General Manager, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie
- What was your favourite subject at school? PE and rugby in particular were my saviour educationally. To play for the school rugby team there was an attendance clause – if you didn’t turn up to study you didn’t get to play for the team at the weekend. I didn’t ‘love’ school but I did love rugby so it kept me in class and got me through my ‘O’ levels. History and Classical Studies were my favourites in the classroom. This was mainly down to the teachers – Des Shaw and Geoff Stewart who were great educators and were easy to respect and learn from.
- What was your first job? – In preparation for college, I got a summer job as a kitchen assistant in the Freemasons Hall in York that I continued part time when I started my Catering College course. My Yorkshire Puddings were legendary!
- Which is your favourite restaurant /hotel?- This could be a very long answer as I have different categories of ‘favourite’. If painted into a corner, I think the best single meal experience I’ve had was at Benu in San Francisco. It was 2 star Michelin at the time (since promoted to 3 stars) and every course was stunning – and felt completely unique to Corey Lee. I’ve eaten many brilliant meals where you can see a link to another restaurant or chef. Benu felt like a cuisine that only Corey Lee could have created – hugely imaginative, personal, creative and ultimately delicious to eat. The service and sommelier in particular were brilliant – the perfect 360 degree package. Hotel wise would be Les Prés d’Eugénie – Michel Guerard’s fabulous hotel, spa and restaurant. It’s been a reference point for the duration of my time at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie as it was Andrew’s inspiration from the start of his career. I stayed and ate there this summer and I could see so much of what inspired Andrew and what is part of our restaurant’s DNA They’ve held 3 Michelin Stars since 1977 – that’s mind blowing to think that they have maintained that level of culinary excellence for 45 years.
- How do you inspire your team – I’ve never seen myself as particularly inspirational, but I hope all my colleagues see a committed, passionate, honest and hard-working colleague who loves what he does. Integrity is really important to me – doing the right thing, making the right decisions for the right reasons and a team focused outlook all play a part in the style of manager I want to be.
- Which person in hospitality have you most admired / inspired you?- I don’t think anyone reading this will be surprised by my answer, but I hold Andrew Fairlie in the highest possible regard. I’ve enjoyed my career from the start and worked and learnt from many people, but maybe it’s a time and place thing, but meeting Andrew when I did was a critical point of my career and life. Andrew allowed me to flourish. He had all the qualities I needed from my employer and packaged in a personality that I respected and enjoyed being around. He was a craftsman in the kitchen, a great leader but who made sure there was room for our input. He had an intensity that could bore into your soul, but he was tuned into what made me tick, and brought out the best in me.
- How do you manage your stress levels? – Honestly? Badly! I’ve been a worrier all my life and keeping that aspect of my personality in check has been a lifelong challenge. Harnessing that nervous energy is part of my success-it’s a motivator and drives me to succeed. I’m aware how negative it can be too when the balance is wrong. Me at my worst has been when I’ve managed the relationship badly and let the stress overtake me – I’m much more aware of it in my maturity and handle it better these days
- Instagram, Twitter or Facebook – and why? – Instagram as I love the visual, and Facebook for keeping in contact with friends. I really struggle with Twitter for its endless bombardment – feels like white noise
- If you had not gone into hospitality, where do you
think you would be now? – I genuinely can’t imagine doing anything else – maybe running a little record store with endless crates of dusty vinyl to rummage through, populated by old soul music geeks looking for a hidden gem.
- What did you do on your last days off? – Trawled through some antique stores, and then home to cook some Moules Mariniere and open a bottle of wine with my beloved.
- What do you do to relax, to support your wellbeing? – I’ve loved soul music since my teens -playing it, looking for vinyl, and dancing to it. I love the fact that no-one in my professional life understands it and no-one in my other life cares what I do professionally, so there is no overlap at all. Music provides a complete escape. That can be as simple as hearing a record to tune out completely, losing myself in hunting for a rare record, or best of all dancing to a great record in an atmospheric little dive surrounded by other likeminded people who are doing the same.