Since my first inspiration for a restaurant in the Kota hut in my garden, Gloucester Studio has been something of a crazy adventure. I sent a press release on a Tuesday morning in November 2014 and within 24 hours was giving a video interview to the Daily Mail. In the months that followed I appeared on BBC Radio Gloucestershire and had stories written about me in the local press and Cotswold Life.
Despite the building not requiring planning permission and my having both insurance and a Food Hygiene Rating issued by Gloucester Council themselves, local planners were concerned that I was doing something under the radar. Suddenly the press wasn’t quite so positive.
I sought planning permission; it was the planning officer who photographed the building that said it didn’t need planning permission but because I had applied it now needed granting or rejecting. Naturally, it was accepted. However, a clause was added saying that no commercial activity could be undertaken there. This was getting silly so I did what I should perhaps have done at the beginning and I appointed a legal expert.
While I waited for the decision on my application for change of use, I decided to crowdfund a cook book. This was a huge success and I achieved 108% of my target. I created a new brand for my work, calling myself the Pyromaniac Chef, and I had a great time designing products for my pledge gifts.
I also participated in the World Bread Awards and made the journey to London with my little boy dressed in homage to the bread boy from the iconic Hovis adverts. I made two appearances in Waitrose Weekend in Autumn 2015 which was hugely encouraging.
The crowdfunding began on 1st September 2015 and I received the hard copies of the book a few days before Christmas. It was an incredible turnaround and I was delighted with the results. The book is now available on Amazon (but the best price will always be at my shop).
Early in the New Year I got the news I had been waiting for. Change of use had been granted!
There was still a clause to address which would take another few months. I used that time to think seriously about what my next moves would be. I found a literary agent who was interested in my writing and booked a slot at the Gloucestershire Business Show on 18th-19th May. Writing a book proposal and creating a trade stand worthy of my beloved studio kept me busy during the Spring but I made time for a quick appearance on ITV West Country News and in Observer Magazine.
It’s now Easter 2016 and last week I got the news that Gloucester Studio finally has the green light to operate as a restaurant and that last little clause had been satisfied. I’m going to take a well-earned week off to celebrate with my family before my first booking in the middle of April.
Kathryn, March 2016
Wow, the last two years have flown by!
My council battle wasn’t quite over. The green light was a twelve month test and when it came to making the decision permanent, there was everything from being told the wrong fee to pay (by just £2.50!) which held things up for an extra six weeks as naturally neither me nor my legal team was told we’d paid the wrong amount. Then my street was canvassed in an attempt to find someone who would make a complaint. But my fabulous neighbours said they weren’t bothered or told the canvassers they had the wrong street as there was no restaurant. Finally, out of options I was granted permanent business use in Spring 2017 (I decided to invite the neighbours round for a nosy and they were amazed to discover there really was a restaurant on their street).
This was just in time as a few weeks later I appeared on Hidden Restaurants with Michel Roux Jr. Since then, things have been pretty amazing.
I launched a new ten course meal in September 2017 and got some incredible media coverage. Then I published my second book, Hygge Huts which sought to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society. So far I’ve raised £1,000.
In January I was a judge for The Bristol Good Food Awards which was an incredible honour. My category was Best Asian so I had eight very memorable meals plus a day’s local producer tasting (yes, a room of chefs and foodies eating food all day long) followed by an amazing Black Tie Awards Do.
Also in January I launched cookery courses at Gloucester Studio. It’s early days but I’ve had a reasonable number of bookings and I’m really enjoying them.
Last night was the first SoGlos Lifestyle Awards where Gloucester Studio was shortlisted for Restaurant of the year. That was incredibly exciting. I also sponsored an award; Food/Drink Producer of the year and have been meeting the amazing businesses who were shortlisted. There’s a special meal planned and hopefully some joint marketing projects.
So what does the future hold?
I have a busy diary of restaurant bookings, cookery classes and my first wedding but my next big project is my third book. I’m doing a lot of early research at the moment but in September I’m heading to Athens to do tasting tours, cookery classes and interviews.
Kathryn, May 2018