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Richard Walton – My Life in Hospitality

26 November 2009 by
Richard Walton – My Life in Hospitality

Richard Walton is the executive chef and hospitality manager at Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Café in Leeds.

Richard Walton never had a burning desire to work in the industry. Instead, his love for it came through learning his trade and finding he was good at it.

Having left school at 16, he originally wanted to be an engineer, but back in the late 1980s the industry was going through tough times so he took a summer job cooking for lorry drivers and found he really enjoyed it. In fact, it prompted him to sign up for a City and Guilds course at the local college.

"I was inspired by people, found I was good at cooking and enjoyed the work. It was a gradual process of finding my niche," Walton explains.

"By the time I came out of college my passion had been fired and I really wanted to work in restaurants."

His career highlights include being part of the opening team at Quaglino's, which he describes as "a real proving ground and amazing experience" as well as being part of the brigade that catered for G7 ministers at Ripley Castle in 1995, when the whole village was closed off for security purposes.

These experiences led him to believe wholeheartedly in getting work experience at the best places you can and finding people who can inspire and help you along the way.

"You have to ask yourself what you can learn from them and not go for a job just because there's a great name there. Do a bit of research and think about where you're going," he advises.

Now at management level, Walton's advice is to let people make mistakes.

"It took me about 15-20 years to be a good cook but it'll take forever to learn to manage people," he says.

"The most important thing is looking after them and helping them advance, which is why you have to let them make their own mistakes. Otherwise they'll never learn and progress."

HIGHS… Winning the Springboard Award for the Harvey Nichols apprenticeship scheme was great as it was peer recognition for what we had been doing. It was a team award but I'd been involved in designing the concept, setting it up and carrying it through and it worked really well; it was a proud moment.

Another high has been getting the head chef job here at Harvey Nichols. It's a prestigious job in the area and there's a lot of responsibility for the brand and the place and also for pushing the standards of the city. It felt like a great achievement to get it.

LOWS… I took a sabbatical when I was 20 and thought I'd try my hand at something non-hospitality related.

A friend and I went into business with this guy selling alarms. We were young and naïve and the aim was to sell and fit alarms in people's homes and make a pile of cash.

We had to cold call houses, and the first day we were outside we thought it was better than sweating in a hot kitchen, but it was the most soul-destroying thing ever.

After the first couple of days we realised how awful it was, packed our van and drove back to London pretty damned quick!

Age 40
Family Married with two sons
Favourite holiday A traditional beach holiday with the children and a bucket and spade and rock pools
Drives Volkswagen Touran
Motto Try hard to do that bit better in everything you do

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Great Eastern hotel, London
Anna's Place, London
Quaglino's, London
Ripley Castle, North Yorkshire
Harvey Nichols, Leeds

RECESSION-BUSTING TIP

Work on your customer service. They're still there; the world hasn't deserted restaurants, but you need to raise your game and really take care of people. Also talk to suppliers and partners and work with them on prices or contra deals to help each other. We're all in the same boat.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.

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