With the restaurant business, you need to understand how much hard work it is. I think a lot of people think it’s very glamorous – they come to a restaurant on a Saturday night, see it’s full and assume it’s going to be like that every night of the week. It’s not.
People have expectations when they open restaurants, even though they may have worked in other restaurants before. They think it’s a very easy thing to do, and it’s not. It’s one of the hardest professions with some of the worst hours. You really have to work hard at it and put the effort in. Anyone in the business understands that and how hard you have to work to make a restaurant successful. I’m amazed at how many restaurants are still opening and it’s a growing trend in London.
"It’s not just about watching Masterchef and thinking 'I can do that!'"
Once you start, you have this passion and love, and you think, I want to do something with that, and it takes over.
People think because they like cooking they can open a restaurant. It’s like saying “I’m quite good at maths, I can be an accountant.” But if you are given a 200-page document with accounts to do, you probably couldn’t do it. It’s not just about watching Masterchef and thinking "I can do that!"
With restaurants, you need to have an understanding of what you need to deliver, how your team is going to work, that lunch and dinner are two very different services, that every day is a completely different day. That one day, you could have wonderful fish coming in, the next day, you’re not happy with the fish and you send it back so then you’ve got to change everything on the menu. You have to be very spontaneous and you have to adapt and make sure you have a good service.
You’ve got to understand about what people want, to be able to balance the books, about margins, mark-ups and produce. All sorts of things. But at the end of the day, it’s all about how happy your guests are. If they’re happy and they’ve had a good time, they’ll come back. If they’re not happy, they won’t, as there’s so many other places they can go to. It’s the business of making people happy and that’s a wonderful thing to do.
I’ve been doing it for a long time. I’ve always loved cooking and restaurants. I was really lucky when I was a kid, we’d go out to lots of restaurants, and I just remember that passion in those restaurants – and it’s infectious. It’s something that I still love and I still get excited about being in my kitchen. I love going out and chatting to people in the restaurant and don’t feel happy unless I know I’ve done a good day’s work and that’s how it should be.
I’ve got a great team, and that’s the most important thing. It’s all about building a great team, letting them know how important they are and leading by example. It’s about having a good attitude, training your staff and making sure they succeed and giving them opportunities. It’s not just about having happy customers it’s about having happy staff.
It’s a vocation and I can’t see a day without cooking. It still gives me the same buzz as when I started out in the business, if not more. The whole thing is very addictive!