Welcome back to SELECTED, celebrating Somerset’s very special entrepreneurial spirit and warmth. In this case we’re celebrating the wonderful food and drinks we produce here with personal chef Steve James!
Steve James offers a modern dining experience in your own home. We can expect the highest quality and standard of food, presentation and service I’m told and with a plethora of awards under his belt already it looks like his star is rising.
Here Steve tells his story…
Photo credit : Tim Macpherson
Q: Hi Steve and welcome to SELECTED. Tell us about you?
I grew up in Weymouth in Dorset with my family. From a young age I always had a passion for cooking. I would always make cakes and biscuits with my mum in the kitchen and me and my Auntie used to cook together often. We found a very old photo of me and my auntie in the kitchen the other day cooking together when I must have been only 7 or 8. Cooking for friends and family has always been a priority for me.
When my mum became ill and was diagnosed with MS this encouraged me to cook more often for the family and from then I became engrossed in reading cookery books as if they were novels and researching all different techniques. After school I decided to pursue my other love, art and photography, but always kept cooking for friends and family in the background as much as I could.
After moving to Yeovil in Somerset to live with my partner, and a couple of career changes, I decided to go back to cooking. As a birthday present my mum and dad bought me a cookery lesson with Lesley Waters, who you may remember from Ready Steady Cook. I went to a few of these through gifts from friends and family and a few I purchased myself. Once I had been a few times I asked if it was possible to help at the cook school to which Lesley said yes.
After a little while of helping there I decided that my passion for cooking was what I really wanted to do as a career and so set up my company, Steve James: A modern dining experience. My family and friends have been a real support since I set up my company and even have had a few of them waitering for me from time to time, especially my partner. I love to make people happy through food, watching someone eating something you have created and bringing a smile to their face using different flavour combinations, textures and presentation. Trying to bring a combination of flavours that someone hasn’t tried before.
Photo Credit : Tory McTernan
Q: Tell us about your business?
I set up Steve James Ltd just under 1 and a half years ago. At present there is just myself as the main team, I do all the cooking, washing up, accounts marketing etc and a small team of waiters and waitresses which also includes friends and family.
The company is continuously growing and getting busier and busier so employing another set of hands to help me maybe something that happens in the near future. The aim of the company is to provide a modern dining experience in your home or location of your choice. We cover the whole of Somerset, Dorset and go to East Devon as well.
The aim is to provide restaurant quality food in the location that you decide, whether this be your own home, a holiday home or somewhere more unique. We have a real passion for food and use interesting, unique and playful flavour and texture combinations. The produce we use is mainly locally sourced, as Somerset and Dorset produce a vast array of amazing products.
Q. What makes you stand out from other businesses in your niche?
Our meats come from local butchers and most of the herbs, vegetables and fruit we use are home grown. If you opt to have a waiter or waitress they are all very friendly, approachable and professional. We have also recently teamed up with Butlers in the Buff to be able to provide butlers for hen parties, birthdays, baby showers, same sex stag parties and any other occasion you would like them. We can provide food for every dietary requirement. In the past we have catered for nut free, dairy free, gluten free, onion free, vegetarian, vegan, plus many more and sometimes all of them at the same time.
Our menu changes every three months, seasonally, to ensure the use of fresh local seasonal produce. We also provide menus for special dates, valentines, mother’s day etc. The other option is to choose a bespoke menu where we design a menu around you, suited to you and your guests tastes.
Photo credit : Steve James
Q: What do you feel are your best achievements?
Within the last year and a half my biggest achievements would have to be starting up and running my own business, being nominated as top three for the Best Chef category for the Somerset Life awards.
I have also won two years in a row for Dining Experience of the Year in Somerset for the Luxury Travel Guide. The feedback and reviews that I have gained from the customers has been fantastic and I look forward to cooking for them again and getting more reviews from our future clients.
