Food Company turned her dream into the reality of a successful business.
“The idea of starting my own food business had been bubbling for a while.I’d been bringing up a family and living abroad, so when we returned to the UK my husband suggested that I should turn my love of food and cooking into a commercial enterprise.
I’d been testing a recipe for savoury crackers at home which everyone loved. Made in little loaves, thinly sliced, then baked again this unique combination of a biscotti like biscuit and cracker gave us the name of Cracotti and my food brand was born.
I was convinced that there was nothing like Cracotti on the market, so I began by conducting research at trade shows. Talking directly to retailers at the Speciality Fine Food Fair, confirmed that there was a definite gap in the market that my products could fulfil.
We wanted the business to have a scale of production, so we approached local bakers and had conversations on a non-disclosure basis to see if they could meet our requirements. When you’re excited about launching your new business it is vital that you don’t give away your unique selling point in the process of assessing suppliers! One aspect that became obvious was that we would need to provide bakers with the specific equipment to make Cracotti. This meant that we had to speak to sheet metal fabricators in Birmingham to design and make our own equipment to give to the bakers. This added an extra element to the plan, but it was worth it in the long run as we then had total quality control all the way through production.
My favourite things to eat with cheese are dates, so this was one of the six potential flavour combinations that we tested in consumer focus groups. From these sessions, the favourites were selected and put into production.
Our current range has three distinctive flavours. Cranberry and Hazelnut Cracottiare wonderful with Bath Soft cheese and English Stilton or Alex James’ Little Wallop. Fig and Olive Cracotticompliment Cerney goats cheese or wild boar salami and they are ideal as a base for canapés. Pecan and Sundried Berries Cracottiare great with mature Cheddar and Blacksticks Blue or equally as good on their own.
These totally original crackers are handmade and preservative free, containing seeds rich in Omega 3,6 and 9. No artificial flavourings or colourings are used and they are also low in saturated fat and salt.
We worked through every single aspect of packaging, working back from the finished packaging tray to the machine that film wraps the biscuits. As we had such a strong concept, our designer was able to create a visual identity that complimented the product.
Getting our product ready for market also meant that we needed food industry support. The West Midlands Regional Food Academy at Harper Adams University College was an extremely useful resource for training and technical services, especially as we don’t have a commercial food sector background. The huge list of legislation, health and safety requirements for a food business plus the elements of a food product like nutritional values can be quite daunting when you’re just starting out, so their support was invaluable.
In total it took us a year from having the initial idea of Cracotti to finally holding the first packet in our hands, so we could finally begin our marketing plan. We took a stand at the Speciality Fine Food Fair in Olympia which was great to have direct contact with retailers. We also sent samples out to food editors to generate media coverage in the specialist media. The marketing activities that have worked well for us include well targeted B2B campaigns and issuing a quarterly update to customers. To keep the brand messages fresh we Tweet and I really like the ability to be personal and join in conversations with a wider audience.
For any new food business I’d recommend joining a specialist trade body like Heart of England Fine Foods and Guild of Fine Foods. Organisations like these can be useful to validate your brand to other companies and assist with marketing. We’ve been fortunate enough to receive two awards in our first year of business, including the 2011 HEFF Innovate for developing a unique product and thorough market research.
Rachel concludes “We are really passionate about what we do – and we are dedicated to bringing new and exciting products to independent fine food retailers.
Cracotti is available from fine food retailers, delis and cheese shops across the country, including Cheese on The Green in Rugby, Anderson & Hill in Birmingham, The Grocer and Deli in Edgbaston, Pickles Pantry in Harborne and Greens Cuisine in Barnt Green.
Rachel has new flavours up her sleeve and is getting ready to launch more varieties of Cracotti in the New Year, so watch this space for further news.
Richard Cooper, Cheese On The Green
A recent survey by the British Cheese Board revealed that over 55% of Brits named Cheddar as their favourite cheese. The survey also indicated that around half of the people questioned buy the same cheese every week and nearly a third try a new cheese less often than once a year.
I was surprised that from the 700 or so varieties of cheese produced in the UK, we are not experimenting with other types. I’m lucky enough to have a fine cheese store locally, so I went to Richard Cooper at Cheese On The Green for help navigating my way through all the choices and advice on how to be a more adventurous cheese buyer.
As a former chef at Claridges, provisions buyer at Fortnum & Mason and manager of Paxton & Whitfield, Richard Cooper has a long established career in the food sector. Regular visits from London to Rugby to visit family saw him bringing food parcels up from London, as he couldn’t find a good quality delicatessen locally. The idea of opening his own cheese shop seemed a natural step to satisfy a gap in the market and for Richard to do what he loves – talk about cheese everyday!
In the shop I was immediately drawn to the glossy rind of the Black Bomber and unusual shape of Petit Langres in the cabinets, as Richard talked me through the different varieties he stocks.
“There’s a core stock of good quality Cheddars and Stiltons but our range is very customer led as to which cheeses I stock. When I opened in April we had about 90 different English and European cheeses, now we have more than 100. We’ve seen an increase in the popularity of vegetarian rennet cheeses and the artisan French cheeses like Sainte Nectaire and Munster.”
There is almost a “Delia effect” when cheeses are mentioned in the media too, which has an impact on stock. Richard saw an 800% increase in sales of Chaource after it was mentioned in The Guardian.
For customers looking to try new or different cheeses, Richard tries to establish their likes and dislikes with slivers to taste.Starting with the type of milk, firmness, textures and flavours Richard can build a picture of which cheeses his customers will enjoy.
Their textures and flavours depend on the origin of the milk (including the animal’s diet), whether they have been pasteurised, the butterfat content, the bacteria and mould, the processing and ageing. Unlike the gimmicky Alex James cheese range (Cheddar & Ketchup, Cheddar & Salad Cream slices, and Cheddar Tikka Masala) herbs, spices and wood smoke are more traditional flavouring agents. I had no idea that so much could be achieved from separating curds and whey!
Every cheese has a story and Richard happily explains the provenance of each variety as if they were old friends. Each cheese is wrapped in greaseproof paper and a description card is added, which is especially useful when you have a cheeseboard to choose from!
So from all of this choice could Richard possibly have a favourite? He says;”Its difficult to pick a favourite cheese, as every day when I open new stock I’m reminded of different flavour sensations so I am lucky enough to have a favourite every day.”
A Cheese On The Green speciality is a cheese board specially chosen for you by Richard. His palette is highly rated as a Guild of Fine Foods World Cheese Awards and the Great Taste Awards judge, so customers are in safe and knowledgeable hands.
The carefully selected additions of pickles, chutney and preserves , Cracotti biscuits (by the Cracking Good Food Company in Birmingham) and cheese boards, knives and Camembert baking dishes, really make the Cheese On The Green a one stop destination for cheese lovers.
A steady stream of customers came into the shop to make purchases whilst Richard and I chatted. One young mum came in on the recommended ‘Cheese of The Day’ that Richard had tweeted to his growing band of followers. Marketing via Twitter has proved a popular route to engage with customers, but even more important is the word of mouth recommendations he is receiving.
For anyone harbouring a dream of opening their own fine food store, Richard has this advice ; “Any retail offer has to be based on sound business planning, but more than that your product knowledge and ability to source the best products has to be absolutely spot on.”
If you are unable to pop into the shop, Cheese On The Green offers a full UK mail order service.
27 The Green
Tel 01788 522813