Tuesday 18 February 2020

In the kitchen with Will and Calum Thompson from Eat Wild

From festival fodder to Cirencester’s trendiest eatery, SoGlos chews the fat with Eat Wild founders, brothers Will and Calum Thompson.

Calum and Will, can you tell SoGlos a bit about yourselves and where you’re from?

I’m Calum Thompson, I’m 23, and I’m from Cirencester. And, I’m Will Thompson, I’m 26 and also from Cirencester.

What are your different roles at Eat Wild?

Calum: Technically Will’s managing director and I’m just director, but we play to each other’s strengths. Will’s got much better organisational skills than me and I’m useless when it comes to numbers, but then I’m better at public speaking and demos than he is.

When did Eat Wild start and how did you come up with the concept?

Will: We first started trading in 2011. After I got back from travelling in Australia, I worked for a friend at festivals and discovered that the food was pretty rubbish. I messed up my degree and didn’t really have too much of an idea of what I was going to do, but the pressure was on to get a job. Having grown up doing a lot of shooting and fishing, setting up a catering business specialising in game seemed like a logical thing to do.

So, did you start out working at festivals?

Calum: Before festivals, we started doing small shows, basically anywhere that would have us, and built up from there to do big music festivals and events such as Download, Creamfields, Wireless and Hard Rock Calling.

For people who haven’t come across Eat Wild, how would you describe it?

Will: I guess if they live locally and haven’t heard of us they’ve probably been living under a rock, as we’ve been making a bit of noise in Gloucestershire!

Basically, we’re trying to educate people about the quality of food that we have in the county, without having to fly in chicken from Thailand and beef from South America.

We’ve got all this super healthy stuff on our doorstep, such as game, that historically there’s been a stigma attached to eating, but I think a lot of social boundaries have broken down over the past generation.

How did the concept develop?

Calum: Essentially we’ve rolled on the dirty food trend; looking at places like Byron Burger, Meat Liquor and The Blues Kitchen for inspiration. Yes, we have your conventional meat: such as pork, beef, chicken and lamb on the menu, but that’s because if we just served game we’d probably go out of business.

Calum, what made you decide to get involved in the business?

Calum: I was helping Will while I was at university and then eventually I bailed on my third year at the Royal Agricultural College to commit fully. I realised that I was essentially studying to get a job when there was a job I’d rather do right in front of me.

How did the idea for the restaurant come about?

Calum: We got drunk on a night out in Cirencester and met our now landlord who said he was thinking of setting up a fish and chip shop. He asked if we’d be interested in providing the meat for his business and I said that we’d be more interested in having our own place.

He said ok, grabbed the keys and we went and looked around the place while we were quite drunk. It all seemed like quite a good idea, so I gave him my number and said we’d talk about it over a coffee when we were sober and it all went from there.

Was the restaurant something you’d been planning for a while?

Calum: For us, the thing with mobile catering is that you can get great food out to people while getting your brand name here, there, and everywhere. But, in terms of actually being able to give people the full culinary experience, it’s far easier to have a central hub.

Was it quite different to go from being mobile to running a bricks and mortar space?

Calum: Massively. Other than working as kitchen porters for other people when we were younger, we’d only worked once in a restaurant kitchen, so that was quite daunting. We’ve got a new chef who is really good at what he does and we’re fortunate to have him because he’s more efficient in a commercial kitchen than Will and I.

Did you have any formal training?

Calum: We’ve learnt everything on the job. I did catering at GCSE and that’s about the closest I’ve ever come to being taught cooking, and I don’t think that qualifies for you to own and run a restaurant in any way!

It was all self taught; we had a lot of game knocking about when we were younger and learnt how to skin and butcher it. I think we’re also fortunate that we’re in the Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall generation who inspire you to take more interest in food.

Do you find it exciting to come up with different recipe ideas?

Calum: Yes, the creative part is the most enjoyable side of it by a long way. My brother and I both work and live together in our little cottage in Barnsley, so we’re constantly on top of each other but it’s good for bombarding each other with ideas. I’ll be lying in bed trying to sleep and he’ll message me something he’s seen on Twitter or Instagram.

How does the way you serve game differ from other establishments?

Calum: We do standard things like a venison burger, but we’ve also had things like popcorn pheasant, rabbit and crayfish jambalaya on the menu, and we’re having a play around with doing some frankfurter-style hotdogs which I’d like to do with rabbit.

Do you use any local suppliers?

Calum: We use Gary Wallace at Butts Farms, who is one of life's true gentlemen and very committed to what he does. The Baker Brothers from Hobbs House are wicked and their produce is fantastic.

What’s your favourite thing on the menu?

Calum: I never get bored of a good venison steak to be perfectly honest.

Will: I’m going to go venison steak as well.

What’s the secret to making a good burger?

Calum: Will’s the burger whisperer!

Will: You’ve got to have decent beef and it’s got to be fatty as well. People always try and make them with lean beef but they’ll just fall apart. You don’t want to pack them down too tightly and you just want it to be heavily seasoned with salt and pepper. You have to have a brioche bun as well; I think a lot of people over look that and try and have a wholemeal bun to try and be art-farty.

Which chefs do you admire?

Calum: I think Jamie Oliver’s wicked and appeals to everyone. He’s an Essex boy at heart, but people from all walks of life will watch him and happily enjoy his recipes. Without sounding like he’s my dream date, I’d say he’s just made food cool and interesting.

Is there anyone you’ve cooked for that’s been quite memorable?

Calum: We’ve cooked for Levi Roots so that was pretty cool and also Jamie Dornan, the guy from 50 Shades of Grey.

Who would you most like to cook for?

Will: David Attenborough would be quite cool.

Calum: Who’s the guy from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? Oh yeah, Morgan Freeman, why not? I’d like to cook for him and then just sit and listen to his voice.

What are your tips for budding culinary entrepreneurs?

Calum: If you have confidence, passion and drive in what you do then people will see that.

How do you see Eat Wild developing?

Calum: The plan is to get a restaurant in London, get the shepherd’s hut mobile catering unit built and rolling out, have a processing facility somewhere so we can service other restaurants with game, and then also maybe try and get a few bits and pieces into supermarkets.

Which other Gloucestershire restaurants do you rate?

Calum: I’ve got a lot of time for Made By Bob in Cirencester. We scratch each other's backs; if they're full they'll recommend us and if we're full we'll recommend them. I also rate Jolly Nice. I like what they’ve done with using an old petrol station and making good of something that would’ve just been sat there otherwise.

When you’re not in the kitchen what do you like to do?

Calum: Fishing, shooting, messing around with the horses, cooking for friends; generally doing stuff that doesn’t cost a lot of money because to be honest, if you start a business it’ll keep you pretty poor for the first few years.

And finally, what would be your last supper?

Will: If I was on death row I’d have the best bread and butter in the world.

Calum: I’d probably go straight in with a pudding and nothing else. Anything with a biscuit base and I’d be happy.


By Anna McKittrick

© SoGlos
Friday 28 August 2015

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