There are some amazing foodie destinations in Cheltenham these days and diners are really spoilt for choice when it comes to options for eating out. One possibility is The White Spoon on Well Walk, (just around the corner from The Wilson Museum and Boston Tea Party) owned by Chris White and Purdey Spooner.
Purdey was kind enough to invite me round for a cuppa and a chat to find out how she’s combining an already extremely busy lifestyle with a newborn.
CMHQ: Hi Purdey! Thanks for having me. Let’s skip to the most important question…. tell me about this tiny bundle you have in your arms.
Purdey: This is Annie. She’s five months old and she’s such a good baby. Chris and I are both pretty smitten. She’s a great sleeper, or she was up until a few days ago. Things seem to have gone a bit pear shaped these last few nights and I’m understanding what people say when they refer to lack of sleep as torture!
CMHQ: Aha… sounds like the four month sleep regression. Remember it all too well, and it’s harder than when they’re first born as you’ve been reunited with your old friend sleep and then have to part with it again. It won’t last forever, I promise. So what came first, the baby bump or The White Spoon?
Purdey: Well we moved to Cheltenham for the restaurant from Newbury back in August of last year. We got the keys to the restaurant on the same day as the house so it was such an exciting time. We threw ourselves in to setting up shop and opened the doors of The White Spoon to the public in September. We knew we wanted a family though we weren’t actively ‘trying’. Turns out we didn’t need to as we found out we were expecting in the October. In an ideal world she would have come along a little later giving us a bit more time to get settled with the business but I know how lucky we are to have her here safe and healthy so looking back we wouldn’t have it any other way.
CMHQ: So were you both already working in the restaurant scene? What brought you to Cheltenham?
Purdey: Chris is a chef and had worked his way up the ladder as far as you can really go without starting out on your own. For him, this was the natural next step. I’ve always loved food but it’s never been my profession. I studied microbiology at uni in Reading but after qualifying I realised pretty quickly that the lab environment wasn’t for me. I fell into a career in talent acquisition and recruitment and throughout our relationship Chris had always been so supportive of my endeavours; I travelled just after we met and have spent time working in Switzerland so it was only right for me to spend some time supporting him in achieving his dreams.
As a chef working for others you are always bound by someone else’s creative direction. The time was right for him to walk his own path and I’m so pleased to have been able to support him. The food scene in Cheltenham as you say has really come on leaps and bounds in recent years and when we found the restaurant everything seemed to fall into place. It hasn’t been easy but it’s our chance to create a legacy for our family and it’s great to have the chance to do it together.
CMHQ: So you packed in your job and stepped in to run the business. What an amazing thing to do?
Purdey: Ha! If only it was that simple. When you first set up a business you do away with financial security and we weren’t in a position to do that. I kept up my full time job and up until I was about 38 weeks pregnant I’d work all day and then head over to the restaurant at night. I run all non food related aspects of the business so manage the HR, finance, premises and marketing and before I had Annie if we were a bit low on waiting staff it would be me that stepped in.
CMHQ:That’s a pretty busy pregnancy, were you not exhausted?
Purdey: Yes, but happily so. It’s different when you are working so hard for something that means so much to you. It’s been tough but it feels so good to be creating something together. The downside is that it’s really hard to differentiate between work time and down time. We’re both always thinking about the restaurant but we owe it to Annie to get better at enjoying our time as a family, free from distraction. We’ve not got that sussed properly just yet, but we’re working really hard at it.
CMHQ: You and Chris must pass like ships in the night? How do you work your lives around the restaurant?
Purdey: Well that’s exactly what we do do… Annie has jumped on board the night ship routine and we all head to bed late in the evening. Chris is usually home at about 11pm so he does her bath and bedtime then. We have some time together in the morning and then he heads off for work. Annie and I will usually head over to see him between lunch and dinner service just for a cup of tea and a cuddle! The restaurant is closed on a Monday and Tuesday so Sunday night is our Friday.
Plus we close every year for a summer and a winter break. That’s so important for us. Everyone needs a holiday.
CMHQ: And when your maternity leave is finished… what then? Can you really manage a baby, a full time job and a busy business?
Purdey: I’ll let you know! I’ve put in a request to work compressed hours across four days a week but we need my job to keep things manageable and actually I enjoy it and I’m not ready to give it up just yet.
But for now I’m just enjoying Annie. I’m still managing the non food side of the restaurant but she has opened up so many other doors for me. I’ve made local friends through my NCT group and I’m doing one class or get together just for us each week which is so important. At the moment it’s sing and sign but whatever we do, it’s important that I leave the restaurant behind, just for a little while.
CMHQ: Do you have an amazing support team behind you to help you keep all of your plates spinning?
Purdey: Definitely. I don’t know how people do things like this without a supportive family. Chris’ brother actually runs our front of house at The White Spoon and though all of our family are in Newbury they are heavily involved with the restaurant and Annie.
CMHQ: So out of interest… if money, time and logistics were no problem, what would your weekend of dreams consist of?
Purdey: I think we are ready for a bit of time just us so we’d secure some really great childcare. Then there would be a log cabin, maybe a hot tub. Just some tranquility away from the phones and social media and the needs of the business.
CMHQ: Sounds like heaven. If any of our readers have yet to check out The White Spoon what do they need to know?
Purdey: They should definitely come along and see what we’re all about. I know I’m biased but Chris is so passionate about the food, it’s a taste sensation. We do a lunch set menu – £12 two courses, £15 for three courses – perfect for a grown up christmas shopping day treat. Our a la carte menu for three courses is roughly about £50 so it’s a great spot for a special date night or a girly get together.
CMHQ: Thanks Purdey. You’ve shown us all what incredible things mothers can achieve if they put their minds to it. We wish you, Chris and Annie all the very best for the future and hope you manage to get some flexibility built in to life at work.