Meet two food truckers who have found a permanent patch for their new local-produce venture in an organic garden.
In the days when food trucks were the latest thing since sliced bread – often with jalapenos, pulled pork, and homemade ketchup – the Good Stone and Wild Health seemed to be at opposite ends of the food spectrum.
On one side there was Chris Scott with his wood-fired pizza and cooked meats. On the other, there was Gemma Bartlett, with seaweed wraps, and raw wholefood cakes. One sold indulgence, the other, the feeling you were being rather good.
So, it may have come as a bit of a surprise to discover not only were the caterers handing over the keys of their trucks to go to a permanent home, but they were moving in together.
In December Gemma and Chris signed the lease on the café at Samarès Manor, embarking on a project that would transform the venue from a place that principally sold cream teas into a garden restaurant, selling food based on seasonal produce grown just a few metres away.
Chris said: “Our trucks had often ended up next to each other at events and we’d done supper clubs together at Grève de Lecq which had gone really well, so we knew how the other works. We’d been looking for a space where we could create artisanal food together, when this place came up.
“Our food trucks might have seemed like they were on the opposite end of the spectrum, but our food philosophy is quite similar. We both believe in serving really good quality produce, preferably as local as possible.”
While food trucks tend to specialise in one area of food, a café in a location such as Samarès needs to appeal to a wider audience, something the pair are very conscious of.
“When we started, I originally thought we might be doing more raw food bars and vegan options,” Gemma said, “but we want to offer something for everyone. There’s no reason why vegans and carnivores can’t both enjoy a meal here. The focus is simply on making tasty, wholesome food that celebrates what the manor produces, whether that is vegetables or meat.
“We are aware that we have many different demographics to cater for, we get lots of mums with babies and toddlers in the week, and holiday-makers looking for Jersey cream teas and Jersey produce. Then the weekend is more brunchers and local foodies, and people who really appreciate our craft beers and sharing platters.”
Inside, the café is all white-washed walls and reclaimed wooden furniture. Chris and Gemma redecorated and installed all the cabinets and shelves themselves, using odd bits of furniture from around the manor that were no longer required.
“There is so much heritage to this place,” Chris said. “Vincent and Gillie, the owners, have been incredibly kind and helpful, finding all sorts of things that fit the new décor. There’s a table from the manor pantry, a beautiful old wheelbarrow, and some of the shelves are made from a special piece of wood, shipped to the Island from Trinidad as a gift for Vincent’s mother 90 years ago.”
Despite three months of preparation before opening at the start of March, there’s still a long way to go before Barrow is finished.
Gemma said: “We’re still waiting for the top of a counter refrigeration unit that will allow us to serve chilled deli produce and cakes.
We’re building the pizza oven, which will go on the edge of the terrace, so people can watch their pizzas while they cook. We’d like to respray the blue chairs green, which is our signature colour. And, we’re waiting for a lot of vegetables to grow. But we’re having to take things step by step. As we get the right equipment, we can offer a wider choice of food. When the new produce arrives, we can create a better selection of dishes, and create food events around seasonal items.”
Like most catering businesses in the Island, Barrow could do with more chefs, however, Chris and Gemma are keen that any new talent should share the same food philosophy as the rest of the team.
“We’ve only advertised for staff through our own social media platforms because we wanted to ensure that anyone who comes here really gets it.” Chris said. “Your first task of the day when you start work may be watering plants, so it’s not really your typical kitchen job.
“The gardens are stunning all day long, but when you get them to yourself early in the morning, or after visitors leave, they are even more special. When everything is in place, we will be able to start supper clubs and do occasional evening events, making the location work for different audiences who can’t come during the day.”
Encouraging healthy eating for children is another theme Barrow is determined to champion. As the mother of a five-year-old, Gemma is aware how limited many children’s menus are, and how unhealthy.
“There’s no reason why children can’t eat the same food as adults in restaurants; just with smaller portions. A lot of restaurants do lovely food for adult but then offer kids something like chicken nuggets. Children often enjoy healthier options if they are presented in a fun way.”
While the food trucks may have just been about feeding people, Barrow has a greater sense of purpose.
“We have a vision and want to do something different,” Chris said. “It would be easy to be just another café, but there’s a purpose behind why we’re doing this. We want to celebrate local food and help create a stronger link between what we eat and how food is grown or produced. If we’re serving bacon, I want to know the farmer, and see the pig, in the same way we know the people who grew the tomatoes, caught the fish, or made the bread.”
The vision is grand, and the enthusiasm is great. But the pair are also realistic.
“We started out thinking we would do 100% local, but when we started it became clear that in Jersey that can be really difficult, especially when you are ordering in very large quantities. In some ways it has pushed us into looking at what we can produce ourselves in future. We are so fortunate that we can grow so much of our own vegetables here, without pesticides, and getting the chance to learn so much along the way.”
Feature image: Robbie Dark