'It’s not the taking part it’s the winning for us, we’d love to get two stars for the North of England – we’re up for that challenge!'

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen caught up with chef owner of Michelin-starred, The Star Inn at Harome, Andrew Pern and his chef director, Stephen Smith to talk about the pub ‘literally going up in flames’ and how they and their team have come back stronger than ever.

On November 24, 2021, The Star Inn Harome was full, and the chefs had 12 soufflés left to go – those soufflés never got served. The team had to evacuate the building due to a fire which Stephen says ‘didn’t look that bad’ until they realised the flames were underneath the thatch.

For most people, watching their business literally go up in flames, would have been devastating but for Andrew, whose wife says is ‘the most positive thinking person in the world’, things could only get better!

“It didn’t affect me that much,” he said. “Seeing the fire start as a small, smouldering bit of straw to going up in flames, we saw it all evolve in front of us. I dare say if I had come round the corner and seen the whole place alight, it would’ve been a bit more dramatic, and I may have been a bit more upset about it!”

He added: “I just thought, ‘you’ve got to let it go now’.”

The Star Inn during the fire 

Stephen continued: “It was soul destroying. All that work and time spent there, and it was just gone.”

Andrew and the team did their best to get any valuable items out, which they probably shouldn’t have done, but a lot of what they rescued including furniture, has a lot of history to it.

Andrew says the team ‘are strong characters’ but 24 hours later the impact became a little more real.

“We had a meeting, with all of the management team and that was probably the only time I got emotional. I think I looked like something from backdraft at that point!”

Despite the devastation the fire caused to the building, Andrew never thought that was it, time to throw in the towel. There are a lot of people who rely on The Star Inn and as Andrew explains, 'it’s their workplace, people have mortgages and families'.

“We had to carry on,” he said. “It wasn’t a need it was a want. I always say we are just a chapter of The Star Inn’s history since the thirteen hundreds - it means a lot to our family. That Yorkshire character and grit meant we weren’t phased by it.”

Andrew has been at The Star Inn for 27 years, and for the first time he saw the building took back to the mortar and the thatch on one side was gone. It was a massive undertaking to bring it back to life but they have, and it’s now even better than ever.

The next chapter

“When we had the fire,” said Andrew. “Someone said we’ve lost the heart of Yorkshire so it means a lot to a lot of people.”

And as he points out sadly there are a lot of pubs closing down right now and they are often the heartbeat of a village. So much so despite having a Michelin star he still offers a ‘market menu’ which allows locals to have two courses for £25. And you can still come and have a pint and a bag of crisps if you want to.

“We want to better ourselves – and perfect the whole package not just the food. It’s going to take time but we’ve already been here 27 years so there is no rush! The Star Inn is a bit random, a bit quirky and a one off…. A bit like me!

“I want us to carry on for another 10, 15, 20 years.”

After being closed for nearly a year, the first service after rebuilding, Andrew says, 'was odd'.

“It was like starting all over again.”

Stephen agreed: “It was nerve wracking. But we were able to revamp everything. You forget you left your customers behind for 11 months - we didn’t want to just jump forward without bringing them along with us.

“11 months in hospitality changes so much, so I was nervous, I didn’t sleep for two weeks before. But people were just happy to be back in the building. It was a total relief at the end of that first service because it went so well.”

Stephen explained that the team were on full tilt before the fire shut them down, the period between the fire and reopening gave them a fresh perspective and a chance to revamp what they do.

He said: “Now it feels new, it feels fresh. The food style is really relaxed, using the best ingredients and we always want to give people value for money.

“We want to get our heads down, we want more awards- I think we get forgotten about because we’ve been going for so long!

“We would love to have two stars and be known as a proper two-star pub. The fire has definitely made us all more driven.”

The key to retaining staff

Many of the team including Stephen, have been at The Star for years. They have a very low turnover – so what is the key to that retention?

“Recruitment is a nightmare in the country,” explained Stephen. “There’s a misconception that it will be quiet but it’s a very busy place and we work to the highest standard. But I know once I get them in the kitchen, I can open their eyes so wide with what we do.

“And not just the cooking side, we teach them how to cost everything and the management side – they are not just a commis. You can be the best chef in the world but if you don’t make money, it’s pointless, you are a dead business.

“It helps them understand why we can’t have waste and it makes them respectful of the ingredients.”

He added: “They also teach me! They bring ideas we’ve not thought of.”

People often say to Stephen, ‘how are you still here?’. He has been with Andrew for 15 years and says ‘every day is a different day’ and he has a great life.

“Game season in particular is phenomenal,’ he said. “We butcher it all down and it’s a great skill for our chefs to learn. “I love our team. You get to a point where you realise having no staff is no fun! And hard work! We let our team grow and we lead by example. I generally try to be the first one in and the last one out.

“They respond to that, and they’ve all grown as chefs.”

Stephen explained there are a lot of opportunities within the group if they want to move from The Star Inn. “The only reason people leave is they want a life, as in they want to go back to a city - where we are here is rural.

“We encourage and facilitate stages, they have good working hours, they all move sections every three or four months – we don’t stand still, and I like to think they enjoy that constant development.”

Andrew continued: “The more you want to achieve and do, the more energy the staff need to have so you can’t wear them out and over work them.”


Stephen added: "We are one team, the chefs will help the front of house team and vice versa, so everyone gets finished at the same time. You have to care about your staff, you have to take the time to listen to them. If I can help them I will and we know that if we do, we get that back a hundred times over by being like that.”

As the owner, Andrew says he feels like a ‘parental figure’.

“I like to lead by example,” he explained. “I’m always very positive – we write the menus together. We’ve got a good, young, enthusiastic team and it’s a pleasure to work with them.

“They get what we do, what we want and what we are about.”

He added: “I’m keen to keep moving forward, so anything Steve asks for I say yes. Obviously, we want to keep the roots of the pub because that’s what we are first and foremost. It’s not the taking part it’s the winning for us, we’d love to get two stars for the North of England – we’re up for that challenge!”

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st June 2023

'It’s not the taking part it’s the winning for us, we’d love to get two stars for the North of England – we’re up for that challenge!'