The 32-year-old manager of the Dysart Petersham, combines a love of music with training to run his establishment to create the perfect life for himself. He spoke to Janie Manzoori-Stamford
How did you find your way into the hospitality industry?
During my school and university holidays I worked behind the bar. When we heard that the pub was going to be sold, we made a family decision to buy it.
What are you doing now and how did you get there?
I am now running the Dysart Petersham and I love it. I have continued to work my way up and around the business, gradually learning to understand all the different details. My degree is in music, so I was always adamant that music would be a major theme within the restaurant.
With our classical recitals from some of the most outstanding young musical talent in the country and the fabulous live music we have in the evenings, I am combining my training with a job I love.
Did you know right away this industry was for you?
I love the interaction with people; I enjoy wine, good food and interesting produce. As soon as I started work in the old pub, I realised that I really enjoyed the
social side of the industry. The fact that I am now able to earn my living by engaging with interesting people, putting together unusual food and wine matches, and helping to enhance and share people's celebrations and special events, is something which I still find hard to believe.
What training opportunities have you been given?
Most of my training has been 'on the job', so to speak, and a lot of my knowledge has come from challenging myself - every time I take a sip of a new wine I analyse it before allowing myself to enjoy it and every time I try a new ingredient or dish I quiz the chef on all the details.
Our head chef Kenneth Culhane and I regularly visit our suppliers and also new and exciting restaurants. Whenever I travel, I seek new wines (and beers) for our drinks list.
Have you had a mentor to help you along the way?
My parents have been my mentors; they saw an opportunity for the family, which has given us all enormous pleasure - and of course, sometimes angst! They
are both involved in the business on a day-to-day basis, but leave me very much in charge. They are there when I need them and have been lynchpins in the success of our business to date.
The most important thing they have taught me, and the most important trait for any restaurateur, in my opinion, is attention to detail - keeping the highest of
standards with everything, whatever type of place you run.
What's the most rewarding day you've had in your career?
Closing our restaurant for the day to host my wedding was a rewarding and proud day in more than just my personal life. For one day I was able to switch off
from being the manager, and to enjoy the Dysart in full swing as a guest.
What do you love most about your job?
There are so many wonderful aspects, but the thing that stands out for me is the feeling we currently have of our whole team, led by me and Kenneth, working
towards being as good as we possibly can be. Putting a team of people together who share this ethos is difficult, and then doing the yards to make it happen is
even harder. It is wonderful when it starts to feel like it is working!
What do you hope to achieve in your career in the future?
To be honest, I am already really happy running a small, customer-focused, high-quality establishmentwith a team that shares my ideals. I hope to continue the
excellent working and creative relationship I have with our head chef and take the Dysart Petersham to the best level it can reach.
Do you think TV shows help or hinder when it comes to recruiting new young talent?
Some, like Michel Roux's Service with Fred Sirieix, which demonstrated that the front of house side of the industry might be equally rewarding and of course
as challenging as the kitchen, was excellent. I don't like shows that sensationalise and portray chefs as aggressive and loud - that's not necessary in a well-run, professional kitchen. In fact, I don't see how it is possible to communicate any passion, thoughtfulness and vigour - some of the most important attributes in hospitality - in an atmosphere such as that.
Would you recommend the industry to others?
Absolutely! The old adage, find a job you enjoy and you'll never have to do a day's work in your life, certainly rings true with me.