Firsts & Lasts with... Maxine Thompson, Founder of Polka Pants

Firsts & Lasts

It is said that the two most important moments in a restaurant are the moment you walk in the door – the hello – and the last bite you take, the last person you speak to – the end/goodbye. But so much of our life is shaped by first and lasts, so here we profile amazing women of the industry, talking about some of their first and last moments...

Maxine Thompson is the founder of PolkaPants, tailored trousers designed for female chefs and women in hospitality. Maxine studied fashion design and worked for Chanel before training as a chef at New York’s International Culinary Centre. A private chef and published cookbook author, she found the unisex chef’s trousers available unattractive and uncomfortable so set out to design something better.

PolkaPants are now worn by chefs in some of the best restaurants in the world including The River Café and Petersham Nurseries in London, and have grown to become a favourite of women working across the creative industries looking for great-fitting, practical trousers.


First kiss: Playing spin the bottle at a party when I was 14

First cocktail ordered on a night out: Dirty gin martini

First food poisoning: When I was about 4 I had to get my stomach pumped after successfully opening a childproof lid and drinking a whole bottle of Betadine (an antiseptic used for skin disinfection before and after surgery or on wounds).

First job in hospitality: Working as a Subway Sandwich Artist in my local Subway store

First thing you do to unwind after work: Depending on the day but usually a glass of wine with my sister, or a hot yoga class or I unwind by cooking a nice dinner for myself

First thing you do in the middle of a hellish service/day at work to stay level headed: Write a list and pragmatically work my way through it. Running a small business by myself I can often find myself overwhelmed with the amount of work today and often spend a whole day doing half tasks and not completing anything. If I write a list and force myself to work through it, I can focus on one thing at a time and make the best use of my day.

First thing you do when you wake up: Have a cup of tea and check my family WhatsAp group (my family live all over the world, so like to catch up on whats been happening in their world while I’ve been asleep!)

First thing you do when you plan a holiday: Google ‘best places to eat in….’

Last thing you bought at an off license: Milk and yogurt this morning at 6am when I couldn’t go back to sleep.

Last three favourite places you ate in:

1. I was in Stockholm last weekend and had an incredible lunch at Tyge & Sessil.

2. I moved house on Friday and drank far too much gin post move. Saturday we went to Wine & Rind (in Tottenham) and had a cheese toasty and some Beaujolais = heaven and very much helped.

3. P.Franco (with guest chef Túbo Logier on the pans), a friend took me there after dinner and we had ‘dessert’ of whelks and wild garlic. If that was my last meal on earth I’d be very very happy.

Last song you listened to: Tirzah, Fine Again.

Last podcast you listened to and what did you take away from it: Ester Perel: Where Should We Begin. She is a psychotherapist and this podcast explores the tension between the need for security and the need for freedom in human relationships. It’s really interesting and listening to other people’s relationships can open up your mind and make you think differently about your relationships with people and yourself.

Last glass of wine you really enjoyed & where: At Tyge & Sessil in Stockholm, a glass of wild Sardinian orange wine (2017 Le Andofra di Elena Casadei, Migiu). I was with my best friend, it was 28 and sunny (unheard of in the UK at the moment) so was nice to be in the sunshine with good company and in a beautiful city.

Last time you had a proper day off and what did you do with it: Saturday in Stockholm, I woke up at 6am, and went on a pilgrimage to Bageri Petrus for a pastry and sandwich, went for a swim, lay in the sunshine, walked and walked, then met my friend for a lazy lunch, did some window shopping, had a nap, saw my friend DJ on a funny rooftop party, had dinner and then watched Law & Order and was asleep by 11pm. Perfect.

Last time you exercised (body or mind): I have to exercise almost every day; for my body and for my mind! I ran yesterday morning, I hadn’t run in a week so it was like heaven… totally therapy session and I felt 100 times better after it.

Last review you read and agreed with: Suze Olbrich’s Eater brunch map! I never really eat breakfast out (the word ‘brunch’ sends a quiver down my spine) so it was nice to find a succinct list of where in London is good for a long lunch (my favourite weekend activity).

Natalia Ribbe