Pierre Victoire started in a shitty little former coffee shop on Edinburgh’s Victoria Street. It was actually originally Rue Victoire but it turns out the Scottish aren’t great at pronouncing the word rue.
Franchising restaurants is difficult, that’s why there aren’t a huge number of franchise schemes in the casual dining market. The model is at its best in less creative fields.
The menus at the Pierre Victoires weren’t the same, it was the pricing and the range of dishes. I wrote 525 recipes, 20 soup recipes, 15 halibut recipes and so on. Most followed them, but some went off piste.
If I hadn’t been a chef I would have been a scientist. I can see myself as some sort of mad professor.
I’m a big fan of Thai and Malaysian cooking. There aren’t any decent places for that in Edinburgh so I cook it myself. I like the level of detail and finesse, it’s a complicated cuisine that takes a long time to master.
The second Pierre Victoire doubled the turnover of the last but people complained that it wasn’t the same. It’s very important to try to duplicate the atmosphere, not just the food. That’s something a lot of chain operators get wrong.
In 1993 we had 10 restaurants then it exploded. We grew to 147 restaurants in five years, some months we’d open four new sites. We had a waiting list of franchisees.
I swore I’d never do a restaurant again after the collapse. I lasted about seven years.
I still like cooking but I’m on the floor now, I’m going to be 52 soon and the kitchen is tiring. I like squashing people in to the restaurant and making some money.
The first dish I ever cooked was corned beef hash with mashed potatoes, I think I was about nine. I still remember it very vividly, and it was absolutely delicious.
I’ve shut a fair few restaurants, but the upside of that is you get to know the signs when things aren’t working and hopefully you can do something about it.
Chez Jules is an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the first Pierre Victoire. It’s cheerful and scruffy and we turn tables like nobody’s business. It’s a rough restaurant with an unvarnished floor and bench seating. That’s trendy now and it was trendy in 1988.
We started at about the same time as Café Rouge. They offered to buy me out in 1992 but we fell out. They were all accountants and I’m a chef.
People say restaurants are complicated but it’s a basic equation: you buy food, transform it and hopefully sell it at a profit.
I like to paint in my very limited spare time. It’s fairly conceptual stuff, I do body imprints mostly.
A lot of people have written about me, nobody knows exactly what happened. If you Google me you’ll find lots of shit. I was accused of all kinds of mischief.
My last meal would be Italian: high quality handmade pasta with Bolognese sauce, followed by a perfectly cooked veal chop.