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Jay at The Barn Project  (©AAH/Alan Wright)

Published on 1st November 2022

The Stone Baked Company was launched at the start of the pandemic, serving pizza from a converted horse box in the Surrey Hills. The business evolved and is now part of The Barn Project, located on a small farm in Slinfold. Since opening in December 2021, it has been steadily growing in popularity, thanks to its youthful team and rustic, homely charms. AAH met owner Jay to find out more…

How did this begin…

I had worked as a chef in various pubs and restaurants, including The Fountain at Ashurst and The Bat and Ball in Wisborough Green. For a long time, I had wanted to run my own street food business and COVID presented me with a chance to finally do it. I was working at The Royal Oak in Holmbury St. Mary when the country went into lockdown. With the restaurant shut, I had time on my hands, so I bought a horse trailer and converted it. That was the beginning of the Stonebaked Company.

Why pizza?

Everybody loves pizza and I love making them. Cooking over a fire is a passion of mine, so from the outset I made authentic, wood fired pizza. That means stretching the dough by hand to give it a nice, airy dough. Anyone can make a pizza, but there are many variables, from proofing the dough to sourcing fresh ingredients, so there’s a bit of science involved too.

Where were you selling your pizzas?

I was travelling around villages in the Surrey Hills. We went out four nights a week, at a different location each night. After a while, people knew where and when to find us. Fortunately, the area wasn’t being very well catered for by takeaway outlets, so our pizza was very popular. We also visited local breweries including Firebird and the Dorking Brewery, providing food for tour days and special events. But when social distancing rules were relaxed, people had the urge to socialise, and the popularity of takeaways and pop-ups began to wane. I started looking ahead to autumn and winter when it would be beneficial to have a place with a roof.

You chose somewhere off the beaten path…

I could’ve opted for the high street, but that’s not me. Since the business was founded, we have focused on rural locations. So, I wanted a place to create a venue that was more rural and rustic, using reclaimed wood and cable drum tables. I didn’t want to create something shiny and new. This is more like the food courts that have cropped up in London, which can be more informal and have an industrial look.

What was here before you?

A fibreglass factory. When I first met the letting agent and told him I wanted to transform it into a café, he thought I was mad. But I was adamant, as I had a vision of what it could be.

Did it need much work?

There was 20 years’ worth of resin inside the barn, so it needed a huge amount doing. It took two months to grind down the flooring, and there were electrical wires dangling from the ceiling. We had to vacuum the joists, as they were loaded with resin dust too. It took six months of cleaning, with my dad and uncle working with me, before it was ready. Then in December 2021, we were able to open the doors of The Barn Project.

It’s not just pizzas now then?

The Stonebaked Company is one element of The Barn Project. There are eight pizzas on the menu, but these are merely suggestions, as customers can order whatever toppings they like. We also have a great brunch menu, which includes avocado on sourdough, or a sausage and bacon brioche bun. We initially planned to create a small farm shop, but for now we have focused on brunch, pizza, and coffee, and that has served us well.

Was it a struggle to attract customers?

There’s a footpath nearby that is popular with dog walkers, but for 20 years they’ve not had a reason to divert this way. So, it took a while for people to discover what we were doing, and some assumed we only sold pizza. Now, we’re seeing more walkers, as well as workers from surrounding businesses. The team has presumably expanded…I couldn’t do this all alone! My partner, Kat, has been fantastic, and Tash has also helped the business grow. We also work with some excellent local suppliers. Gwyn’s Bakery in Horsham’s Bishopric provides us with a range of pastries including chocolate croissants, while Kat makes delicious treats, such as Kinder or Mars bar brownie. Other savouries are from the Fine Piehouse at Norbury Park, while our coffee is from Trading Post Coffee Roasters in Brighton, and we’ve worked closely with them to serve the perfect coffee.

What are the other elements to The Barn Project?

We want to create a destination venue, so we are trying new ideas. We have the Biggest Little Bookshop, which is partly supplied by our neighbours, who run a book recommendation website called Litalist. We have even hosted book launches for authors they work with. More recently, we added antiques and homewares, with work by local artists and craftspeople. We hope to welcome a candle maker and florist too.  

What are your hopes for the future?

We want to create a community hub. It’s a relaxing place where people can pop in for a coffee and a chat, or a pizza with friends, or even a place to hold an event if you’re looking for something different. We are still discovering what works, so the project is evolving all the time!


Further information: Open Wednesday – Saturday, 10am - 8pm,

Unit 1 Whitebreads Farm, Stane Street, Slinfold, RH13 0RE