A New Direction

Having worked extensively in both the hospitality industry and fine food retailing, we sensed Oliver Basham was a great fit for us as soon as his application for the role of General Manager landed in our inbox last Autumn. And we weren’t wrong. Starting full time just before Christmas, you could say it was a baptism of fire!  And since then, Oliver has been beavering away, bringing some of our operations up to date and adding a whole new dimension to the leadership of the store.

Kirstie Newton, Editor of My Cornwall magazine, chatted to Oliver recently and discovered what drew him back to Cornwall and to us:

Have you always been interested in food?
Yes, it’s always been an important part of my life. I grew up in Hampshire, and my parents were foodies – I used to go foraging with my father.

I love cooking with quality produce, and I started out in hospitality by running pubs for Whitbread, at a time when provenance was coming to the forefront of everyone’s mind. Being able to tell the stories of our suppliers and how a product has come to be on the table, or in store, is vital. People really like that, and it makes it a much more personable experience than buying something wrapped in cellophane.

What brought you to Cornwall?
I initially moved here in 2008 and ran restaurants: first Indaba (now Hooked) in Truro, and setting up Indaba On The Rocks at Swanpool in Falmouth.

I’m also an outdoor pursuits instructor, and worked with the military at Penhale Camp. But after six years, my girlfriend (now wife) and I gave up work to travel the world.

Where did you go?
Everywhere from the Far East and the Antipodes to South America. In culinary terms, it was a feast. Highlights include Vietnam street and market food – fresh, vibrant flavours and textures; cockles from New Zealand’s South Island, and incredible hogget barbecued with Central Otago pinot noir; and authentic ceviche in Peru accompanied by pisco sours!

What happened when you came back to the UK?
First we went to Hampshire, where I opened Rick Stein’s first restaurant outside Cornwall, in Winchester, and stayed on as general manager. Then I moved to Thyme & Tide in Stockbridge, a restaurant with a high-end deli that stocked products from small, local producers. I headed up the fish counter, and became a fully trained fishmonger in the process. All our fish came from Cornwall, from Starfish of Looe – who I use today.

What brought you back to Cornwall?
My wife comes from Devoran, between Truro and Falmouth. We now have two children, a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, plus a dog and a cat!

Like many people, we found the pandemic made us reassess our lives and consider how we wanted to live out the rest of our days. We have such a strong attachment to Cornwall, and are drawn to the water.

What appealed to you about the Great Cornish Food Store?
I love the ethos. It was a natural fit with my experience, and my passion for seafood and small independent businesses. I really admire what Ruth has done here, and had shopped here while visiting Cornwall. When the job came up, I applied and have been full-time since December, which was a good opportunity to see the store at its finest and busiest!

Who are your customers?
We go to great lengths to say that what we’re offering here isn’t only for the high end market. It’s very competitively priced, and we want the store to be a destination for anyone who loves Cornish produce and wants to support the county.

What’s in store for the immediate future?
Our café has been closed since March 2020 (the start of the pandemic), and we can’t wait to relaunch it this year. It’s a great opportunity to showcase the things we sell, and it’s such a nice place for people to meet.

Kirstie’s interview with Oliver is published in the April/May 2022 edition of My Cornwall magazine, which is on sale in the store.  Food & Drink | Shopping | Art | Heritage | Events