Gideon Joffe, the 32-year-old son of Giraffe founders Russel and Juliette Joffe opened his first restaurant – MonkeyNuts – in Crouch End, North London nine years ago. The restaurateur went on to open Chez Bob in Belsize Park seven years later and he will open his third restaurant, a chicken shop called Chooks, later this month in Muswell Hill.
How I got to where I am now:
I left school at 16 and started working for my parents (Russel and Juliette Joffe) at Giraffe in Hampstead. I’d just left school and it was my first proper job. I wasn’t really interested in the business then, but I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. A year and a half later it all sort of clicked and I was manager of the Hampstead branch and then of the restaurant at Marylebone.
When I was 21 I got married and we went travelling for a year. We stopped in Australia for six months where I wanted to work for Bill Grainger. I had a few of his cookbooks and really liked what he did. I went to the restaurant and hoped they'd give me a job, but they didn't, so I ended up getting some work in a coffee shop.
Six months after we returned to the UK I opened my first restaurant in Crouch End which I called MonkeyNuts. It was named after the band I was in at the time. I was a drummer and had dreams of being a rock 'n' roll star, but it never happened. However, I always knew that if I opened a restaurant I'd call it MonkeyNuts. I did think it could become a chain. It's quite a cool concept and could work elsewhere, but I was happy with one and like being quite hands on which I'd lose if there were more.
Then, two and a half years ago I opened my second restaurant, Chez Bob in Belsize Park. I was going to make it another MonkeyNuts, but there is a Giraffe across the road and the two are quite similar, so I didn't think it would be right. Funnily enough, the site I took on was the site where my dad opened his first ever Cafe Flo (the French cafe chain Joffe senior founded and later sold) 25 years before.
Chez Bob and Monkey Nuts are quite similar - they serve different food and obviously have different names, but you can see my stamp across them both. Chooks, my new restaurant in Muswell Hill will be different in that it focuses on chicken, although we will serve other dishes like subs and salads, plus lots of things for vegetarians.
I know there are a lot of people opening chicken restaurants and the moment, it seems to be the in-thing, but then we've had Nando's around for a long time. I registered the Chooks name six years ago and it's something I've always wanted to do, I just never got round to it.
It hasn't opened yet, the builders are still in there, but if it goes well it could be a brand that could roll out. We'll see.
My greatest achievement:
Opening my first restaurant at the age of 23. You don't hear of many 23-year-olds opening their own restaurants and making them last for nine years. It hasn't been easy, but I am lucky to have had help from my parents. If you don't have that option I don't know what you do, because the banks aren't lending money at the moment.
The first six months there were hell, especially as I'd opened in an area that was very local and it can be difficult finding something that's right for a local area rather than in a busy area in central London. Opening that restaurant therefore is my greatest achievement. That, and being married for 10 years and bringing up two young children.
My biggest inspiration:
I really like Keith McNally, the man behind Balthazar in New York. I think what he’s done over there is amazing. Danny Meyer is great too. I would often go with Russel to America when I was a child, so I grew up experiencing their places when I was young.
My parents have been a great help to me too. Being a restaurateur isn't an easy occupation and I think that if my parents weren't in the business I probably wouldn't have gone into it.
If I wasn't working in hospitality....
I'd be an international rock 'n' roll star.
I don't have time to play drums any more though, not with three restaurants and two children. Besides, I was working in restaurants at the age of 15 and have never done anything else, so unless you turned back time and my parents hadn't been in the restaurant business it's unlikely I'd be working anywhere else.