Thasanee Robinson: Career Profile

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Thasanee Robinson, investment banker turned chef turned restaurant manager
Thasanee Robinson, investment banker turned chef turned restaurant manager
Thasanee Robinson, originally from Thailand, began her hospitality career as a trainee chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation and remained in the kitchen for several years before deciding to switch to front-of-house. She is currently general manager at Theo Randall at the InterContinental in London.

How I got to where I am now: 

I first started my career in the industry as an apprentice chef for Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation in 2002. I stayed there as a chef until 2005 when I qualified to have a scholarship to work abroad. I was sent to Italy and then Paris where I got a job working for Jean Georges Vongerichten as chef de partie.  

Jamie’s food is really rustic so it was difficult moving from that environment to a Michelin-starred environment. It was a huge change and I didn't speak French either so it was very challenging, you realise that there are a different set of skills you need to work in a Michelin-starred kitchen. 

I worked for Vongerichten for a couple of years and then spent a summer working for a family in France.

Then Jamie was commissioned by Channel 4 to do a new show called Jamie’s Chef in 2007 where one trainee could get the chance to open their own restaurant. We were put through our paces to see if we’d be ready to do it and had extensive training with Nick Jones of Soho House.

I was only a runner up in the competition but as I’d been working with Nick, he offered me a front-of-house position at Soho House. I was better suited to front-of-house, so I changed from being a chef to a restaurant floor manager.

I did the opening for Soho House’s High Road House in Chiswick, then went on to do Shoreditch House before going out to work at Cecconi’s in West Hollywood. While I was in LA I got back in touch with Jean Georges who was about to open Spice Market in London and was looking for staff.

When I went back to work for him he didn’t realise I was now working front-of-house, not as a chef, but fortunately he offered me a restaurant manager job at Spice Market in the W Hotel.

I was there for over a year before I got offered the general manager position at Theo Randall. There’s a lot more responsibility in this job, but Theo is great to work for.

I think working both back and front-of-house really helped me to develop very quickly. I have moved up in a very short space of time and I think it is partly due to the fact I understand how a kitchen operates. I understand what it’s like if front-of-house overbooks the restaurant for example and the pressure it can put on the kitchen. I have gone through it all in a very organic way so it’s really helped me in my career.

My greatest achievement:

Was how I started my career. I worked in investment banking before I was a chef – I started there when I was 18 and I hit the market when it was really booming.

I worked there for two years before deciding to train as a chef. It was a big leap – I went from earning six figures sums to £75 a week, so I’m proud of myself for making that change and financial sacrifice to do what I really loved to do.

My biggest challenge

Giving up a career to do something I’m hugely passionate about, but coming a close second would have to be opening Spice Market in London. Openings are difficult by their nature. However, Spice Market was my eighth opening so I’d had experience, but it was very challenging. Our company was based in New York but we were opening a brand new property in London so there was the distance between us and also Jean Georges has a huge following, so the expectation was great. I felt an enormous pressure to get it all right.

My advice to those seeking success in the industry

Would be to stick with something you’re passionate about – whether that’s wines, or food or taking care of people. Stick with that and do every position that’s related to that.

To be a good restaurant manager you have to want to take care of people and see them enjoying themselves. A few years ago I thought to myself ‘what is it I love most about being a chef?’ and it was watching the enjoyment on someone’s face when they were eating a dish I’d made. For me it was more about the enjoyment than actually cooking the food myself, so I realised I wouldn’t be able to witness that from the kitchen. I just wanted to make people feel special when they came into the restaurant.

Related topics: Restaurant, Hotel, People, Profiles

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