Interview: Stosie Madi, The Parker’s Arms, Newton-in-Bowland4 years ago
Coming from a large hospitality family, the half-French, half-Lebanese, Senegal-born, Gambia-raised Stosie Madi took to the kitchen from an early age, helping her father run hotels and restaurants, eventually opening her own restaurant when she was just 23. Madi, alongside business partner Kathy Smith, and her brother AJ, took over the Parker’s Arms in 2007 and has won nearly every award since – a Michelin star outstanding. Most recently, the Parker’s was voted the 8th best gastropub in the UK.
Stosie, you’ve had the Parkers for over a decade now, but you were born in Senegal and ran businesses in Gambia – how did you end up with a boozer in Newton-in-Bowland (population 320)?
SM: “I like a challenge, also my daughter was going to be attending Stonyhurst College and my business partner, Kathy, and her brother AJ, are originally from around here. Clitheroe was our first stop after Africa, but when the Parker’s came up we thought, ‘this doesn’t look easy, lets do it’.”
You were recently voted the 8th best gastropub in the UK, along with a clutch of other Lancashire venues. What makes Lancashire such a great place to be a gastropub?
SM: “There’s a no nonsense crowd in Lancashire. The countryside offers great trips out and the produce speaks for itself. But mostly, people in Lancashire know quality when they see it, so good food at reasonable prices is a no brainer. I think that is why Lancashire is such a great gastropub destination.”
Terroir is a major focus of yours and a major part of the pub’s success – do you worry the ‘grown on your doorstep’ mantra has become diluted and more about marketing bluster? And how much do customers respond to it, do they really care?
SM: “Yes I do worry, because in many places it is often misused. But we care and we pass that love onto the customers, who respect quality produce and understand local is best – only when it is in season, of course. I think there is a big confusion here, just because you stock a local piece of cheese it does not make your operation strictly local. Truly local cooking is always with the seasons, with what is available on your doorstep at different times of the year. It informs the customer that what you are doing is different. Today’s diner is actually quite produce savvy as a whole, so they do appreciate it.
“I run the pass completely single handedly, cooking and plating. Preparation is key and my kitchen is prepped with military precision.”
We’ve heard that you’re something of a one woman wonder in the kitchen – but you must have help in there, don’t you?
SM: “I run the pass completely single handedly, cooking and plating. Preparation is key and my kitchen is prepped with military precision. I have an assistant who helps with my mise en place, I have a pot washer and a KP, and Kathy is in charge of serving puddings and the great art of rolling pastry. I work my life around service times and I can get cover for the odd time I am not there. Incidentally, I do not do this single handedly out of choice, but the fact that Parker’s is so rural means it is very difficult to obtain the right quality staff, so my menu is tailored to that end. After all, Kathy has been made to come out of retirement twice now to keep us rolling.
Let’s talk pie. Word of your pies has travelled far and wide. And they are spectacular. But we wonder, how have you managed to convince locals to pay £17 for a pie?
SM: “Let’s face it, it is not £17 for just a pie is it? It is £17 for the best seasonal pie you can eat, prepared from scratch, daily, with fresh ingredients, alongside creamed mash or triple cooked chips and seasonal vegetables, impeccably served table side by warm knowledgeable staff in our gorgeous pub. It is no wonder people schlep from as far as Australia to eat our pies, and that is why I think the locals are quite happy to pay £17 for a pie. Just on another note, it’s much easier and faster to buy a boring, albeit excellent piece of fillet steak, put it on a plate and charge in excess of £30 – especially if you wrap it in pastry and call it a Wellington. Let’s face it, that is also a ‘pie’.
Lastly, where are you favourite places to eat in the North West?
Ok here we go: Hawksmoor never disappoints; Siam smiles for unbelievable value and quality; Glamorous Chinese for convenient parking and trolley heaven; Alty Market for noise and a chilled out vibe; Mughli for grilled lamb chops; Al Amar bakery in Manchester for the best Lebanese manouche in the North West; Syria sweets in Rusholme for the best Middle Eastern pastry in the region; Rudy’s for pizza; Bay Horse for great pub food; L’Enclume for a special but unfussy treat.”