Congratulations on winning the Michelin star. Has it changed anything you do?
It hasn’t changed anything we do, but it has made a big difference to the business. We’re busier and the average spend has gone up, and the staff feel secure. We’re proud of where we are. We also have some amazing people who now want to come to work for us. We have a stagiaire here for the next four months, and some brilliantly talented individuals applying for roles. We can also afford to use some amazing suppliers.
Would you say there have been any challenges?
No. I can see how if you got a Michelin star and you didn’t feel that ready for it, it would be a little terrifying. But we’ve always cooked at that level, but now we’ve just got consistency, and we’re secure with what we do.
You’ve previously said that you want to keep Trinity relatively accessible, with an average spend of £50. Has that changed now?
My perspective on that hasn’t changed. We haven’t put the prices up, but we are an à la carte restaurant, so we can charge more for some dishes. Since winning the star, we're using more high value ingredients – including sweetbreads and wild turbot – and charging for them accordingly. Average spend hasn’t gone up, but average spend on wine has gone up.
You’ve been open for 10 years, why did it take so long for Michelin to recognise you?
At first all I wanted to do was fill the dining room. But later we had the space, the kitchen, the senior people, and I thought, let’s really focus on refining what we do. And Upstairs [Byatt’s more casual restaurant above Trinity] helps us with that as it uses all the secondary products from downstairs so we reduce waste too.
(Photo: Trinity Upstairs / Trinity London)
You’re very interested in reducing waste in your restaurant…
The Upstairs restaurant plays a real role in that, because it takes the produce we don’t use downstairs. It allows us to have an outlet for those secondary goods – such as the whole chicken. We have a load of fun with that. I find it very hard to waste food.
What about creativity? When you first opened Upstairs, you were changing the menu every single day. Has that settled down now?
For sure. I don’t have the luxury of having a development kitchen, and spending two months just messing about with food before launch. For the first five-six months I cooked up here, three and half of those on my own, and it was a massive learning curve. Portion size, price, was it OK to cook with North African spices here or be more Mediterranean led...? That creativity is so important. Now, Upstairs has a genuine DNA, style; a soul. People have loved it and keep coming back.
(Photo: Trinity London)
Your businesses are all focused around Clapham; you have [the brasserie] Bistro Union too. What's the appeal of neighbourhood restaurants?
I am massively community focused, and my three restaurants appeal to the three markets here; special occasion, at Trinity; slightly younger and more casual in Trinity Upstairs, and then Bistro Union is a family restaurant, for young couples, families, and Antipodeans eating brunch at the weekends. It does hundreds of covers.
(Photo: Bistro Union)
Will you open any more restaurants in the near future?
I am sure I will, but not under my own name. I've reached a point in my career, where my role will be an investor and a mentor, not as the guy standing at the pass.
You've previously spoken about stepping away from the pass, but you haven't yet...?
I do keep saying it! The clever chef is the guy who manages to run successful restaurants and not do a great deal of work. Clearly, I'm not that smart. But I also happen to bloody love cooking. I'm also not willing to compromise or let it go to someone else yet.
(Photo: Pork belly with chorizo / Trinity Upstairs)
You have low staff turnover. How do you encourage staff to stay?
I'm proud of that. We pay reasonable money, and pastorally I think we're good. There's a shortage of good employers, not chefs. Restaurants need to wake up and smell the coffee, and realise that if you want to keep people, you've got to pay them well, and stand next to them in the kitchen. Also, I'm a good employer because I spent years being an arsehole, and I ended up scrubbing down and doing 15 shifts a week. You learn quite quickly!
How would you say the restaurant scene is changing in London now?
I'm pleased that the Nordic phase is gone - how drab! It doesn't fit in London at all. It is beautiful in Scandinavia, but leave it there for God's sake. And stop picking weeds from the street; no-one cares. People react to craft and classical techniques, not weird and wacky snacks. It's completely wrong in London. You will see great, classical French gastronomy underpinning everything, coming back. Chefs without that foundation will come unstuck.