Buckingham locals return to their home town to launch town's new pub restaurant

The Grand Junction's new general manager and head chef both grew up in Buckingham

By Hannah Richardson
Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 10:11 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 10:12 am

Two Buckingham locals are returning to their home town to help launch the town's new pub restaurant.

When Stevie Watts was 17, she took a weekend job at her local pub, called '13', in High Street, Buckingham.

Years later, the pub has reverted to its former name, The Grand Junction, with a planned reopening in mid-April - with Stevie as its new general manager.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Stevie and Tom outside The Grand Junction

Known by various names over the years, the Grand Junction was acquired by Oakman Group plc in 2019.

For the last six months it has been undergoing a major refurbishment, restoration and redesign.

Stevie said: “It’s strange to think I started my hospitality experience cleaning glasses at this pub and now and I’m returning as its general manager.

"It’s really taking me down memory lane - I worked here for a year and lived upstairs, and it was then that I decided to follow a career in hospitality.

Stevie and her mentor, Jean Rush

"This will be my third opening for Oakman Group and I’m so happy that they’ve given me this opportunity to return to where I grew up and started my career in hospitality.”

Stevie has been running The Cherry Tree, in Olney, for the Oakman Group since it first opened four years ago.

Joining her as head chef will be Tom Oxley, who grew up in Buckingham and until recently, was head chef at The Akeman Inn in Kingswood, another Oakman Inn.

Both Stevie and Tom started their training under well-known Buckingham local, Jean Rush, who recently retired from running Buckingham’s Villiers Hotel after 33 years. Stevie said: “We both worked at the Villiers at different times and, as my first proper boss, Jean was a huge influence and support in my career.”

Jean said said: “I am so proud of them both and all that they have achieved with their careers, and honoured to have played a small part to help and guide Stevie at the beginning of her hospitality career and to see her climb the ladder and flourish since.

"Tom is a very talented chef with a real passion for cooking and producing the most delicious food.

"It is very exciting to see them both coming back to work in their home town in senior roles, where their hospitality journey started.

"Buckingham is in for a real treat with these two at the helm.”

Open all day from breakfast until late, The Grand Junction’s restaurant will seat up to 90 guests, with a cosy bar with open fire and a courtyard garden.

Tom said: “I’m really looking forward to returning to Buckingham.

"We will be serving a Mediterranean-style menu together with traditional home comforts and our authentic Neapolitan wood-fired pizza – all prepared in our signature theatre-style open kitchen using fresh, seasonal and sustainable ingredients.”

With two months until opening, Stevie is looking for 40 people to support her and Tom as part of the management, chef, restaurant and bar teams.

She will be hosting three recruitment days at Buckingham Community Centre in Cornwalls Meadow - on Tuesday, February 15 (2pm to 8pm); Tuesday, February 22 (9am to 5pm); and Wednesday March 2 (noon to 8pm).

Stevie said: “Buckingham is such a vibrant town, and we are looking for talented, enthusiastic individuals who either already have a passion for hospitality or are looking for a new challenge with a more flexible work/life balance.

"We are so fortunate at Oakman as the company really supports each team member in their career development.

"Our award-winning training includes an online academy, apprenticeships at all levels, a fast-track management programme plus our recently launched residential two-week Chef Academy for new chefs.

"Those interested in joining us should apply via www.oakmaninnsrecruitment.co.uk

"I know there’s a raft of talent in and around Buckingham and I can’t wait to follow Jean’s example and inspire my new team, nurture their development, and instill a good work ethic and community values.”