Having travelled a lot in my wine roles I adored the amazing interaction between wine and food - it takes both experiences to a whole different level and I wanted to take this and show just how good it can be in my own restaurant and bar.
Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
How unrelenting the whole of hospitality can be. It’s a juggernaut that keeps on rolling and can be brutal.
What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
I love restaurants that deliver great food and experiences at the same time. Sitting on the pass at Sabor is something I adore.
What motivates you?
Seeing my restaurant and bar full with customers having a great time - there’s nothing better.
What keeps you up at night?
Staffing. It’s a nightmare!
Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I am really lucky that I know a lot of very experienced and great operators and all have given their time free and generously, not least Philip Thorly of Thorly Taverns and Rupert Lyndsy Clark of City Pub Co. They are titans and very wise.
Best business decision?
Employing Sarah Halliwell, my number two and our head of wine. She’s amazing and without her we would not be the business we are.
Worst business decision?
When we first opened Eight Stony Street we really struggled service-wise and rather than stopping people coming in, we just kept making the same mistake again and again. It cost me dearly.
What time do you wake up?
How do you let off steam?
Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
Night on the tiles followed by night on the sofa.
What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
I love ramen currently, I’ve perfected the broth now and it’s fantastic.
Long bike ride followed by beers and barbecue.
What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
I once took a taxi late at night from a bar in Cambridge to Paris for breakfast, which would have cost me a fortune had I not won the fruit machine jackpot on the ferry crossing.
Favourite holiday destination?
A gorgeous villa on Ibiza.
What was your dream job growing up?
I am doing it.
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Choose great locations, have enough money to do it, choose your people wisely as they will make or break your business.
If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Hospitality is a great career. I would love people to really embrace it and relish its dynamism and boundless opportunities.
Born in Cambridge, Barker left school at 16 with no qualifications and went to work in a pub and later took on various hospitality positions. Later roles included being sales director for Bibendum, Enotria and Jascots. He opened Eight Stony Street in Frome, Somerset, in 2018. Last year he launched a new brand, Wilding, which has established sites in Oxford and Salisbury.