Andy Clarke Interviews Charlie Hester

Andy Clarke is one of the UKs most exciting and vibrant voices in the food and drink industry.

Having worked in food, drink and travel television for a number of years producing and directing programmes such as James Martin's French and American Adventures, 'Gordon, Gino & Fred: Road Trip' all for ITV, 'Rachel Khoo's Chocolate' for Food Network / Discovery+ and most recently 'The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver' for Channel 4, Andy is happiest when communicating his love of all things edible and sippable on telly, through social media and by hosting events. In 2020, Andy joined the team on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ as a cocktail expert and regularly appears on ITV’s ‘Love your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh’ as food, wine and drinks expert. Andy also hosts festivals and events, and is the face of the main stage at 'Pub in the Park' with Tom Kerridge and friends. Andy's first book 'Home Bar', a cocktail book will be published by Welbeck Publishing in May.

Charlie Hester is Restaurant Manager at Emily Scott Food which is at Watergate Bay Hotel near Newquay, Cornwall. Emily and her team gather the finest ingredients and combine them simply and instinctively and aim to create a connection between the land and water.

The Atlantic Ocean licks the beautiful golden sands of Watergate Bay in Cornwall on a warm summer’s evening in 2021.It’s over a year since the Coronavirus pandemic abruptly disrupted the world’s turning and darkened the lives of those working in the hospitality industry. I’m at my friend Emily Scott’s ‘Sea & Shore’ book launch at her restaurant ‘Emily Scott Food’ and things seem like they may be getting back on track. 

During proceedings I meet a young man called Charlie Hester. Charlie is 25 and lives in Newquay with his partner Callum, their two cats Todd and Frankie and a Hamster called Toby. Charlie is Emily Scott’s as Restaurant Manager and we instantly connect over a love of Champagne, the ocean and seafood. 

Charlie is from Witney in Oxfordshire but fell in love with Cornwall in 2016 and has never looked back. “When I first moved down, I only thought I was staying for year, but quickly realised I would be staying a little longer after falling in love with the county, which led me to buy my first house.” When Charlie was younger, he wanted to go to drama school and although he loved working part-time in a local restaurant, hospitality was never something that was mentioned to him in school as a chosen career. “Since moving to Cornwall this is where my true passion for the hospitality industry flourished.” 

 Inevitably talk turns to the ugly past that Covid inflicted on our lives and how we managed to keep roofs over our heads since March 2020. It’s here that my love and support of The Drinks Trust turned into something tangible that I could see and feel. I asked Charlie about how the pandemic had affected his life. “When the pandemic struck back in spring 2020, I was working for a different restaurant that was due to open on Mother’s Day 2020. Unfortunately, we had to postpone the opening until lockdown 1.0 was finished. After months of handwork getting the business ready to go, we made the decision to postpone the opening with 48 hours to go. Feels like we had been running a marathon and we had fallen at the last hurdle, but it was something we could not control.” 

Like many people, Charlie was scared about the uncertainty of the future. “I remember the first day of the lockdown and not seeing a single car go past my house for about 30minutes and having a sudden thought of ‘this is serious’ and actually being kind of scared.” When Charlie was made redundant, he reached out to The Drinks Trust. He was unable to keep up mortgage payments and had nowhere else to turn.

“The Drinks Trust helped me by paying for a month of my mortgage – I had run out of my mortgage payment holidays in the first lockdown.” But it wasn’t just the financial aspects that helped and made him feel better. “It was also the fact that after being made redundant the feeling of someone caring about you and talking to you made me feel valued.”  

The support of The Drinks Trust is invaluable to people in the industry and is so much more than just financial. “If I hadn’t have gotten the help from The Drinks Trust I probably would not of had that boost to really push myself and help me through the last stages of lockdown. After not having had a job for so long, Charlie admits it can be “mentally draining” trying to motivate yourself and look for work. 

Whilst things are now looking a little better for Charlie, he like many of us worries about the wider impact of the pandemic on the hospitality industry. “Unfortunately, I feel Covid has offered the big companies the excuse not to offer table service in restaurants, with the QR code replacing the waiter… I find this sad. As this is not the method of hospitality that I fell in love with.” Whilst safety of employees and patrons is incredibly important, I have to agree with Charlie regarding the robotic nature of service through an app. I like to have a connection with the team at the places I eat and drink at. Charlie goes on to say “Hospitality is about being welcoming and bringing excitement into the lives of people that choose to come to your hotel, restaurant or bar… I still love the industry I work in and will never leave it, I just ask every business owner, director or manager within the industry to consider the changes they have made in the past 2 years due to Covid, and take a moment to think to themselves and say ‘is this hospitality?’, and I hope if the answer is ‘no’, once we are out of this pandemic they revert back to what it should be.” 

Since the boost that The Drinks Trust gave Charlie, things are looking up. He admits “the future looks super exciting..” Charlie loves his job, the location and he and Callum are moving to a new home in June, with Todd, Frankie and Toby in tow. And Charlie is now thinking big in relation to the future. “My end goal will also be to own a place with Callum, whether that be a restaurant first then a hotel. This will happen one day with enough hard work and determination.” 

My meeting with Charlie was by chance, but I am so glad it happened. Talking to Charlie gave me reassurance that the hospitality industry is supportive and that if we all look after each other, we can get through whatever the world throws at us. I’m a firm believer that the hospitality industry makes the world spin with a smile on its face. Let’s keep it that way.