THOMPSON St Albans – a true, family run, independent restaurant in the heart of St Albans
By Phil Thompson
We are a small, independent, family run restaurant offering what we believe to be a relaxed, fine dining experience to the people of Hertfordshire. We have had a lot of help from friends and family along the way with initial funding and day to day support. My fiancée Marianne sold her house and we literally invested our life savings into getting the restaurant up and running and to where we are today. There is still a lot to do and a lot more to achieve. Luckily, we both like a challenge!
Meet the family
There’s myself, Phil Thompson, chef and co-owner. I manage our food and wine suppliers, including Sparshott the veg man who is locally based in St Albans, the Three Brewers for a nice drop of ale, to name a few. With the help of James Renfrew, our Assistant Restaurant Manager, I am actively involved in the running of the restaurant day to day. James is a true industry professional. He loves food and when it comes to service, his standards are second to none. He is very aware of our aggressive goals and ambitions for the restaurant and is 100% on board. This man will go far and we feel very lucky to have him!
My fiancée and co-owner Marianne Gearing manages everything behind the scenes. The meetings, managing relationships with Rayner Essex – who she raves about, our IT, working with our marketing partners Wagada, Gower and The Print Shop – all members of the St Albans Chamber of Commerce and based locally in St Albans. She looks after HR, Payroll, helps develop the front of house training plan, and, did I mention, she likes a process document?
Marianne’s mum Carolynne helps with English lessons and grammar for our waiting staff. Marianne’s Dad, John, very generously supplies us with an abundance of seasonal fruit and vegetables from his allotment once a week, sometimes twice. The chefs love to go down there on their days off to see what he’s up to. The place is amazing.
The chefs used to ask me “just how big is this allotment?” There have been Sundays when we have done 60 to 70 covers and his veg alone has fed my entire restaurant. He is very proud that we serve his vegetables to our guests. He loves to grow new things, from courgette flowers to artichokes. He too likes a challenge (I see where his daughter gets it from.) Whatever we ask him to grow, he rises to the challenge and produces it at the very highest quality.
Child friendly food
Then there is Marianne’s brother Jeremy, who is a trained electrician, which is handy. She tells me he owes her and he will do pretty much anything for one of my roast dinners, which is lucky! His daughter Leiandra, (Marianne’s niece), is my quality control tester when it comes to our home made, freshly-produced children’s menu. Now aged 11, she especially loves the DIY kids ice cream cones we serve. She has known our pastry and sous chefs since the Brocket Hall days as they lived next door to us. She used to go and watch football with them at age 6 to 7 and draw pictures for them. Leiandra knows the rest of the chefs from Christmas Days and family dinners that we’ve hosted at end of service, in our home.
With our chefs coming a long way from home, such as Scotland, Newcastle and other countries, they are our family too on Christmas Day. She recently came into the kitchen to learn how to make chicken satay, which we ate that for our staff tea that night. Leiandra joined us after school for the last allotment dig we did with all the chefs. She very quickly realised that chefs have a habit of saying ‘naughty’ words and that she could charge fifty pence every time they said one. She had eleven pounds or so after a few hours and our Commis Chef Stephen was skint by the end of the evening!
As I said, my chefs are all like family to me. Liam, my Sous Chef, is from Essex – all the best chefs are. Mark Rainbow is my longest serving chef of 15 years, also an avid Wasps fan. He is our pastry chef and a very talented guy. Paul Cooke has worked for me for two years and has just been promoted form Chef de Partie to Junior Sous Chef this month, he is very proud and so am I! He must have heard how good it was to work for me from his brother Mark Cooke, who worked for me for six years at Brocket Hall. Mark left me to go and work for Phil Howard at The Square, a 2 Michelin Star restaurant. He’s now Sous Chef at the Angler in the South Place Hotel, also a Michelin starred restaurant.
Coming back to the rest of my team at THOMPSON St Albans. There’s Adam who is a Chef de Partie and has been with me for one and a half years. He is on the sauce section at the moment, learning the ropes of cooking on the most prestigious section in the kitchen. Then there’s Stephen. He’s from Glasgow and has been with me for a year. He works hard when he’s here, but could do with a new alarm clock! He plays the bag pipes too so we let him loose in the restaurant on New Year’s Eve. Everyone loved him. Our customers were following him around from room to room.
The restaurant wouldn’t be the success it is today were it not for our friends, family and the support of our guests in St Albans and further afield. Then there is my wonderful team; their hard work, dedication and commitment is second to none. This is my baby and they do a great job in helping me deliver our very best every day. I feel very fortunate to have their support and I’m really excited to see what the future holds for us all.