If you think being a restaurateur is all about cooking in the kitchen, you may be surprised to learn just how many skills you need to run a restaurant and how many plates you need to keep spinning at the same time (metaphorically of course!)
To give you a peek behind the scenes at Meejana we’ve managed to pin owners Rita & Edward down and ask them a few questions about what it’s really like to run a restaurant in 2018.
What is the first job you do when you get in in the morning?
Rita: I make myself a coffee – I absolutely must have coffee before anything else.
Edward: Usually email and a quick check-in on social media. Or straight into meetings!
Millions of people watch and love Masterchef and see the creative culinary skills needed to be a chef – but what other key skills do you need?
Organisation is key – you have so many things to keep on top of – expiry dates, food logs, hygiene requirements, stock control and rotation, catering quotes and management. Good communication skills are essential too as you’re working with people day-in, day-out. You need to stay focused and be able to communicate effectively with the team. There’s a great outline over at Chef Bible on just this topic.
Can you tell us all of the other jobs you have to do during the day – apart from the actual cooking?
Aside from the items above, as a business owner, you have all the ‘business’ to manage too – HR, suppliers, invoices, marketing, IT, maintenance, compliance, R&D, insurance, rent reviews, etc. The list grows every day!
How involved are you with the creation of the menus?
Rita: As the owner, and executive chef, I design the menus – it’s a wonderful part of the job. There are so many fabulous ingredients in Lebanese cooking – you can be really creative.
What is your favourite dish to prepare?
Rita: I would say the salads. We’re famous for them as we have such an interesting and large selection. It’s also good to create more involved dishes from time-to-time. And I also love baking.
I think people are aware that restaurateurs work long and often unsociable hours – is this true and how many hours do you actually work, and does it bother you?
As a restaurant owner, it can be 80+ hours a week. Sometimes I think it would be nice to work fewer hours, but as a business owner (in any industry) you need to do what you need to do. And when you’re doing what you love it doesn’t really feel like work.
What is it about Lebanese food that you love?
It’s variety and freshness.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a restaurateur?
Rita: I have always wanted to run a restaurant since I was little – it was always what I was going to do.
Edward: It was more of a progression for me. I have a strong events background and, having worked on a number of websites for high-profile Lebanese restaurants in London when I ran my own web business, it was a natural, if unusual, combination of my skills.
How many staff are you responsible for and do you get involved in their training?
We have a small team which fluctuates as is usual in hospitality. We can have up to about 10 people at any one time and we train them all, supported by the longer-serving members as needed.
What is the favourite part of your job?
Creating great food, including new menu ideas. And seeing people happy with what we create and their experience at the restaurant. In a Lebanese household, food is at the very centre and sharing it is one of the great joys for the family. I love the fact that I have the opportunity to share this wonderful cuisine with so many people.
What is the least favourite part of your job?
Going to market in the middle of winter. 5 am in the open air is not fun!
What is the last job you do at night?
Usually, emails or some research and ordering products for the next day.
Finally – what advice would you give to any aspiring chefs out there.
Be prepared for long hours and stepping up to cover other employees who aren’t serious about their jobs (and who can just disappear overnight). Learn how to be organised and stay cool under pressure but never lose the passion. Enjoy the good times and remember to live a little alongside the work. If you’re dedicated, you can go far and have some amazing experiences along the way.