The celebrated maître d’ at Le Gavroche for 37 years now consults for Just Great Wine, the supplier of wines from small vineyards.
Eyes are the most important tool of a maître d’s job. There is nothing better than a restaurant where you are recognised. A database is very good, but it doesn’t have the eyes of a human being or see the habits
of each customer.
I don’t miss Le Gavroche, I’ve got enough to occupy me. I spent a full week there at the start of the year and I loved it, but it was also very hard work. It’s physically very tiring to be in a restaurant like that every day.
A good maître d’ notices what’s going wrong within a second and anticipates a customer asking for something. Good service should never be seen. You only notice service when it is missing.
Unfortunately there are not enough British waiters. The image of the waiter is still Fawlty Towers’ Manuel. It’s a pity because the British are the best butlers – just not inside a restaurant.
If you are serving you don’t have to be servile. I do it for a profession, never to be a slave.
There’s been a Naked Chef and we now need a Naked Waiter to push up our profession. There are lots of TV shows about chefs, but we have plenty of British chefs, instead we need to encourage waiters into
the industry. I’m too old to do it, though – people would be scared.
My pet hates are overfilling of glasses, waiters who keep interrupting you and nosy waiters who don’t know where to stand. There’s nothing more upsetting than a waiter overhearing your conversation.
I’m not a complainer. I learnt from Albert Roux, who said if you don’t pay them don’t tell them what’s gone wrong. I try not to complain unless it’s absolutely necessary.
I’m fortunate that people recognise me and look after me in restaurants.
Christian Laval [restaurant director] at The Dorchester is the best maître d’ around London at the moment. It’s still old-fashioned service. He is not a protégé of mine, though.
If I want something doing I’ll do it myself.
The only thing I don’t like is beetroot. It’s because I ate too much of it as a kid.
I like to keep busy. I don’t want to be staying at home because I’d become a vegetable. I want my brain to keep working.
The reason I never moved from Le Gavroche was because I was treated like a partner. But I’ve been head-hunted many times.
You can’t have a great restaurant without a good, welcoming service. Restaurants can fool people for three to five years with bad service, but after that they’ll shut.
I would never drink out of a dirty glass.
I’ve always been quite tough. For me the most important thing is being fair and disciplined. If you don’t have discipline you don’t succeed, but you have to start with yourself.
I’m a season ticket holder at Chelsea. I love football.
If I was young again I would like to work for Gordon Ramsay.