Meet the brothers, Ben and Alex Towill, who are fuelling IGO’s participants
Ben co-founded Silkstone Hospitality Group in 2008 and created renowned New York City eateries, The Fat Radish, Ruschmeyers, The Leadbelly and The East Pole. Prior to that, he worked for Rick Stein, Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc. He co-authored “The Fat Radish Food Diary” published by Rizzoli. Ben was voted Forbes “30 under 30” in 2014, and recently wrote a food-focused travel column for The New York Times documenting his cross country bike ride, called “A Ride In The Country”. Ben and his wife Kate have a lifestyle driven design and development company in Charleston, SC, where they live now. He is an active and passionate advocate of sustainable food systems and how they affect us. Ben’s heroes are Yvon Chouinard, Jamie Oliver and Bob Dylan.
Alex has been working in Cornwall for most of his career apart from 2 years spent in New York and a year in Sydney. His most recent project has been as a co-founder of Hubbox where he was in charge of food operations, and within the 4 years grew the business to 5 sites. In 2014 Alex won the National Burger Award, beating much larger national brands. Alex’s passion for restaurants is met with equal measure for his passion for watersports and has always been driven to be near the sea or rivers. With a young family who love nothing more than being by the beach, this seems like the perfect location for his next venture. He currently runs the show at the family pub, The Ferry Boat Inn, in Helford Passage, Cornwall.
Ben, you’ve lived in at least 2 countries either side of the pond. How has that influenced you as a person and a chef?
The US and UK are so different. I have been in the US for 12 years now and feel I probably have a better understanding of here than England. What has happened in the UK around food in the last 10 years has been so exciting. It’s funny, Zander draws lots of influence from the US having worked in NYC and also having helped me open Basic Kitchen, and I do the opposite. I love what’s happening in the UK around healthy fast casual dining. The one thing that I think is fundamentally different in the US is the can do/make it happen attitude, it really is an exciting place to be entrepreneurial, especially in the food world.
How would you describe the food you will be serving on IGO?
We will be serving food influenced by Basic Kitchen leading up to the challenge, lots of good healthy grains and veggies etc, and then to celebrate completing the challenge we will be cooking a feast. This will be a celebration of the local ingredients and flavours. Zander loves nothing more than slow cooking meats and fish out in the elements so expect some good old fashioned American BBQ, in remote parts of the UK.
Tell us more about Basic Kitchen and Basic Projects.
5 years ago I left NYC to start Basic Projects with my wife Kate. We combined our skill sets of design and hospitality to create a lifestyle driven design and development company. We have a range of projects big and small, mainly in the south of the US, ranging from hotels, restaurants and apartment buildings.
We approach all projects with what we call Basic Principals.
And what about this old French fire truck?
More to come on this later from Zander…
On a day off, what would you most likely be doing?
A perfect day off starts with a long family walk on the beach with our son, Oscar, and our Old English Sheep Dog, Daisy, then a late breakfast and if the weather is good we get on the water sailing. Charleston is a great place for sailing and there is no better way to switch off than on the water.
Tell us about one life-changing meal…
I probably should say a restaurant and have been lucky to have some epic meals at some incredible restaurants around the world, my favourite being Blue Hill Stone Barns in upstate New York or The Wheel House in Falmouth. But one of the most memorable meals of my life was on a beach in Oregon. Having just completed our ride across America, we cooked sausages around a campfire and drink some good old craft Portland beer looking at the Pacific Ocean. We had been thinking about this for 2 months so everything tasted that little bit better.
Ben, You took in the IGO Ultimate Challenge in Montana in 2017. How was that as an experience?
The Montana Ultimate Challenge was better than I could have imagined. A chance to see a staggeringly beautiful part of the world, meet new people and go on a personal journey that was overwhelmingly positive, from the training leading up to the challenge to the challenge itself and then to the lifestyle choices and my overall fitness that I have kept up with since.
Rumour has it you cooked a delicious fish for everyone whilst there…
I am not sure it was delicious, but Derek Liston IGO’s chief medic, who is an incredible fly fisherman, caught a few fish one evening and we took one of our freeze-dried meals bags and poached the trout, crumbled some wasabi crisps on it and it turned out to be pretty delicious. We are going to be doing some fun little wild cooking demos at each event around the campfire.
What are you most looking forward to out of the partnership with IGO?
As I mentioned, I loved the Montana Ultimate Challenge that I was lucky enough to compete in. Bobby and the team create these magical memories and we are just excited to be part of that. It helps that they happen to be in some of the most beautiful places in the world.
And finally, what utensil would you not go on an adventure without?
Can I have two? A little camping pot and a good sleeping bag. I had a cheap summer one in Montana and wore all my clothes at night and was still chilly.
Ben and Zander aka Basic Kitchen are IGO’s Culinary Partners and oversee all the food and drink across our events. Trust us, it’s seriously good!