Martin Blunos, executive chef, Crown Social, Cardiff, shares his business secrets
Buy quality, regional and seasonal
By that I mean the best of any region in the world as long as it’s in season. I’ll listen to people about food miles when they stop buying their 4x4s and flying away on holiday and start wearing a sack and living in a tree. The better the ingredients, the less you have to do to them, which makes your job easier.
Trust your supplier
It takes time to build up, but money can’t buy trust. If you’re starting up in a new area, start by getting recommendations and take it from there. Remember that it’s a two-way street. If the product is good, then neither you nor the supplier should want to rip the other one off. They can only screw you once because then you drop them and never use them again.
My sous chef, Lance Kirle, has been with me since he was 15 when he came up on stage at a food demo I was doing with Leslie Walters. He started out working for me in the holidays and after one year I sent him to work at various places including John Burton Race’s New Angel, and restaurants in Tuscany and Switzerland. He’s still only 23, looks young and fresh-faced, but he has the experience to support him and I know I can trust him completely in my kitchen.
Don’t dilute yourself
If you do too much in your profession you can spread yourself too thin, but if you have other interests outside of your career you come back fresher and more enthused. I shoot clay pigeons. It gets me out of the kitchen and it’s very much like golf – you walk, talk and shoot. But I always come back refreshed.
You’re only as good as the people around you
You can’t do everything yourself. The higher up the ladder you go, the less cooking you do, so you need to work on your man-management skills. Read each individual to make sure you treat them appropriately. Teach them; show them; make sure they understand and it will come back to benefit you and your business.
Good decision, bad decision
Good I was asked by the Lord Mayor of Bath to do a dinner for 225 in honour of an unknown VIP. At first I wasn’t too keen but the dinner turned out to be in honour of the Queen at her first public speech following the death of the Queen Mother. I had 16 local dinner ladies helping me and it really grounded me. They really know how to do numbers. For them it was no big deal, they got on with it while chatting about all sorts while I was busting a gut. It was an honour I’m glad I didn’t turn down.
Bad I regret never pursuing partnership deals. I always felt we should be able to do it all ourselves, but we’d have got a lot more mileage from the Lettonie brand. I naïvely thought I couldn’t look after two teams at once.
● 1987 bought and opened the first “Lettonie” Restaurant (Stoke Bishop, Bristol) with soon-to-be wife Sian
● 1989 won first Michelin star
● 1991 won second Michelin star
● 2002 cooked for and met HRH the Queen & Prince Phillip at Bath Guildhall, on her jubilee visit that year (see Good Decision)