Better Business – ODE, Devon

09 March 2012 by
Better Business – ODE, Devon

Chef-patron Tim Bouget and his wife Clare are creating something ecologically and gastronomically special at Ode in Devon - as well as winning awards. Emily Manson reports

Need to know
Accomplished chef-patron Tim Bouget has worked at some of the top restaurants and hotels in the world, including the three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn, the Halkin, Sandy Lane hotel, the Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh in Egypt and the Begawan Giri in Bali.

Now he and his wife Clare, inspired by their travels, have opened Ode - named after its postcOde - in Shaldon, a little village by the River Teign Estuary in South Devon. Open four days a week, the couple draw on their extensive international experience to create something ecologically and gastronomically special.

Since opening in 2007, the restaurant has won several awards, most recently the SRA's Sustainable Restaurant of the Year 2012. It is also listed in the Michelin Guide and the Good Food Guide.

Target audience
Situated in a small village, it is essential for Ode to be liked and used by local resi-dents, but its appeal needs to reach much further than that for it to be economically sustainable. However, Bouget has also started to get requests for events off-site and private dinners and lunches are becoming more frequent.

"It's apparent more people want our product but we're too small, so to accommodate some groups we are starting to take it to them. We're starting to target the small events market and outside catering for bespoke events like weddings and private parties on top of the restaurant and café," he explains.

Why our customers choose us
Bouget believes it's because Ode offers value for money while sticking to the company's values. He says: "Our ethos is really important to the majority of our customers. We work hard to source and support local producers, and guests receive quality food and service. We believe in attention to detail."

But the personal touch is also important in a small independent business. "I also cook every service we are open and try to meet all our guests so they feel they can get to know me and what I'm about. I don't want to be a faceless name above a door or behind a stove."

Future growth
The Bougets are opening Café Ode this summer to expand their operation. They are currently constructing a purpose-built part new build, renovation and conversion of a former stables into a café seating 120 people inside and outside. The site has parking and great views over the south Devon coast and will have a sustainable footprint similar to the existing Ode restaurant.

Eco features planned for the site include a sedum roof, solar PV and electric hook-up points for vehicles. The café will serve affordable food cooked and served by chefs using the best of regional and seasonal produce from the land and sea.

After that, there are plans for some boutique rooms in 2013 and a "cookbook of sorts" according to Bouget.

Favourite suppliers
Ode has many favourite suppliers including a local supplier known only as Bob who hunts fallow deer, Charlie Munroe at Teign Valley Micros who grows herbs specifically for the restaurant, or Riverford, which Bouget has used for his fruit and dairy products since opening.

"Riverford has supplied us for the last six years and is so reliable, but it's all about passion at the end of the day," he says.

The specialist wine supplier Mason & Mason has worked with Bouget to create a specialist organic list and continues to conduct regular tastings and training for the staff.

Best business advice
"Don't compromise on quality," Bouget says. "The temptation is to drop quality to reduce prices to get more people through the door, but if you do that then you jeopardise your brand, your business, and it's really very hard to bring it back."

He is also a big believer in avoiding waste to keep running costs down. "You have to be smart to remain true to your standards," he explains. "We still use great produce but when we buy our deer we buy it whole and don't waste any of it. We use all the parts of the animal on different parts of the menu, so the ribs go for staff meals, the neck for burgers and then the loin for the high-end dishes on the menu.

"By wasting less it helps us keep the overall price of running the business down. If you compromise what you do, then people expect it. Consistency in the quality of your product even in the leaner times is really important. You have to bite the bullet on these things. Cut waste, not costs."

I couldn't do without…
"My wife Clare. She looks after all the detail of running the business, including the payroll and accounts, as well as managing the front of house. It's important that you have someone you can bounce ideas off and have as a support. We complement each other - what she's not strong at I am, and vice versa.

"We're a small operation so we have to do things outside our comfort zone and multitask, so it's nice to have a double check. If I don't see something she'll spot it."

Spotlight on ethical food

salt marsh lamb with smoked eggplant
salt marsh lamb with smoked eggplant
Ode started using "True Food" as a metaphor for the business, which was about serving good honest food and being true to its provenance. Now it is focusing on "cooking with a conscience" which is about cooking with the right products. The restaurant doesn't use foie gras because Bouget doesn't believe the way it's reared is ethically right; however, he does use pork liver from a local farm for terrines and pâtés.

"We use the same principles with all our produce, using organic free-range eggs even though we pay a premium, but we know the way they're reared and the way they taste is worth it," he says. "Our customers know what they eat with us has been sourced ethically; that they won't get meals made with battery chickens or fish from the endangered list, for example. They expect a high level of integrity from us and trust us to deliver. It's a key differentiator between us and some other businesses."

tim Bouget's revelations
Favourite hotel Singita private game reserve in the Kruger Park, South Africa, and Begawan Giri in Bali, Indonesia
Favourite restaurant Gidleigh Park or the Elephant in Torquay
What book has inspired you? New Classic Cuisine by the Roux brothers
Motto "Cooking with a Conscience"
If you weren't a chef, what would you have been? Something creative like graphics, advertising or marketing
Which hotelier/chef do you most admire? Mr Oberoi (Oberoi Hotels and Resorts) and the late Lord Forte
Describe your business in six words Locally inspired, refined dining, thoughtful hospitality

Facts and stats
Owners Tim & Clare Bouget
Head chefs Tim Bouget & Mark Styring
Staff 5 (1 full time, 4 part time)
Capacity 24 in restaurant
Average weekly covers 80 (Open 4 days a week)
Average spend £50 (Per person, including drink)

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