Josie Mclean, general manager at Marcella in Deptford, London, speaks to Katie Pathiaki about her first experience in hospitality and why phrases from Fred Sirieix are embedded in her vocabulary
When did you start in the industry? What was your first job?
My first ever experience in any kind of hospitality industry was probably helping out at my mum’s friend’s café, Maison Bertaux in Soho. I remember that I would take the cakes over to people, fold crowns for the galette des rois and learn how to box up éclairs and raspberry tarts while my mum had a coffee and a chat.
From then on, that’s what I did as a way of making money as a teenager in London, throughout university and during my time living abroad afterwards.
I didn’t really take it seriously as a career until about five years ago, when I helped some friends open a café in Barcelona and I realised that I enjoyed that more than anything else I was doing alongside it.
What inspired you to start?
Was there a particular person?
I wouldn’t say that I was “inspired”, it was always just something I did and then I realised that not only was I good at it, but that I also really loved it. It crept upon me. In terms of inspiration, I’ve been really lucky to work with some inspiring people throughout my career, but I don’t think there’s any one specific person or place – I should give an honourable mention to Fred Sirieix from Galvin at Windows and Channel 4 series First Dates though, who I have been known to quote of an evening service.
Was it something you always wanted to do or did you have
a different career path in mind?
When I started as a waitress aged 18 I never even considered it as a career path, I just assumed it was a way to pay my rent. I don’t think it’s treated as a respected career when you’re not brought up in it as an industry – particularly not front of house – and nobody around me pushed me to think about it until much later.
Did anyone ever try to talk
you out of pursuing it?
I wouldn’t say anyone ever tried to talk me out of pursuing it, but I had a lot of people (and still do) ask me what I do as a “real job”, which is always slightly disheartening. Attitudes towards hospitality are definitely changing and front of house particularly is being treated with more respect and importance outside the industry, but I do think there’s some way to go. All my friends and family have been nothing but encouraging though, especially when they all realised there are some really delicious perks to visiting me at work…
What is the focus of Marcella?
Our aim is to provide delicious and affordable Italian food and drink in a relaxed environment. We really wanted to create something that felt like a proper neighbourhood restaurant mixed with an Italian cantina. Somewhere you feel comfortable bringing your mum, your date or your mates to, and where you can have a four-course Italian feast or just a bowl of pasta and a beer on your way home.
Why did you feel now was the right time to open a second site?
I think we were ready as a company for the challenge. Artusi (our first restaurant) has developed so much over the past three years and we were really happy with how that was running, so it felt like we had the time and energy to devote to another site.
What makes Marcella different?
I like to think that we’re not your typical “classic” Italian trattoria; our menu changes frequently dependant on the season and we don’t stick to a specific region which allows us to break the rules a bit more in terms of food and wine.
Have you achieved your dream?
I’m not sure I started with one. I’ll tell you when I retire.
What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
I haven’t thought that far ahead…
2015-present General manager/operations manager, Artusi and Marcella, London
2014-2015 Restaurant manager, Polpetto, London
2014 Waitress, Spuntino, London
2012-2013 Manager, Caravelle, Barcelona
2010-2012 Manager, Resolis, Barcelona
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