I worked with Melbury Vale Winery in Shaftesbury creating a tasting menu to accompany their wines. Also working to help some great local charities has also been fantastic such as helping the Yeovil Mayor with a wine tasting evening to support St Margarets Hospice and events for the Piers Simon Appeal, Akamba Aid Fund and helping local care homes with prizes for raffles such as The Cherries care home in Weymouth.
Photo credit : DiaMonD Images
Q: What have you learnt running your own business, what advice would you give a budding entrepreneur?
What I have learnt is that attention to detail is essential to providing a quality experience. Ensuring that your customer care is a key point from the first discussion to the end of the job. Being able to talk to clients and find out what they need and providing exactly what they want is very important, and always push yourself to go above and beyond!
Q: What are your goals for 2018?
My goals for 2018 are to increase the reputation of the business, increase bookings and develop into a dining club. During the year as the business grows I will ideally employ more staff for preparation work and some more for waitering. I am in talks with a few people regarding collaborations throughout the year and hope these progress into something and am always looking for other producers and services to collaborate with to enhance the business.
Q: What is your mission statement and why?
My Mission statement as mentioned before is “Always go above and beyond”. I use this as it works for everything. Whether it is with the customer, finding fantastic produce, going that extra mile to find something special for them. If its for a special occasion bringing an extra little something as a surprise. It is also a way to progress in your work by pushing yourself you can find new techniques, new products, new flavour combinations where you may not have found if you hadn’t. These are also my words to live by outside of the business as if you constantly push yourself you are always improving.
Q: Tell us how you named your business?
The business is named after myself as I am the chef and owner and to build a profile. Easy for people to find and remember.
Photo Credit : DiaMonD Images
Q: Who influences you?
There are many people who influence me. As I said growing up I was always in the kitchen with my mum and auntie baking and doing dinner parties. My dad also is a good cook and loves cooking with Thai, Chinese, middle eastern and Indian flavours which has also influenced me along the way. Helping Lesley Waters and becoming good friends with her has also had a big influence on me and she has taught me a lot.
Q: What is important to you?
There are lots of things that are important to me. Business wise my reputation is important, keeping clients happy and trying to exceed their expectations, the use of fresh local quality produce. Business aside my family, friends and pets are most important to me.
Q: What drives you?
I am driven by the need to supply a quality service to my clients.
Photo credit : Tory McTernan
Q: Tell us about your latest project?
At the moment I am currently working with a Game shoot day company, which finishes at the end of January, providing lunch time meals of three courses then a delicious local cheese board to finish. I use Rosary goats cheese from Glastonbury, Dorset Blue Vinny, Sharpham Brie, Wookey hole cave aged cheddar and Smoked Godminster cheddar, some of my favourite Somerset and Dorset cheeses! I accompany these with homemade quince jelly, citrus and chilli jam, caramelised pecans with biscuits and seasonal fruit.
As I said previously I have recently added the Butler in the Buff service to add a little extra to what we can supply and have created a bespoke menu just for them which will be released in the next couple of weeks.
I am also currently working on the Spring menu and the Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day menu which will be coming up in the next few months. The photo shoot for these is also happening in the next couple of weeks which I always get very excited about.
Currently I am also booking in a meeting with a local cocktail barman with the possibility of us collaborating on something together and as I said earlier I am always on the look out for new and exciting local companies to collaborate with.
Photo credit : Steve James
Q: Finally, what do you love most about Somerset?
There is so much to love about Somerset. We have amazing produce from drinks, cheese, meats, oil producers, vegetables, fruit, delicious preserves, chutneys and many many others.
We are extremely lucky to live in such a beautiful county with superb countryside and beautiful scenery. Having amazing country homes and historical landmarks right on our doorstep I think is something very special.
Thank you Steve for telling us your fantastic story so far! We think your food looks delicious and can’t wait to have you cook for us sometime. We certainly share your love for Somerset produce.
If you’d love Steve and his team to cook for you, give them a call on 07909 651557 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A SELECTED interview – cherry picked and lovingly crafted by Lizzie in collaboration with Steve James xo