Two of a kind: John and Alex

Categories: Behind the stalls

Two brothers from Whirld talk food, fudge, and working with a sibling

Interview: Viel Richardson
Images: Alice Mann

John on Alex
My brother is my best mate, so there is a kind freedom in working together. We really look out for each other so if anything goes wrong, we know the other one will be there to help out. It is the perfect combination.

Alex has been at the stall for about a year, so a bit less time than me. We were looking for someone at the time and I thought he might like it because he likes food and likes talking to people. He came for a trial, liked it and is still here.

We both spend the same amount of time on the stall but we do have slightly different responsibilities. We also sell online and Alex manages that side of things; I deal more with the stuff here at the stall, but our responsibilities do overlap.

Alex is very calm, collected, precise and gets the job done, but at the same time he enjoys a bit of banter which is what makes working with him such fun. The nice thing about our stall is that it is very friendly. We chat to the customers a lot, so we can be ourselves while working. It’s nice looking across and seeing your brother having a good time.

Apart from being surrounded by lots of fudge—he will probably hit me for that—I think what he really loves about working here is the social side of things. He likes talking to people, whether they are traders or customers.

We have always been a bit of a foodie family—we were eating things like snails and frogs’ legs when we were five years old, so we’ve never been afraid of food.

Alex is a very good cook. I would say his signature dish is steak. It might not sound very exotic, but it is very easy to ruin even the best steak and he always gets it perfect. If I was going to ask him to cook something special that would definitely be my first choice.

I recently went to Nopi which is owned by Yotam Ottolenghi. It serves Middle Eastern and Asian-inspired fusion food. It’s quite relaxed and serves interesting food combinations. I think Alex would really like that, so if I was going to treat him to a special dinner I would take him there. The foodie in him would love it.

The best thing about working with Alex is that it doesn’t feel like work, it just feels like hanging out with my brother, but we still get the job done. Worst is that we have recently started sharing a flat, so we do spend a lot of time together. We have to remember to not talk about work at home—something he is definitely guiltier of than I am.

Alex and John of Whirld

Alex on John
Working with John is really easy. Any problems get ironed out without too much hassle because we know each other so well. Sometimes we finish off each other’s sentences. It’s great having that kind of relationship at work.

He is really upbeat and chirpy behind the stall and interacts with customers well, but he will play the bad cop sometimes if one of the customers gets a bit naughty. Usually it’s a kid who means no harm, so it is all done with a bit if a smile and good humour.

Before I started, John was always telling me how much he liked working here which is why he suggested I gave it a go. As soon as I started I could see what he likes so much about the place—it’s the people.

He loves meeting so many interesting people, with similar interests, from all over the world. It also helps that there is so much amazing food available every time he comes to work.

John has always been a real foodie, even more so than me. He has been a really good, self-taught chef since he was a kid. He would outshine me and the parents time and again when we were growing up. I think he was making roast dinners and curries when he was 14 years old. He has always had a really good palate.

His favourite thing on the stall is probably the ginger fudge. He goes on about it a lot and always recommends it to customers. We also sell peanut butter rocky road and if we have any offcuts of it at the end of the day, they often end up in a bag on the way home.

Trying to figure out his favourite food is a tough one, because he likes food from everywhere and goes through phases. If we were to order a takeaway, though, something Indian would probably be his favourite. He also loves Italian food, especially fresh pasta.

If I was going to ask him to cook something for me, now the weather is warming up it would be something Mediterranean, with lots of roasted vegetables—peppers, aubergines, courgettes—and marinated pork or chicken. I know that would be delicious.

If I was going to take John somewhere for a celebratory dinner, I would choose any one of Tom Kerridge’s restaurants. He does English classics in a modern way and they are all quite welcoming, easy going restaurants. John would enjoy the informality.

The best thing about working with John is that we get on really well—it just seems to work. The worst is that because he has been here a bit longer in a managerial role, he forgets I’m a manager as well and likes to tell me off. So I have to remind him that I’m also a manager, as well as the older brother.