David Moore: Pearls of Wisdom

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: El bulli

David Moore believes front-of-house will become increasingly important
David Moore believes front-of-house will become increasingly important
The founding director of Pied à Terre and L’Autre Pied, as well as the six-month pop-up Pieds Nus – all in London – discusses front-of-house, the key to industry longevity, and his latest project, barbecue restaurant 160 in Hampstead. 

I predict the death of the celebrity chef and the resurrection of front-of-house.​ Years ago, a gentleman’s most important contacts were his doctor and the maître d’. Back then the food was bad but now it’s the opposite – food is good everywhere. The differential is now the front-of-house.

I’m interested in new restaurants because nobody wants to write about existing ones.​ To keep the established brands in view it’s important to push the boundaries to a new clientele. 160 will give the West End restaurants some exposure.

We enjoy what we do.​ The camaraderie we have as a team is great.

Pieds Nus is a fun concept.​ I designed it myself. Had it not been a pop-up and I’d paid a £100,000 premium and £50,000 rent I would have never attempted to do the design, but because it was a low cost of entry we could afford to fuck it up. It was a really nice experiment [it closes on 11 March].

I get a real thrill in opening something new​; it’s not just for commercial reasons. The adrenaline really gets going.

160 is a big, 90-cover barbecue restaurant​ that will open in the first two weeks of March. It’s named after the temperature the smoker runs at.

The service at El Bulli was exquisite​. Despite it being the best restaurant in the world all the staff were so humble. I’d have gone back even if the food was crap.

People said L’Autre Pied would cannibalise the business at Pied à Terre​, but people who went there didn’t even know it existed. It created a lot of new customers.

We rely massively on our regulars​. More than half of our customers at Pied à Terre are people who come back time and time again. 

I planned on being a chef but I had a very bad experience working at a resort hotel in Blackpool​. Everything was overcooked. It didn’t inspire, so I went back to college and did a release placement at The Box Tree in Ilkley [West Yorkshire]. The chef there told me that if I was interested in restaurants I should go to work at Le Manoir.

I cannot tell you what makes a three-Michelin-star restaurant. But there is nothing wrong with being a really good two-star restaurant and that’s what we task ourselves with. Hopefully Pied à Terre will regain a second star [it won it in 1996 but lost it in the 2012 guide].

Everything we do at Pied à Terre is different.​ When we pair wine with food we don’t tell the customer what it is. We do this because you engage more with the wine if you don’t know what you’re drinking – you are more analytical of it.

Service in the US is too overplayed. ​In France they rest on their laurels.

A lot of places are waking up to the fact that​ they can’t rely on a Michelin star any more for success.

Before I joined Le Manoir as a waiter I saw Raymond Blanc on Take Six Cooks, ​one of the very first celebrity chef TV programmes. His restaurant manager was talking about a restaurant being like an opera, and I was hooked.

Pied à Terre has been open for 22 years and it has changed massively over this time.​ I’m a kid from Blackpool and don’t know how it got to be an established restaurant. It has sneaked up on us a bit.

Back in the mid-80s there wasn’t anywhere else like Le Manoir​. If you were a talented chef you’d beat a path there. I was there with Michael Caines, Paul Heathcote and Bruno Loubet in the kitchen because there was no other place like it at the time.

At one stage we were sitting around waiting for our third star at Pied à Terre ​and it meant we didn’t do a lot of other things. We were just consolidating all the time. But it never came, which is why Shane [Osborn, the former head chef] left.

I like to bring talent forward in the business and create opportunities for people.​ They think ‘if David Moore likes what I do maybe he’ll back me’. I can’t do it for everybody, but it’s why we attract good chefs.

Related topics: People, Pearls of Wisdom, Interviews

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