Your two Michelin-star restaurant Hibiscus is celebrating 15 years. How do you feel about that?
I opened Hibiscus when I was 27 and when you put the numbers together it has gone very quickly. I feel old but I have loved every minute. It has been an interesting 15 years as we had the business in Ludlow and we moved half way through in 2007 to try again in London.
Why did you relocate the restaurant?
I just wanted a new challenge and I am a big believer in pushing yourself. I found myself living a life where I needed a push. I was young and needed a new challenge to try something knew. A lot of people said I was mad to do it as I could lose everything. I tried to satisfy my own ego or my own satisfaction, whatever you can call it, but I said do it.
How do you keep things fresh after 15 years?
I just love it and I love working. I have a great fiancée and great kids but I love coming to work. I love being here in the morning and I love the customers at the restaurant, having a talk with them and clearing dishes.
For people in my situation you have to enjoy what you are doing. I always want to try new dishes and new flavours and I am a big believer that anything goes. I love classics with modern touches and that is how we describe our food at Hibiscus.
I am French and I try to keep some of the classics, but a bit more modern. It is the same philosophy to respect the produce, respect the quality of what you are doing and respect the customer. That is that what I have being doing for the last 15 years.
How have you managed to fight off the challenge of the rise of casual dining?
I would like to know what the difference is between casual dining and fine dining? Does one mean the food is crap and the other one the food is good? At the end food is food and we try to do our food properly.
We obviously have to adapt of course. We redesigned the restaurant a few years ago and it is bit louder and buzzier than you might expect from a two Michelin star restaurant.
But what is the different between fine and casual?
I have never really understood what the difference is as we are serving food. We are serving meat and vegetables every day in the best way we can.
How have you adapted and innovated at Hibiscus over the past 15 years?
You have to adapt to what people want. At lunchtimes we had to provide individual pricing for dishes instead of a set menu. Customers can come and have one course if they want to. We couldn’t fix the set menu for lunch as people did not want to spend the money at £49.50 for four courses. You can’t book a table for two hours anymore as people want to know they can come to a Michelin-starred restaurant and have one or two courses.
Hibiscus is a restaurant and we are here for our customers. If you want to survive for so long you have to adapt yourself.
I live what I am doing and it comes naturally. But you cannot innovate every day. It could be six months and there is no innovation. But you have to see what is going on outside, have to look around and move with the times.
You also have a hotel with your brother Cedric. What's the set-up there?
My brother and I have a 10-bedroom hotel in Ludlow called the Townhouse. There is a little coffee shop five minutes walk down the road, which serves fantastic breakfasts and for any other food we send them to and see my brother at his pub the Charlton Arms. It is perfect, no staff.
What are your future plans?
Fifteen years has gone quickly and so will another 15 years.
I was talking with a friend about retirement and I saw this chef in France who is 70 and still cooking. But it is not just about cooking it is about the restaurant, the customers and the service. I love it so much I can see myself going on and on. I will keep the restaurant as busy as possible for the next 15 years. We will still keep pushing and not cruising.
The day may be finished but tomorrow is a new day, with new customers and new staff. I am someone who is never satisfied, I am very British, and I always want more.