For many years on the island of Mallorca the name Simon Jones was synonymous with Escape Bar in Plaça de la Drassana. A place to go and meet friends and crew. Where the sausage and bacon butties, as well as the full menu, were the stuff of legend and where no matter the hour of day, if there was a rugby match on at silly O’clock, the constantly smiling and joking Simon would endeavour to have the bar open. Though you may have to wait 2 minutes for your pint while he prepped the all important food that would sustain those propping up the bar and seated at the tables, for the festivities of the day ahead. I have many fond memories of Escape as do many who enjoyed its sixteen year tenure. However, as with everything, things had to change and it was time to move on, though there are still those who return to the island confused about its whereabouts.
However, I come to Simon’s story half way through, as his love of both food and yachting started at a much much earlier age. From around 12 years old he found himself spending more and more time in restaurant and café kitchens which he clearly loved. When it was obvious that an academic career wasn’t of particular interest his Aunt and Mum decided to encourage him to enrol on a catering course. So he joined the prestigious Bournemouth and Poole College, who are still in the top 20 of catering colleges worldwide. For 3 years Simon honed his trade, spending countless intensive hours learning every aspect of a kitchen and its different departments. Because of this he holds a full City and Guilds MasterChef diploma and if you want to see his skills in action check out the meat & fish society Facebook page for the video of a 120+ day aged piece of beef being prepped and portioned by him.
As part of the course they had to do a year in a restaurant with at least 1 Michelin star either in London or in France. Simon chose to join a beautiful 2 Michelin star restaurant in the Loire Valley where he further increased his skills in fine dining, but more importantly in the importance of quality products and delivering the customer exactly what they want. As Simon says, he is a pleaser and those years of catering college and later at the restaurant is where these skills began to shine.
But this only starts to explain one side of the story. How then did he end up combining this love of catering and the yachting industry? Simon explains that his Dad had always sailed dinghies and therefore Simon had also sailed all of his life, having grown up in Westbourne, where the sea is simply part of your nature. His first taste of the full yachting industry was when he ended up paying his own way on a delivery to Sardinia on a 1985 45ft Admiral’s Cup yacht, the superbly named Pocket Battleship. It was here that he got involved with the Swan World Championships where they were short of crew. So age 19 he found himself as cook on a Swan. Not a bad way to round out your teens.
After bringing Pocket Battleship back to the UK it was time to return to land and his love of cooking, all the while keeping the sea within his sights. For ten years he was Head Chef at Stanwell House, the boutique hotel and bistro in Lymington. As fate would have it though it was because of his position there that he returned to yachts, as one day the receptionist said she was going along to the boat show for a potential interview and would he like to join her just to have a look around. Well, the poor girl didn’t speak a word and after a fair while at the Guinness stand Simon was asked for his CV and was promptly offered a job on a 70ft charter boat out of Turkey.
In fact, despite travelling back and forth and all over the world it seems that Turkey was always calling. This is actually where he met his wife while out having a quiet beer (or three) in the town of Marmaris. And can you guess the name of the bar they met in? Yep, Escape Bar. How’s that for romance.
A little later Simon started earning his yacht tickets so that he became an incredible all-rounder – though he didn’t mention what his turn downs are like. He began driving boats as well as working as deck and mate and chef all over the Med. Fate would again intervene not long after this when he and Ceti were asleep on day one of a charter when something happened during the watch and the boat ploughed straight into an out-crop of rocks. Luckily the whole crew were okay, however they lost all of their belongings. They finally managed to reverse the boat off and back her into a tiny bay in the early hours of the morning. The crew raced ahead to warn the sleepy cruisers that a rather large yacht was about to come in with a rooster tail in order to ground herself on the beach. At which point the were promptly arrested for invading Greece. Oh and having no shoes. Which were at the bottom of the sea along with everything else of value. So four days in a hotel under house arrest it was. 21 years and 9 months to the day they recently celebrated their son Christopher’s 21st birthday.
After finding out he was going to be a Dad Simon decided that he didn’t want to be a Dad that’s away, so instead they bought a property in Santa Catalina and took over the then Wild Rover from Jerry and Marie and opened Escape Bar. The plan? Keep it for two years…you know the rest. All the while Simon was still running boats not expecting the bar to take off quite like it did. He finally bid farewell to the staff who didn’t have quite the same vested interest and took over the entire running of the bar, with the odd delivery here and there until, as they say, the rest is history, and it was time to bid farewell to Escape 6 years ago.
There are obviously a multitude of other adventures that the pair have had on boats all around the world, but sadly we do not have the pages to tell the tale, although buy Simon a pint once his knee is better and I’m sure he’ll fill in the gaps. So this begs the question, what has Simon and wife of 25 years been up to for the last six. Well they have clearly not been resting on their laurels. Having provisioned for the bar and other boats Simon was always on the look-out for the best produce and discovered that the top place that most bars, restaurants and hotels go to is MercaPalma. Not being in the catering business I assumed this was just another supermarket. Apparently it is far from it. It’s almost like a city behind Fan, housed within high walls, with guards on the door. Literally if your name is not down you are not getting in. But those of you who know Simon know he is a persistent chap…
As luck would have it the 45m yacht Big Fish happened to come to him saying that had a massive order of several thousand Euros and would he know of anywhere where they could provision the highest quality produce. They needed meat, fish, veg, fruit, dairy. You name it, they needed it. So Simon returned to MercaPalma and explained what he needed. As one of the newer boys in the town they were a little sceptical about how it was going to be paid for. So Simon returned to the Captain, explained the situation and the Captain wired the money over immediately. Needless to say this broke the ice and Simon’s reputation spread.
Enter the fish & meat society. Originally just Simon, then Ceti for supporting the deliveries and proviosioning, they are now a team of five with Tania in accounts, Barbara on sales and deliveries, Paula as PA, Ceti delivering and Simon, well, a bit of everything. It’s so wonderful to see a team so passionate about what they do, considering what they do. 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, if necessary, generally clocking up 11 hour days, all to ensure the boats that they know and love have the very pest produce they can. Simon butchers the meat and fillets the fish himself. They are all then individually vacuum packed and frozen so that the chef can pop them straight in the freezer for the season. They are also labelled and stamped, once again cutting down on the time for the chef, which we all know is a precious commodity. As Simon is a trained chef he is able to come aboard and save the boat time and money by advising what would be best for them to buy and then serve.
So what next? The word of mouth is going crazy as they have such a reputation for quality, professionalism and friendliness. You only have to look on Palma Yacht Crew when anything is mentioned about provisioning to see the name Simon Jones turn up over and over and over. So that’s Mallorca sorted. Next? He says, ‘well I came back from Ibiza yesterday and my son has just been down to Sotto Grande, so…’. Apparently the trips are easy and they only charge for the ferry ticket, fuel and bed and board. And it is clear that their reputation is preceding them over there with boats that know and love the company placing orders continuously. There may also be destinations farther afield in the future, but for that we will have to wait and see.
Whatever Simon and the team do however, I have no doubt in my mind that they will absolutely achieve their goals and continue to please the yachting and villa industry the world over. We wish them well.
By Victoria Pearce
The meat & fish society
619 59 33 87