It’s Been a Long Time Coming
Jonny Henfrey has been working in the pub industry for 25 years, including the ten that he’s been running The Gowlett, in Peckham. Despite feeling quite at home at The Gowlett (he literally lives above it), Henfrey has long been itching to start up a food truck, specifically a pizza one, as he’s been serving them at his pub for years. He has always been interested in big vehicles and even has an American ambulance that has been converted into a camper van. Though it felt like it might never be the right time to get it off the ground, he happened upon the perfect vehicle while looking on eBay for a fridge. The shell of the bus was already fairly kitted out, and Henfrey completed the conversion by adding the wood fired oven from Florence, a bar top he found in a junk shop and a retro DJ set, creating a cozy atmosphere full of quirky charm and creative flair to accompany the smell of baking dough and garlic wafting from the oven.
The Perfect Pizza Pair
In addition to finding the perfect truck, Henfrey had to find the perfect business partner, Laurie Stuart. Before joining on to Crust Conductor, Stuart was manager of Henfrey’s The Gowlett, but she then left to start a business elsewhere. However, when Henfrey approached her about working with him on Crust Conductor, she accepted the offer. Henfrey explains that he wanted to work with Laurie because, like himself, she works extremely hard and non-stop. Henfrey doesn’t switch off, especially as he still runs The Gowlett, and – between him and Stuart – the bus never stops moving.
Festivals and Music
Having the kind of non-stop energy and devoted work ethic that both Henfrey and Stuart possess is necessary when running a business that is literally on the move to tour music festivals. Crust Conductor’s very first festival gig was ‘Low Life’ (part of the Wild Life Festival) to be exact. The bus was taking longer than expected to arrive, so Henfrey drove to Blackpool where it was stationed, finished setting it up, and drove it directly to Dorset, which was, incidentally, his first time ever driving a bus, and he got stuck in the mud along the way. After a frantically busy and successful first run, they moved directly to Glastonbury, where they worked 19-hour days, providing pizzas to hordes of hungry festival goers. Since their start at festivals they have continued to ensure that music is a part of the Crust Conductor experience, by attending at other festivals, as well as making their own music, with their retro DJ station at the top of the bus.
A Mixed Menu and Clientele
The mix of quirky and classic decor in Crust Conductor creates an atmosphere that welcomes a broad range of visitors. Pizza might just be the world’s most universally loved food, and this comes across based on the diverse crowd the bus attracts; twenty-somethings happily drinking beer, a group of children attending a toddler’s birthday party and happy parents enjoying the scene as much as their young children do. In addition to the variety of visitors, the menu is ever-changing as well due to Henfrey’s love of kitchen creativity. Having been primarily managing the business side of his pub, he hasn’t been stationed in the kitchen for close to 15 years and is thrilled to be back to cooking again. He uses established combinations of other traditional foods and tries them out on his pizzas. For example, one pizza on the current menu features pear, arugula and walnut. Unlike at his pub, where locals having been coming for years and have certain expectations of the menu, Crust Conductor thrives on constant creative change, as the range of clients is as broad as the range of ingredient combinations. Henfrey doesn’t have a personal favorite, as the menu changes so often, and even sometimes manages to eat two different pizzas a day!