The Hot Scots Power 40: Tom Lewis, Monachyle Mhor

21 February 2013
The Hot Scots Power 40: Tom Lewis, Monachyle Mhor

Ranking: 28

Tom Lewis - Snapshot

Tom Lewis is the chef-proprietor and driving force behind the boutique 14-bedroom hotel and restaurant Monachyle Mhor, the pivot around which six other Mhor businesses rotate. Located in and around Balquhidder in the Trossachs National Park, the "Mhorland" businesses have passionately espoused the ethos of sourcing sustainably and locally - with all beef, lamb, pork, venison and game being farmed or shot on the 2,000 acres surrounding the hotel.

Tom Lewis - Career guide

Tom Lewis was 13 years old when his parents bought a 2,000-acre farm in the hills around Loch Voil and Loch Doine, Perthshire, in 1983 and moved their family up to Scotland from Wales. They supplemented their farming income by offering B&B at the farmhouse, Monachyle Mhor. In 1999 Tom bought Monachyle Mhor from his parents, having been inspired by the legendary chef-restaurateur Nico Ladenis and Scotland's own David Wilson of the renowned Peat Inn to have a tilt at cooking and being a restaurateur himself, alongside the farming business.

His ethos was to source as much produce as possible for his kitchen from the family's farm and it wasn't long before this self-taught chef began to attract attention for his, then, 34-seat restaurant with rooms. In 2001 it won Taste of Scotland's Best Out of Town Restaurant. In that same year, the national foot-and-mouth crisis precipitated a gamble on Lewis' part. He borrowed money and sunk it into refurbishing the property, increasing its bedrooms from six to 14 and making Monachyle Mhor into a bijou boutique destination hotel.

The gamble paid off. In 2005 Monachyle Mhor won the Hotel of the Year award from Hotel Review Scotland: while an albeit short appearance on the 2006 Great British Menu ensured Lewis' profile was raised nationally with ensuing guest and media interest in his business. Also, in 2006 he raised some more money, acquired a tired chippy in nearby Callender, brought his brother, Dick, into the business and set about turning this into a stylish 35-seat fish and chip venue which also doubled-up as a small fishmongers. Two years after the launch of Mhor Fish, the restaurant won Observer Food Monthly's Best Newcomer award for 2008.

The brothers expanded the Mhor brand even further. By 2008 they had also launched a bakery and tea room in Callender, Mhor Bread, and brought in their sister, Melanie, to oversee the design style of the flourishing "Mhorland" kingdom. An outside catering arm of the business followed, as did another award in 2011 - a Gold Award from the Scottish Tourist Board for Outstanding Service. While the autumn of 2012 saw another, smaller, bakery, Little Mhor Bread at Bridge of Allen, open its doors.

In March 2013, another hotel, the seven-bedroom Mhor 84 will launch (named after the A84 road into the area). A refurbishment of the old King's House Hotel in Balquhidder, the business will have a 70-seat restaurant attached.

Tom Lewis - What we think

Chef, restaurateur, farmer, all-round entrepreneur, chef alliance member of Slow Food UK: Tom Lewis is all these things. A true visionary and eccentric who works out three-year-plans for each of his businesses and then sets about implementing them. His commitment to sustainable, local sourcing is exemplary and has its roots in the family farm which supplies his meat and game produce, as well as foraged ingredients for the Monachyle Mhor kitchen. The 43-year-old always has new projects on the go - new businesses, events, culinary demos - and now employs more than 60 people across the Mhor brands.

Tom Lewis on building his own business empire >>

Monachyle Mhor, Perthshire, Scotland: hotel review >>

Mhor website >>

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