She spoke to BigHospitality about staffing the UK’s best kitchen, and why the culture at Barrafina is the secret to its success.
Do you feel more pressure to live up to customer’s expectations after being named the UK’s best restaurant?
From most of people, no. After winning the award we did have a few people coming in to the restaurant and saying ‘this is not what we expected’ - but it’s very rare. You still get a few people who maybe don’t understand what we do and have their own opinion, which is fine.
It seems everyone is affected by the chef shortage at the moment; do you have any issues getting staff?
It’s always difficult to get staff in a restaurant because there’s so much competition. In London there are so many restaurants opening every day that it is harder to find people.
Most of our staff are Spanish. I’d like to employ a wider range of people but we only speak in pure Spanish when it comes to service because that’s why people come in to the restaurant.
What do you look for in staff?
I look at CV’s but it’s not my priority; the main thing for me is attitude.
When you get young people who haven’t worked in many restaurants and really want to be there and really listen to you - those are the ones that will go far.
What is it about Barrafina that makes it so successful?
When people come in to Barrafina they have fun. The staff work very hard to look after the guests and explain the specials and encourage them to try different things. The interaction is what makes us so successful. It’s about having fun and listening to the customer. Not everything is going to be perfect but we listen and take in the feedback.
Barrafina is the first restaurant with a female executive chef to win National Restaurant of the Year, do you think the gender balance in kitchens is changing?
It’s changed so much and I’m so pleased. At one point at Barrafina Adelaide we had seven girls in the kitchen. Now you get ten CVs and at least three are female and it’s great. The kitchen should be fun and the girls can be friendlier. I think it’s great to have more women in the industry.
Do you think the culture in restaurants is changing for the positive?
It’s changed a lot. At Barrafina we are a collective. Front-of-house and kitchen are all in the same team. We all respect each other and there’s no difference between us, and I think the customers can feel it. That’s why people say Barrafina is so fun and that the staff are so friendly, because we make sure we are all in the same boat.