A woman who left her high-flying job as a lawyer to set up a business with the boyfriend she’d just met has revealed how they defied the odds and are still going strong three years later.
Katrina ‘Kat’ Allison and Guglielmo ‘Guil’ Baldassare explain in tonight’s Ben Fogle: Make a New Life in the Country that they had only been together for six weeks before they decided to open Bici Café, a pizzeria in Ulverston, Cumbria.
In the 9pm show, Kat reveals that she quit her high flying job as a lawyer in the City of London after 20 years, sold her riverside flat and bought a derelict 300-year-old building for £170,000, spending £120,000 of her savings on renovations and leaving herself with £30,000 to live on.
In the first portion of the programme, filmed in 2016, the idea of launching a business with her amazing cook boyfriend Guil, was exciting to optimist Kat.
However, the pressure surrounding the opening of the restaurant got the better of the couple, who couldn’t stop arguing, driving each other on the brink of tears.
Still, when Ben came to visit them three years on for the Channel 5 programme, he found the couple still together and running an award-winning restaurant.
And while Kat admitted to sometimes missing the comfortable pay of her lawyer days and that Guil and her ‘fight like cats and dogs,’ she seemed content with her decision to start from scratch in the Lake District.
Katrina ‘Kat’ Allison and Guglielmo ‘Guil’ Baldassare explain in tonight’s Ben Fogle: Make a New Life in the Country that they had only been together for six weeks before they decided to go into business together
The couple bought a 300-year-old derelict building and turned it into Bici Café, a pizzeria in Ulverston, Cumbria . Pictured: The café being renovated in its early days
In the early days of their business venture, distraught Kat has to ask the cameras to stop rolling after a particularly intense fight with Guil on their first day shift at the restaurant.
At the time, the couple were exhausted from their opening night and had to start all over again, without staff. Because they had not found their work rhythm yet, the restaurant was hectic and Kat and Guil took their frustrating out on each other.
Guil, the café’s chef, took issue with the way Kat disposed of the cutlery and plates used by patrons, saying ‘there’s no system at all.’
And it wasn’t going smoothly for Kat either, who told the cameras she felt ‘s***’ about the lunch service.
‘I can’t do this every day, let’s put it that way,’ she said.
The restaurant is now an award-winning business, but the couple almost reached breaking point because of the stress of getting it off the ground
Overcome by emotions, she choked up, and an irritated Guil came over to the camera, pointing at the counter covered in dirty plates, cups and glasses.
‘There is no point blaming it on me, because I’m the one who can’t work here,’ he said.
‘I still haven’t done anything for tonight,’ he added.
‘You are very messy,’ he added, as Kat choked up and started gathering the dishes.
‘If you got that, that’s why I’m not very happy,’ she told the camera crew, before becoming tearful again.
Kat and Ben Fogle go on a bike ride. The former lawyer said that her six figure salary didn’t necessarily make her happy, but she has to think about money a lot more now
‘I don’t want to do this,’ she cried, shaking her hand before the screen went blank.
But in spite of the tension, three years on the couple were still running the restaurant and still romantically involved when Ben came to visit.
Even Kat and Guil themselves could not believe that they’d survived the test of time.
‘There was a lot of new things going on and that was incredibly stressful and challenging,’ she said, reflecting on the early days of Bici Café.
‘We still argue like cat and dog, don’t we,’ she asked Guil.
‘There’s a lot of similarities between you and I and a lot differences,’ he answered.
‘And I think it makes for a strong relationship and strong business,’ she agreed.
‘There’s always going to be ups and down and we were under a lot of pressure.’
Ben learns how to make pizza under the tutelage of Guil during his stay at Bici café (pictured)
In spite of their occasional bickering, Guil said the best moments of the past three years had been when Kat had told him, ‘I love you.
Kat had no experience in managing a restaurant and very little money to fall back on when she decided to create her own business with Guil.
She’d moved to Cumbria aged 46 after growing tired of the rat race, working for a law firm in the city and enjoying a six-figure salary. She had a comfortable life, but it did not suit her anymore, and avid cyclist Kat started dreaming of another life in the Late District.
Calling her old self ‘cash rich but time poor,’ Kat admitted that she sometimes misses the days where she had a comfortable income.
‘When you got money you think “Money doesn’t really matter, that’s not what motivates me”, and I still don’t think money motivates me but I feel I have to think about it a lot more now,’ she said
‘I am thinking about it a lot: How are we doing the business, are we making a profit, have we got a tight period of cash flow, how are we gonna manage that?’ she added.
Ben Fogle: Make a New Life in the Country airs Tuesday at 9pm on Channel 5