As Father’s Day approaches, Phillip Crouch and his son Jonathan—the family behind the The Parma Ham & Mozzarella Stand—describe what it’s like working together at Borough Market
The son: Jonathan Crouch
I have been working here with my dad for over a year now. One day he was short on staff and said he needed help, so I agreed to come down and help out. It has blossomed from there really.
Our relationship has to be very professional because we have a business to run and customers to deal with, but he is still my dad and we still have a laugh. Even though he tells me what to do, it doesn’t really feel like he’s my boss.
I had been to the stall many times before I started work here—the family would sometimes come to London at the weekend and we’d visit my dad at the Market when we were here. It was a bit overwhelming when I was young: there were lots of people, interesting smells, different foods. There was just so much to take in.
I remember thinking even then that it always felt really authentic, and the slicing of the ham was done in such a professional way. It felt as though the people on the stall really respected what they were selling.
When I started in the job, I didn’t have any real experience, but because he was my dad he knew what I was capable of, so he trusted me and gave me responsibility. It was meant to just be a casual job for my gap year, but as it’s gone on I’ve started to see it as something I’ll come back to when I’ve finished studying.
Occasionally he can be a little bit too much of a dad. If I’m looking a bit tired, if it’s been a hard day, his paternal instincts take over and he’ll give me a big hug right there in the middle of the Market. I wouldn’t really change anything though, because it is just really great working with him.
The father: Philip Crouch
Working with Jonathan is a really positive experience—although quite a complicated one, as it always is when you’re dealing with family. The working relationship has to be clear.
Jonathan is the oldest of my children and the first one to have worked for me for a good length of time. He’s smart, he’s very good with IT—which I am not so great at—and he’s very keen to learn. He has rapidly acquired the complicated skills needed in my business, particularly the technical aspects of processing the product.
He is also picking up a lot of knowledge about the items we sell, and is learning how to convey this knowledge to the customers, which is hugely important.
My perspective on how this came about is probably a bit different to his. He was coming into his gap year and I consciously made the decision to make space for him. I really wanted Jonathan to come and work with me for a while, so I gave him some shifts and some responsibility, and it has worked out really well. It was not a given that he’d stay: he might have hated it.
It’s quite an intimate working relationship when you work with someone for several hours a day on a small stall and for us, there is also the journey in, which takes quite a while, so we do a lot of talking. I think we have grown much closer by working together.
It has been quite an emotional time for me, watching one of my children learn, grow and acquire new skills. Every parent should do it: I have two other children and clearly they will have to come and do the same thing as well.
The last thing most teenagers want to do is spend time with their father, but this means I get to spend more time with him, so I couldn’t be happier. I really can’t think of anything I would change.