erial food entrepreneur Jamie Barber qualified as a lawyer before words of advice from Sir Richard Branson saw him “turn left” and set up eateries including Hush Mayfair, Cabana, Hache, Villandry and Sake No Hana. His newest business, My Supper Club, came to being after meeting his daughter’s best friend’s mum: singer and presenter Myleene Klass. Here Barber reveals what he’s learnt about entrepreneurialism so far and his advice for other food start-ups.
“I met Myleene at the school gates nine years ago. Our daughters were best friends at school, which led to parties, rotas and play dates. We became really close friends as families, spending time together at the weekend, when one day I cooked Myleene my stilton & caramelised red onion beef pie. She really liked it – in Myleene’s own words: “it was so good I ended up stealing Jamie’s tupperware and bringing it home for my fiancé and the kids” – but she hasn’t returned the tupperware yet!
“In the middle of the pandemic, we were both moaning to each other about the same thing but from different angles. I was sick of cooking. I like to eat well but had spent far too much time in the kitchen prepping, cooking and clearing up dinners. Myleene also loves to eat really well but hates cooking and take-outs just weren’t doing the job of providing really good quality, fresh food. So, we decided to solve the problem together.
“The result is home meal kit business My Supper Hero: kits that are delivered to your door, with a three-day shelf life. Most of the prep has been done, so you can put your meal — [options include miso salmon with bao buns, slow cooked beef tortelloni, and flat iron beef taco, around £30 for two or three] — together in under 10 minutes.
“I’ve been doing restaurants for years but My Supper Hero is my first tech platform and the one thing I wish I’d known about it was how complicated tech is. The simplest thing requires the most complex solution. But we’re going through an interesting change in the food business. The way we consume food is so different. The fact that I can go on Gorillas app and order organic chicken breast to arrive at my door straightaway is a major shift, and something any restauranteur needs to keep an eye on.
“I didn’t expect to end up in this career — I originally studied law and whilst I was on a study exchange I went to a Q&A with Sir Richard Branson. Six people had been asked to submit questions in advance; they were sitting at the front on a row of chairs. I decided to also pull up a chair — thankfully no one noticed — and I asked Sir Richard whether he thought law or business was a better path. He said that law was a good foundation to have but to never be afraid to turn left once I had my degree and do something entirely different.
“After graduation, I became an entertainment lawyer with Harbottle & Lewis where I worked with stars including Sir Roger Moore. We became good friends, and when a few years later, I did turn left, I started my first restaurant with [Roger’s son] Geoffrey Moore, Hush Mayfair.
“After 20 food start-ups, I now think the simple fact that someone has started a business is massively impressive. So many talk about it and so few actually do it. At the start you must be very tenacious, never take no for an answer. Ask for as much feedback as possible and absorb and learn from that feedback. Now I take every call, no matter what, because you never know where it might lead. Time is precious but if you don’t take the call, you may miss out on a life-changing opportunity.”