The 15th & 16th of May are seminal dates in the history of The Hambrough Group & its owner Kevin Sussmilch . It is a story I’ve sat on for a number of weeks more out of a professional courtesy to others, & lets face it, you the reader don’t come here to read me regurgitating press releases. So who are we talking about? The key players:
Genesis of the group started by owner Kevin Sussmilch with a chef by the name of David Thomson (FYI Debby Robinson who commented on the ‘On the Wight’ story, they aren’t related principally because, although Robert’s & David’s surnames sound the same, they are actually spelt differently). Later acquisitions followed: Pond Café; Villa Lavinina ; Villa Apartment & more recently Ventnor Winter Gardens, which was purchased for £1.
The former two Michelin starred chef has utilised his time away from the stoves well, as my post about his pop-up at South Lodge last year has shown. After talking to Mr Campbell, I always get the feeling I should be trying harder, & to re-assess my thinking, such is his infectious thirst for knowledge & training. I personally felt that he was the right person to develop the Winter Gardens project into the next phase. This isn’t meant to paint Robert Thompson in a bad light in any way, he’s a wonderful chef & incredibly talented; but Mr Campbell has more experience with new openings & operations of this size and magnitude.
The Michelin starred protege of Annie & Germain Schwab has achieved more in his career than most chefs could dream of:
- Head chef of 2 Michelin starred Winteringham fields at 22.
- Caterer Acorn winner (High achievers under 30).
- Michelin star in own right at 23.
- The past 5 years growing, promoting & day to day running of The Hambrough group.
Hard to believe that he’s only 30! Many have commented on the Michelin star, if there is a credible appointment (believed to be announced next week) & it can be inspected in time, then there is a good chance that The Hambrough will retain its star. Michelin have always stated publicly that the star is awarded to the property not the chef; although consistency really is the name of the game here.
Mr Sussmilch has virtually been vilified in the Isle of Wight media & some of the short sighted people who comment on articles in the local media. Why? For the simple crime of he’d like to stay out of the limelight, coupled with their inability to extract information which is in the public domain, on the web, for free. He has had a rough ride because his name of appears at Companies House attached to a now dissolved company Totaltronic (UK) Ltd; and two relatively new companies Wight House Ltd and Wight Hot Ltd. This wouldn’t have stopped him being a sole trader, which means he could have a company and yet not have to file any returns in the public domain.
So what else is Mr Sussmilch connected to? Well he owns a registered trademark for Shox and his email address is linked to the following domains:
A couple of things that stand out; firstly how several of the domain names all hinge around Mr Sussmilch’s favourite past time of sailing (he’s an accomplished Sigma 38 sailor with his yacht Mefisto). So to me, he has a long term plan for the area, which surely can only be good for Ventnor and the wider community.The other domains refer to wines or an auberge in France and a company’s website which sells gluten free products to the NHS on the Isle of Wight. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he owns those companies or has any interest in the domains. It just means his email address is connect to those domains. I also discovered that in his school years Mr Sussmilch (or Sausage as he was known) once went to school in a pink leather suit, in his native Sunderland. In fact, the address that is connected to Mr Sussmilch appears on Google Street view very much as a modest semi detached house in a tree lined street, some what belying the multi-millionaire he’s perceived to be. But as this address is only linked to his domains & email, it may well be that he doesn’t actually live there.
When the original John Campbell press release came out, much of the commentators, on the Isle of Wight in particular focused on the word ‘acquired’. There was an element of back tracking when somebody from within the Hambrough Group denied that Mr Sussmilch had sold up. Yes, there is no doubting this has been a PR disaster, not only in terms of the deal falling through, but the way it has been handled. Many have questioned veracity in how the chefs in this post, have been portrayed: Owners?;Chef-Patron?; Head Chef? and so the list goes on. A new chef has already been named for Pond cafe, who has a good background & quite frankly looks over qualified for the job in hand, welcome to Ventnor Mr Denny. I’ve been told that there should be an announcement next week concerning The Hambrough itself & who’ll be manning the stoves there. Maybe the search will continue to fill the £90,000 a year post that Mr Sussmilch has earmarked for a high flying Michelin starred chef or will he change tack?
At the start of the post I said that today 16th May was one of the seminal dates in the Hambrough’s history; this is because today is Robert Thompson’s last day. Like I’ve said in previous posts Robert is one of the nice guys, he’s always made time for me, we’ve had had some wonderful meals there and under his stewardship, The Hambrough came to mean alot to my partner & I. Hopefully he’ll take a break, then come back better for it; good luck for the future Rob.
As ever with these type of post, I’d like to wish everybody concerned all the best for the future with your endeavours.