Christopher Macgowan – Michelin star man

the-square-londonI’ve just got back from a trip to London for meetings with the Royal College of Art and Christopher Macgowan OBE. Are there two finer institutions connected with the UK motor industry? I don’t think so.

The RCA runs the most important vehicle design course in the world. The majority of the world’s top car designers have gone through its doors, and car companies even send established designers there to refresh their thinking and skills.

It’s a place Christopher Macgowan would approve of. In case you’re not familiar with him, Christopher’s the UK motor industry’s unofficial ambassador-in-chief. Far more effective than those people at the Dept for Business. He’s an ex-CEO of both the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and Retail Motor Industry Federation, and is now in the happy position of occupying himself with whatever he finds engaging and fun. Which still include championing the UK.

It says much about him that we’ve been in touch since I contacted him at the SMMT in the mid-1990s when I had the job of launching Daewoo’s no-dealer retail strategy. A good part of Christopher’s job was to represent the dealers, who saw Daewoo as the pariahs of the industry, but he welcomed my approach.

I met Christopher for lunch at The Square in Mayfair with a colleague who didn’t know him, and I was instantly reminded of what a terrific bloke Christopher is. He’s able effortlessly to talk to people he’s never met before in a way which is completely natural. The free-ranging conversation and humour of one of the car industry’s most likeable people made for an exceptionally agreeable couple of hours.

On the down side, why do top restaurants serve quite such dinky portions? The Square is a worthy two Michelin-star place, but I had to slow down my eating to the point where the food was cold or risk looking like Greg Wallace attacking a bowl of Eton Mess after a crash diet. Thankfully there was a branch of Leon just a short walk away to get me through to dinner time.


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