Living's Emma Joseph spoke to Tony Beales, managing director of Beales Gourmet at The Italian Villa about how his FOODIE Club has been developing since its inception in August last year

Q:Tell us more about the next FOODIE event taking place?

A: We were really excited about our most recent FOODIE evening, which was on March 7, and was a celebration of some of the best local cheeses, wines and charcuterie. These events are becoming so popular and we sell around 50 per cent of all tickets within just a few days of announcing the next events. We have an absolutely brilliant idea for our next event, likely to be on July 5, which is going to be a Fiesto Italiano! We’ll create a gorgeous setting in our piazza at The Italian Villa, and hopefully dine al fresco (weather dependent of course!) whilst enjoying dishes steeped in Italian tradition, all matched with some delectable wines.

Q: What other events have you hosted so far?

A: Our first two events couldn’t have been more varied. The first – an al fresco summer spectacular – took place in our Italian Garden, with an eight course tasting menu paired with a different wine or drink with every course. The second event – the Festive FOODIE Feast – took place just before the Christmas rush on November 30, and told the story of the 12 days of Christmas, with again, eight courses of delicious seasonal cuisine, and wine pairings for every course.

Q: How many members do you have now?

A: The Club has grown quickly. We have over 250 on our Facebook page (that’s how you join the club for free), and we also have a past guest list now of over 240 too, so almost 500 members in total now.

Q: What has been the feedback?

A: Overwhelmingly positive, which is why bookings have been strong for each event we’ve put on. After each event, we send out a questionnaire to find what guests liked and what they’d like to see more of, as well as anything they think we can improve from each event. Members have even contributed ideas towards future events. It’s a very two-way environment, which helps keep members engaged.

Q: Remind us what the aim of FOODIE is?

A: We wanted to give Dorset food and wine enthusiasts an experience-led club to widen their culinary palate but never in a preachy kind of way. The whole ethos around the club is about that one word: “experience”. Yes, they’ll try some incredible food and drink and get looked after by our friendly service team, but the thing that they’ll be telling their friends about is what they’d experienced at a FOODIE event.

Q: How important is the local aspect – ie sourcing local produce?

A: This is a pillar of what we believe in. We are so lucky to be based in a region with arguably some of the best produce anywhere in the country. But that doesn’t mean we won’t use some amazing produce from neighbouring counties. For example, at our cheese, wine and charcuterie evening, we have some of Dorset’s very best on show, but to add even more value to the evening, we also have some divine “guest” cheeses from Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Somerset. We’ll continue to fly the flag for Dorset producers – it’s just part of our DNA!

Q: How can people get involved, or find out more?

A: Head over to to find out more about the club and see upcoming event details. Remember to connect with us on Facebook to become a member - You can also call 01202 700992 to speak to our team.