How I Got Here: John Pallagi

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here John Pallagi former restaurateur who now runs heritage butcher and meat supplier business Farmison & Co

Related tags: Butcher, Supplier

The former restaurateur who now runs heritage butcher and meat supplier business Farmison & Co on his career to date, and why restaurants must embrace the digital world.

Why restaurants?
My parents worked within the bakery profession, and I grew up surrounded by food, always cooking from scratch. My first ever restaurant visit was to the Cleveland Tontine, run by the McCoy brothers and I was fascinated by and blown away by Eugene McCoy dancing around the tables making every guest feel special. All these years later I now supply his business and consider him a good friend.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Money doesn’t come easy! Its not about how bright you are, its not about good or thought out you are it’s a mix of many things, that includes being lucky, having the right idea and executing it in the right way, all of these are super important. But people are fundamental in helping you in your career.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants?
Favourite is in a place called Zwolle in Holland. The head chef is a guy called Jonnie Boer and the restaurant is called De Librije. Some of the most avant-garde cooking I have ever experienced. I am so excited to revisit. In terms of everyday eating, I used to adore Jeff Bakers Bistro, which was real food, accessible, and exceptional fine quality. All about flavour, flavour, flavour.

What motivates you?
Knowing that you have made a difference in peoples lives, or to their career journey. Just being thanked is a major motivation to me.

What keeps you up at night?
The next idea. But that also links to what motivates me… it’s the next idea. I’m keen to get the idea out there, which then impacts on sleep. Ideas are really what makes the world go round, economics of an idea are hugely important to the overall economic impact of any business. So the next idea is what keeps me up at night.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Eugene McCoy of the Cleveland Tontine was my very first impression of the restaurant sector and I learnt so much from watching him and how he ran his ‘room’. I am also very lucky to work closely with Andy Bond, former Chair and CEO of Asda Group and I learn every day from him; and finally the head concierge of the late Mountbatten Hotel in Soho, Paul, who helped me grow up from the wet nosed, 18/19 year old Middlesbrough lad into someone who was alert to life, people and opportunities.

How do you let off steam?
Walking in the Dales and Fells. Walking helps me to think, it helps me to appreciate and enjoy our beautiful countryside as well as the wildlife and domestic animals that call it home, especially during the summer months. It helps me to appreciate the world we live in.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Hungarian meatloaf. Pork-based meatloaf with whole eggs and served with a spicy tomato based sauce. It inspired the Farmison & Co recipe for Hungarian meatloaf that appears on our website​. It’s the dish of my childhood cooked by my nana. My dad was Hungarian and my mum English, and I was brought up with a lot of Hungarian cuisine, but this one is the one that stands out and I love making it.

Typical Sunday?
Football, football and football! My son Lawrence plays football and we find ourselves travelling all around the region supporting him and the team he plays for. Then at the end of the day it’s always Yorkshire roast beef Sunday lunch.  

Favourite holiday destination​?
Los Angeles, California.  Because it has EVERTHING! You are two minutes from a beach, the shopping is amazing, the climate is beautiful, you are right on the Pacific Ocean blessed with some of the best sunsets in the world. And, of course, California is food heaven! There are some amazing restaurants, and we couldn’t forget that it's home to some amazing Napa and Sonoma Valley wine makers.

What was your dream job growing up?
Architect. I was always fascinated to know how someone could build a building and put a round window in the middle! How did they do that? I love architecture from a creativity perspective but also a problem-solving perspective. I always regret not pursuing that dream, maybe I will study it when I am old and bored and have time on my hands.

Best business decision?
Taking a leap of faith and starting up my own business. To take on risk and to have a belief in something you think will make a difference in peoples lives.

Worst business decision?
I’ve made a few, who hasn’t, but probably having a great idea but because you cant get it going you pull it… then you see someone else do it better! On the flip side I have always learnt from making a poor decision.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Never give in, anything is possible. Yes you need luck, you need great people around you and sometimes you might need some money, but never, never give up.

If you could change one thing about the industry today, what would it be?
Restaurants must embrace the digital world. The sector needs to deliver a ‘domestic dining room’ experience as well as enticing dining out -that’s how I see the future of restaurants.  Those who try to understand dining at home and how they can make that experience better and still encourage people back of their sofas and into restaurants will be successful over the next 20 years in hospitality.


Born in Middlesbrough, Pallagi admits he didn’t take school seriously, and 'was more interested in being cool than being the swot'. He did a short stint on a BTEC course in Sports Education before leaving to enroll on an employment training course that encouraged him to leave the North East and head to London for work. He started out as a hotel concierge, and later co-founded the Room Restaurant Group, which opened its first site in Leeds in 2002. The group expanded across the country under the both Room and Grille brands, and its portfolio included sites in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Harrogate. The group was eventually broken up in 2009. Then, in 2011, Pallagi launched Farmison & Co. Operating both a retail arm and as a supplier to the hospitality sector, Farmison & Co is a heritage butcher that specialises in British butchery and rare & native breed meat which is traceable to the farm.

To find out more about Farmison, click here​.

Related topics: People, Profiles

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