Tony Beales, director of luxury caterers Beales Gourmet, talks to Dorset Living about his latest venture, a unique food and wine club...

Tell me more about FOODIE – how exactly will the concept work?

We decided to launch FOODIE as a local hub for the enthusiastic community of fine food and wine lovers. There is so much to celebrate in Dorset in terms of fresh, local, seasonal produce, so this club will help to really wave the flag for local producers. We’ll be hosting a few events each year, which will be small (up to around 50 guests), mostly at our venue, The Italian Villa, but we may also take events “on the road”.

We’ll be hosting the first of these FOODIE events on Wednesday, August 15, at The Italian Villa – an Al Fresco Summer Spectacular! Starting at 6:45pm in our Italian Garden for a welcome drink, we’ll be serving up an incredible six-course tasting menu, with wine pairing for each course, followed by coffee. All of this for £85pp (incl VAT) including the paired wines. We’ll also have some great speakers joining us, sharing their love and passion about local produce. These events are designed to be intimate, so we’ll have a maximum of 50 spaces available.

Where and when did the idea for this come from?

With my background working in high-end kitchens, the idea for FOODIE has been brewing for a little while. After a recent visit to a lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant in London, enjoying a tasting menu and wine matching, I was inspired to create a similar experience for local Dorset diners, featuring the best local, seasonal produce. It’s true that we’ve become known as wedding and event caterers but we want people to know that our passion is stemmed in fine dining!

How long has it taken to get off the ground?

We came up with the idea in February this year, and within three days, the club had its first 100 members! We really hope to grow FOODIE into an inclusive network of fine food and wine enthusiasts.

Did you think this was something missing in Dorset?

It’s a shame that there are no Michelin restaurants in Dorset. There are some immensely talented chefs who, for whatever reason, haven’t had the break they deserve. Because we’re not a restaurant, we thought that we had an opportunity to have a series of one-off events to give diners that high-end dining experience.

Why did you decide to make the club free, rather than charge a fee for membership?

FOODIE is here to act as a centralised hub for enthusiasts. The only costs will be for the events that we host. But even then, we want to make the FOODIE experience accessible and affordable. Bottom line: if you love fine food and drink, this is the club for you!

What can those who join the club expect throughout the year in terms of events/tastings etc?

We plan to host a number of tasting menu events, complete with wine matching, across the year. Those attending will also hear, first hand, from the amazing farmers, wine growers and merchants, butchers, bakers and others in the local food and drink trade, showing us just how amazing a place Dorset is to live from a FOODIE perspective. Our produce is arguably some of the best in the country.

Are there any collaborations with other local chefs/produce providers etc?

We want to showcase local FOODIE entrepreneurs to show off their food and tell their inspiring stories at our events.

You’re obviously predominantly a chef – how will the fine wine side of things be incorporated into the club?

Well, wine is a passion and hobby of mine. I love working with our in-house sommelier to match great wines with the great food that we create. We’ll also be working in partnership with local wine growers and merchants to create the perfect matching experience.

Do you think fine dining is becoming more accessible/popular among foodies? Why do you think this is?

I think that the media has had a lot to do with bringing fine dining to a wider audience. Shows like Masterchef and Bake Off are just a couple of examples of how engaged people are and I think that people are also braver than they used to be about trying new ingredients.

How do you feel about the launch of FOODIE?

I’m excited to share my love of fine food and wine with as many people as possible, so this seems like a great vehicle to do just that. It also gives people who haven’t attended events at The Italian Villa a chance to sample our food. Because we’re an exclusive-hire venue, we don’t typically open to the public, so this is a rare opportunity indeed!

What tips do you have for home cooks looking to recreate a fine dining experience at home?

I’d say don’t be scared to try new things. If you’re inspired by something you see on TV or in a restaurant, you’ll be able to find brilliant recipes online (we publish our own at to help you recreate exciting dishes at home. It’s usually much less daunting than you think. You’re only limited by your creativity!

How can people find out more about FOODIE, or sign up to the club?

Joining the club is free and easy. Simply visit and follow the link to LIKE the Facebook page. It’s as simple as that, and all of our communications will be coming via that channel, including teasers of menus for future events.