Fashion, food, lifestyle and culture in St Albans
I listened with glee yesterday as local baker boy Johnny charmed Charles Campion and Valentine Warner on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme. Johnny Shepherd’s award winning, St Albans based pudding business, The Pudding Stop (T.P.S), is one of the three finalists in the national BBC’s Food and Farming Awards in the ‘Best street food or takeaway’ category.
The judges, Messrs Warner and Campion went to visit Johnny and observe him in action and I proudly listened as they marvelled at Johnny’s little empire, where Redbournbury Watermill is HQ and every day is pudding day.
Intrigued by the concept of a takeaway pudding business, neither Warner nor Campion could conceal their excitement as they crossed the threshold and entered Johnny’s little world. Delighted by the array of ‘really good looking puddings,’ Warner noted that they all looked like ‘prize winners’ at a country show.
But it’s not just the aesthetics that made fans of these judges, Warner commented that everything was, ‘so well made, that it just ignites the love of old puddings, and to be honest, I’m blown away by them.’ Not bad for a boy who had barely baked a cake before his brief stint on the nation’s much beloved Great British Bake Off a few years ago.
Originally from Devon, Johnny did have significant baking influences growing up, but it was more his entrepreneurial gut that told him this would make a great business, rather than a love affair with baking that made him launch T.P.S. Two years down the line, Johnny has become a competent self-taught baker and has successfully redefined what it is to have ‘pudding,’ making it easily accessible and part of people’s everyday routine as opposed to an occasional treat.
Pitching up at St Albans station, Johnny welcomes home the commuters, selling his puddings from his trusty pimped out pudmobile. It transforms to reveal a countertop made from an old door and his daily menu glistening with tempting promise.
The inside is adorned with a decoupage of loyalty cards, further proof of Johnny’s devoted following, whilst the exterior is simply emblazoned with T.P.S’s slick branding. Campion called the pudmobile, ‘a temple for pudding,’ too true, a humble yet most worthy mecca for the weary pud pilgrim. Give us this day our daily pud indeed.
Johnny reaches his flock by tweeting his menu daily and no sooner has it been sent but the twittersphere is ablaze with customers tweeting orders for imminent collection or sending tweet upon tweet of praise and thanks.
There is no better front man for this celebration of British puddings. This polite, plummy, country boy, decked in Barbour and a tweed flat cap (weather permitting..!) warmly greets every regular customer by name and every new visitor like a regular. His charming and friendly customer service remains faultless even after a 14 hour day driving, baking and dishing out pudding.
So, that’s the man and his van, but what about his pud?
His popular STP (Sticky Toffee Pudding) brings together the perfect combo of soft, springy sponge enveloped in a luxe duvet of toffee sauce nestled snuggly in a sinful box of sticky, sweet goodness. And, my personal fave, his custard tart is smooth, creamy and velvety in its perfection, topped off with a majestic dusting of nutmeg.
Other popular puds include his epic slabs of dark and brooding brownie, Choc Pots thick, rich and delicious enough to marry and his much favoured Bakewell Tart is as delicious as it is pretty. Even though the puds are made en masse, each morsel retains the wholesome beauty and comfort of feeling homemade.
Despite my excessive hyperbole, there are no bells and whistles about The Pudding Stop, just this man, his puds and his pudmobile (….and his very lovely employee Sally).
Johnny makes the conscious choice to keep it simple, local and seasonal, which means with December just around the corner we can look forward to the heady scents of Christmassey deliciousness wafting from the pudmobile soon. In fact, you can order your Christmas pudding from Johnny now.
Unsurprisingly, there are exciting plans in the future for The Pudding Stop, so make sure you stay tuned. Pudding is literally my world, so I’m slightly jealous of Johnny’s existence, but for now I’m happy just to join the queue of pudding groupies. Thankfully self-control, and a wardrobe full of skinny jeans, prevents me from ordering everything on the menu every day, but even just knowing that it’s out there keeps me warm at night.
The Pudding Stop is already recognised as a Local Gem, winning this accolade two years on the trot at the St Albans Food and Drink Awards, and quite frankly I couldn’t agree more.
Where can you find The Pudding Stop?
Johnny is at St Albans Station, Platorm 4 exit: Monday – Friday 5.00pm-9.00pm
You can also find him at:
– St Albans farmer’s market every 2nd Sunday 9-1pm
– Harpenden farmer’s market every 4th Sunday 10-2pm
Johnny also supplies his puds to other establishments. His client list includes; Lussmanns, London Italian street food vendors Coco Di Mama and The Blueberry Café in Harpenden.
To hear Johnny’s full interview on BBC Radio 4 click here:
For any further info on Johnny or The Pudding Stop please go to www.thepuddingstop.com
For daily pud updates follow Johnny on Twitter @ThePuddingStop