Anthony Flinn, executive chef, Anthony’s, Leeds
I had the vision for Anthony’s well before we opened. I’d always wanted somewhere small and knew exactly what it should look like, right down to the sign outside. We opened in 2004, when I was 24. In our second week the Yorkshire Post gave us a top review, and we were packed out after that. It was like Saturday night every night, but there was only me and one other lad in the kitchen. Now we’ve got five in the brigade and we work to more of a happy medium.
Obviously, working at El Bulli for two years was a massive inspiration. It opened my eyes, and I grew up a lot. But nearly four years and three sites later, I think we’ve proved our own worth. Molecular gastronomy is an old term for an old style what we do is modern creative food. The first two months, you’re thinking, “Have we pitched the menu right?” but we set our stall out early on, food-wise, and we’ve stuck to our guns ever since.
When you think that most places shut in their first year, staying open is the best accolade we could ever have. We don’t sit back and think we’re fantastic, though – it’s important to stay two steps ahead. In 2005 we opened the all-day brasserie we’ve opened a pâtisserie, and we’re launching our home-made chocolates range next year. Nothing’s luck. If you don’t put in the hours, building the brand and reputation, you don’t achieve.
I think every chef questions himself at some point. At 19, my friends were earning more than me and driving nice cars, while I was working all hours, waking up in my chef’s trousers and getting my arse kicked from pillar to post for not much pay. I just thought, “What am I doing this for?” Then I got promoted, and things got better. I don’t have any real career regrets or “wish I’d never done that”. Lows are more about getting decisions wrong. If customers don’t go for something I’m convinced will work, it’s a personal thing.