The trouble with success

The trouble with success – 2002 Mid April may have marked a significant turning point for many restaurateurs, their first ray of optimism for several months. 2001 was not a particularly good trading year and the last quarter saw a significant downturn in corporate entertaining and international custom, trends that carried on during the first quarter of this year. But the combination of warmer weather, the beginning for many of a new corporate financial year after 1 April and slightly improved hotel occupancy does seem to have heralded an upswing….






The role of the restaurateur

The role of the restaurateur – 2002 The first of what I hope will be many columns for Business Life – which I intend to make as fun and didactic as possible – gives me the opportunity to make a confession. Because, or in spite, of having spent the past 20 years in and around the restaurant trade, as restaurateur, columnist and consultant to several arts organisations keen to improve their food, wine and service, I do not have a favourite restaurant. This is not because I am difficult to…






Trying to open a restaurant in London

Trying to open a restaurant in London – 2002 No chef in the UK is better placed to dream of opening his own restaurant than 23-year-old Brett Graham. Three weeks ago he walked off with the Young Chef of the Year award, testimony to his innate skills honed by two and a half tough years in the prestigious kitchens of The Square, Mayfair. Yet Graham is the first to admit that this is likely to remain a pipedream. ‘I am on £30,000 a year and unable to save a penny…






Will Ricker

Will Ricker – 2003 I first saw Will Ricker as he bounded down the stairs of E&O (Eastern and Oriental), his highly successful Notting Hill restaurant, and disappeared into the kitchen. We spoke on the morning we were due to meet at Eight over Eight, his latest pan-Asian restaurant in the King’s Road. Would I excuse him, he asked, as a chef had not turned in and he was going to have to work at the Great Eastern Dining Rooms, his Hoxton restaurant? We finally met at a table outside…






Carluccio’s rapid rise

The story of Carluccio’s rapid rise – 2007 Next Thursday March 8th Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio will host a rather poignant dinner for friends and colleagues at the Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden. Once a gastronomic landmark, it has been their professional home for the last 30 years but the end of the lease marks the imminent end of the restaurant and their food shop next door. However, thanks to Peter Webber, who will be sitting there quietly but with his ultra-professional eye on the food and service, the…






The Fat Duck and how it’s run

The Fat Duck and how it’s run – 2007 As managing director of The Fat Duck in Bray, for which its chef Heston Blumenthal has justifiably won three Michelin stars and worldwide recognition, Tony Baker has one of the most enviable jobs in the restaurant world. But one that he arrived at via a most unusual route. Although today many chefs have attained celebrity status their ascent to this questionable position is very different from the sportsmen or artists whose company they are now often seen in. To make a…






Danny Meyer

Danny Meyer; New York’s most prestigious restaurateur – 2003 Before lunch with Danny Meyer, New York’s, if not America’s most respected restaurateur, at Tabla one of his five restaurants, I watched him make his way across the room greeting regular customers, pumping flesh as effortlessly as any political candidate, but far more sincerely. An hour later a woman approached our table, shook Meyer by the hand, told him what a good lunch she had just enjoyed and then turned to me exclaiming, ‘I don’t know what you have done to…






How to set up a restaurant

How to set up a restaurant – 2002 Makeovers, in which experts redesign other peoples’ gardens, bedrooms and lounges, may be the current fad on television, but in the restaurant business they are a long established fact of business life. For years failed sites have excited new blood, whether in the shape of established professionals or hopeful newcomers, with the prospect of immediate success where others have struggled. The late Peter Langan wove his magic on the closed Coq d’Or and it burst into life as Langan’s Brasserie, whilst the…






Le Caprice’s Personable Jesus

Le Caprice’s Personable Jesus – 2009 Jesus Adorno’s management style is one reason why London’s Le Caprice receives so few complaints every year. As soon as I navigated the revolving door at Le Caprice in London’s St. James’s, I came face to face with Jesus Adorno, a permanent attraction of this restaurant since 1981. Adorno, who began here as a waiter 27 years ago and is now its Director, was standing at the bar doing several things simultaneously with seemingly consummate ease. He was talking to a customer lunching on…






Alcohol and its dangers

The restaurant business’s greatest occupational hazard – 2007 Over a cup of tea and a cinnamon bun, for which the recently opened Nordic Bakery in Soho’s Golden Square run by former Finnish ice hockey player Jali Wahlsten is becoming increasingly renowned, Jon Spiteri looked across the table at me and said, “I bet I know a lot more successful sober restaurateurs than you do.” Spiteri’s emphasis was on the word sober, meaning non-drinking, because for the last hour he had talked about his own personal battle with being an alcoholic…