Alex Bond and Simon Martin: We to this day have not ever spent a penny on advertising

The Staff Canteen

Alex Bond and Simon Martin discuss hidden talents, controversial claims about Manchester's food scene and the highs and lows of social media.

In this week’s episode of Grilled by The Staff Canteen head editor Cara Houchen was joined by co-host Alex, Owner of both the Michelin-starred Alchemillia, and Mollis, and their guest Simon Martin Owner of the Michelin-starred Mana.

During the episode, both chefs discussed everything from their celebrity crushes to their favourite smells and aromas, and even how many Enoki mushrooms are in a pack.


Simon started his career at The Chester Grosvenor before setting his sights on working at the world-renowned Noma in Copenhagen.

Simon was so eager to learn the lessons of Rene Redzepi that when he was offered a permanent position after his three-month internship at Noma, he slept on the streets for several weeks while he sought a tenancy.

After three years in Copenhagen, Simon moved back to Manchester where he opened Mana in October 2018.

Explaining the origins of Mana, Simon said: "I was at Noma and my girlfriend at the time didn't want to do long distance anymore. We'd been together for 12 years and she basically said if you don't come home, I'm going to dump you.”

He added: “I thought I don't want to throw away 12 years of work in a relationship and she was a nurse at Salford Royal in Manchester, so that's why Mana exists in Manchester. That's the only reason."

Discussing his life before entering the hospitality, Simon revealed: “Before I ended up in a kitchen my goal was to be a professional motocross rider until I had a career crippling injury and I couldn't perform as well as I used to.”

“It was heartbreaking for me because I've always been a very sort of progressive person and life has revolved around just being better at what you do,” said Simon.


During the podcast, as well as talking about what they both enjoy ordering from Greggs, Alex and Simon discussed how social media has changed the industry.

“It's fantastic from a business perspective. We to this day have not ever spent a penny on advertising,” said Simon.

He added: “I think it's a fantastic tool for chefs to use, obviously as we're just talking within our industry, it's great source of inspiration for people. It's great in order to communicate with a target audience.”

For Simon, the negatives of social media revolve around the time it takes to manage and create content across different platforms for his business.

Simon explained: "It's always something in the in the back of your head, I've got to do this, I've got to do that, we've got to produce content for it. We have quite a strict rule with Mana's Instagram that we won't make any posts that isn't my professional photography. Our rate of content production is a lot slower than most others but I'm a firm believer in quality over quantity.”

He added: "It's the first port of call these days for most people, it's not your website it's your Instagram, they go to your Instagram before they go to your website."


Simon’s Mana restaurant separates itself from other eateries within Manchester as it’s the city’s only Michelin starred restaurant.

The accolade is a tremendous reflection of Simon’s graft, drive and influence within the industry but was not the end goal before he open Mana to the public.

“Until I went to Noma it was sort of the thing that I wanted to achieve, and then at Noma it wasn't really a thing. It wasn't talked about, there was no plaque on the wall. It was all really about the World's 50 Best. Being in that environment made me question myself and think, why do I care so much about it as well,” explained Simon.

He added: “I realised when I opened my own restaurant that it was actually really important to me and the only reason Noma could afford to be blasé about Michelin is because they had all this infrastructure, and the time I was there, a 13-year-old restaurant that was in the World's 50 Best.”


Hitting back at comments made by the wife of Manchester City’s captain Illkay Gundogan, that the city had no good places to eat out, Simon said: “Short sighted, uneducated opinions on an entire city's food, which she obviously knows nothing about. Manchester is a genuinely fantastic place to eat in all sectors.”

He added: "It's such a fluffy topic, a WAG has gone on Instagram and has been obviously very short sighted in her opinion on the Manchester food and drink scene. It is quite funny how, how much this has snowballed."

Following numerous closures across Britain’s hospitality industry, Simon said: “I think people are really struggling at the moment and to have 'influential people' saying things that at this moment in time when the economy isn't so good it can be potentially damaging."

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st October 2022

Alex Bond and Simon Martin: We to this day have not ever spent a penny on advertising