Get to know our Cowdray Farm Shop & Café General Manager Rupert, self-confessed cheese fanatic…
What drew you to Food and Drink?
Gluttony! I have always had an interest in food, it is a passion. I began my career in the Fine Art world with Sotheby’s in London, which enabled me to work as a butcher in Borough Market at weekends.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to live and work in such a beautiful place. It is only an hour from London, half an hour to the coast and yet Cowdray is set in a rural, heavily wooded – in fact the second most wooded county in the UK, and within a National Park. West Sussex is a beautiful county and I come from ‘God’s own County’…
What sets Cowdray Farm Shop apart from others?
It is our sourcing policy. We pride ourselves on sourcing the finest products to ensure quality in the right environment.
How do you envisage the future for the Farm Shop?
Cowdray’s Farm Shop is renowned as a leading food emporium and by keeping the content relevant and interesting word will continue to spread. The Estate is forward thinking and there are exciting plans; space is really our only constraint.
If you could only choose one product from the shop…
I am a cheese fanatic. It would have to be an Italian Gorgonzola Dolce mountain cheese, which is luckily available all year round!
Are you a mountain or beach person?
Neither – woodland please.
What’s been your greatest achievement to date?
Reaching the finals of the All Yorkshire Wellie ‘Wanging’ Championships, circa 1992
And your greatest challenge?
Undoubtedly the Covid-19 pandemic and how the business and team has reacted to this.
We all dread hearing the phrase Covid-19, but how has it affected you?
Retail was evolving rapidly before the Covid crisis. We are always adapting and developing, so we quickly introduced a delivery service and click and collect. Shopping here is experiential, the staff are knowledgeable, the products vary seasonally, the Farm Shop is a destination venue, which of course I hope will continue to draw customers in their droves.
Cowdray’s a holistically managed Estate. How does the environment impact your business?
The environment is key to our products. The Estate as a whole is extremely environmentally conscious. Specifically relating to products stocked in the shop, we source locally where possible, however quality has to be the overriding factor. Some of the best lamb, beef and wild venison are produced on the Estate, whilst other specialities do come from further afield. The soil, grass type and number of sun hours determine the end product, so they are moulded at source.
From an experiential perspective, gravity bins were introduced last year and customers are encouraged to bring their own containers. We use minimal packaging and continue to explore more environmentally friendly options.
What’s your managerial style?
I spend time on the shop floor; I work the tills if there’s a queue, serve cheese or jump behind the butcher’s counter. That way I receive feedback first-hand, I can impart knowledge and work with my excellent team. I spend many hours in front of a screen too and I’m always keen on exploratory sourcing trips. I have joined the judges for the Great Taste Awards, which is interesting and useful in many ways.
No 1 on your bucket list?
I’d love to travel to India. I want to see tigers before they disappear and the palaces of Rajasthan.
Are you a supper at home or pub person?
Pub, then cook for myself at home.
What’s your most memorable Cowdray moment?
Seeing Cowdray in house made produce earning multiple awards at The Guild of Fine Food organised Great Taste Awards
Finally, what can’t you live without?
My sons and my dog.
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