Alex Bond and Tom Spenceley: I was probably not meant to sit in an office behind a computer

The Staff Canteen

Alex Bond and Tom Spenceley discuss when they last cried, who they’ve been stalking on Instagram and some of the top restaurants on their lists to visit.

In this week’s episode of Grilled by The Staff Canteen head editor Cara Houchen was joined by co-host Alex Bond, Owner of both the Michelin-starred Alchemillia, and Mollis, and their guest Tom Spenceley, Head Chef at The Ledbury.

During the episode, both chefs discussed everything from what would most likely to put them behind bars to the pricing of their restaurant’s menus.

Tom appeared on TV screens in 2021 as one of four chefs representing the North East in series 16 of the Great British Menu.

In the programme, Tom competed against Alex as well as Ruth Hansom, Head Chef at The Princess of Shoreditch, and Gareth Bartram, Head Chef of the Michelin star restaurant Winteringham Fields.

Before entering the world of hospitality, Tom originally wanted to become a pilot in the RAF but due to his eyesight he sought a different career and became a chef after leaving school.

“I was probably not meant to sit in an office behind a computer,” explained Tom. “I’m too practical, too practical based in terms of learning, so that I think really paved the way for what I do today.”

Discussing his proudest moments in his career, Tom revealed: “I was at Sat’s for three or four months before it got second star but being at kitchen table, getting two stars at KT [Kitchen Table] was a proud moment.”

Commenting on his time on the Great British Menu, Tom said: “Being chosen to go on Great British Menu, even though I didn't win or anything like that, still watching the show from a young teenager to finally being on it. I think the first time I watched Great British Menu Sat’s was on it and that's why I wanted to work at Sat’s and then to be on it, that was a proud moment.”


Talking about efforts to raise mental health within the industry, Alex said: "I think it's really important. I think that with the changes that are happening in our industry, they're all created to help create an environment or an industry that doesn't crush people's mental health, whether it's paying them better, or reducing their hours, or just generally not being a complete c**t for no reason."

He added: “Your personal life, or your business, or your whatever it is that's put you in a mood is not somebody else's problem to bear.”

With the industry currently experiencing a staff shortage and hospitality representatives admitting that the sector has a brand image problem, retaining staff is a massive challenge for many businesses.

For Tom, more awareness doesn’t just help staff on a personal level it’s also helped businesses retain staff.

"I think a massive thing about retaining the team is making sure that you look after them as best you can. Not just in their working environment but personally as well,” explained Tom.

He added: "Guys have got this stigma that you can't show emotion, you can't have a breakdown, you can't cry, or you can't show weakness, but I think everyone's the same Everyone has feelings that they need to get out or release at some point and to be able to let them and give them the opportunity to do that I think it's really important."

For Alex, days like World Mental Health Day and work from groups like The Burnt Chef Project are essential to address challenges that remain on the horizon.

Alex explained: "For me it's mega important. Days like World Mental Health Day and projects like The Burnt Chef Project are super important. A lot of it comes from grassroots from us as a generation of chefs that are trying to change that old school mentality.”


After a two-year hiatus, Owner Brett Graham confirmed that he would be reopening of the two Michelin-starred restaurant, The Ledbury, promising even more of attention to detail and a sharper focus on the best produce available.

Commenting on his experiences working for Brett, Tom said: “He's amazing to work for. You just know you're in safe hands, he's got your best interests at heart, he wants you and everyone around you to do the best they possibly can.”

Explaining what Brett wants from his restaurant and his staff, Tom explained: “He says that he's not actually that bothered about his success anymore. He's had his time and the restaurant has been so successful for so many years he wants to give that opportunity of success to the people who contribute an immense amount to the restaurant, and anyone that does that, Brett will literally just do anything he can to support and to make us success of them.”

For both Alex and Tom, having your manager behind you motivating the team is an essential ingredient for an industry leading kitchen.

“You want successful people around you, you want people who you can trust, you want people that will work hard, not necessarily for you, but for you and for them as well,” said Alex.

He added: “If people are working towards a common goal you’re going to get the best out of them, so it’s slightly selfish in that sense, but also they’re going to give their best so they’re going to be better people.”

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall  – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 16 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 560,000 followers across Facebook, X, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th October 2022

Alex Bond and Tom Spenceley: I was probably not meant to sit in an office behind a computer