The Olive Branch
A bite to eat with Ben Jones, general manager at The Olive Branch
What’s your first memory of your love for eating out?
Meals at the Marquess of Exeter in Lyddington with my parents and brother, an occasional family Friday night treat when I was young – classic prawn cocktail and chicken in a basket.
When did you know you wanted to work in hospitality?
My Mum was a great cook and when my parents separated, I moved in with my Dad so would help with the cooking and helped when he had friends’ round or hosted dinner parties. I then trained to be a Chef at
Southfields College in Leicester but went to Hambleton Hall to do a 2 week work placement as a waiter as I thought it would be important to experience front of house if I wanted to be a chef. I enjoyed looking after guests and learning about wine as well as the food and fell in love with the wonders of the whole dining out experience which food is just one part of.
How did you see your career in hospitality grow?
After working at Hambleton Hall, I spent 2 years in a 5 star luxury country house hotel restaurant just outside of Paris. France was really tough as I didn’t speak any French and I was spoken to in French all the time. Some of the junior waiters helped me a little, with one particularly helpful as they had spent a year in England. It took 6 months of working there until I started to understand more and began to talk a little in French. It was then I discovered all the senior waiters and managers could speak English!
Describe your style in three words.
Professional, professional, professional.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
Visiting other establishments and talking with our team.
If you could prepare a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you make?
It would be for my family - just a Sunday roast and a bottle of red wine, as special time sitting down as a family.
What are you most proud of in your career?
The Olive Branch. Also winning Michelin Pub of the Year at The Olive Branch and AA Pub of the Year at the Red Lion Inn Stathern which we used to own. We have been Pub of the Year at some point in every
guide there is. Good Pub Guide (twice), AA, Good Hotel Guide, Michelin, Sawdays, Innplaces and GQ Magazine.
Who is your biggest supporter?
So many of our amazing customers, lockdown has really shown us how supportive our customers have been and how much they love The Olive Branch.
What would you want to have as your last meal?
Tomato, bacon, feta and olive oil salad and a glass of cold lager. This was also the first meal that made me think about the wonders of food and importance of surroundings. A Greek salad is such a simple thing which I first experienced on a ‘lads’ holiday when I was 19 with Aaron Patterson (now Head Chef at Hambleton Hall) and Marcus Welford who was also one of the founders of The Olive Branch and now supplies our wine. All of the ingredients were probably grown or made within only a few miles of the restaurant and are simply chopped and mixed together to make amazing flavours. Add warm weather, the sun, a beach café and an ice cold beer to really elevate the experience.