So you’re back at D&D again?
Yes. I had a great time at Park Chinois, in Mayfair. It's a stunning restaurant, maybe the best looking in London right now. It’s completely over the top. However it’s a small business. It was nice to do something different, but it just so happened that D&D came back to me and asked me to come back as ops director. It was a no brainer.
What does your new role entail?
There are 40 restaurants under D&D, and two ops directors. We've divided the estate in two, and we look after 20 restaurants each. My day-to-day job is to ensure that the 20 restaurants are running efficiently, profitably, and at the standard expected for D&D.
Why did you leave D&D in the first place?
I was feeling ambitious, and wanted to do a bit more than just managing two restaurants. At the time, the role I have now at D&D didn't exist. I was hungry to be a director, but it was impossible. So I left, on great terms, to go somewhere where I could find that job.
You went to Big Easy…
Yes. The gentleman who owned Big Easy really sold me the concept. When I joined there was a huge expansion plan and we were about to open a lot of sites. The product was interesting and had huge potential. The expansion would have been great. Fairly quickly I realised that it would not happen, and one of the main reasons I joined was for that. I said “listen , that's not going to work for me,” and I resigned.
How did you get into restaurants?
I'm from Lyon. Most of my family are in the restaurant trade so from a very young age I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I went to hotel school in Switzerland. Once I graduated I came to London straight away and started working for Conran (now D&D London)
How did you end up working with Gordon Ramsay?
I was working on the floor in a restaurant and he was dining there. He approached me and asked if I knew who he was. At the time, honestly, I was a French guy, who wasn't watching TV and who didn't really know much about English chefs. I was really uninterested and said I didn’t know who he was. He said: “look, I like your style, I like the way you move in the room”, and asked if I’d like to work for him. He told me to go to Claridge's the next day, so I did, and we had a quick interview and he offered me the restaurant manager job there.
You worked at a number of Ramsay’s other restaurants…
Yes I worked for him in the US. I was gobsmacked when he asked me to oversee his two New York restaurants. I wasn’t even 30 at the time. Then from there, the TV shows happened. It was crazy.
Was your time with Ramsay as intense as it appeared on the small screen?
Yes. What you saw on TV was pretty much what used to happen in our restaurant. Gordon doesn't really change because of the cameras. He is very full on, very expressive, and if he had something to say he would tell you straight away. He was very well respected as a result of that. It was a really great time in my life. People recognised me, but it wasn't really about that. It makes people aware of what you do and it opens doors. Fred Sirieix has pushed it much further than I did though. He’s doing extremely well, and good on him.
It’s good for front of house to get some exposure…
Yes. We always saw chefs as the rock stars, but maybe it’s time to put the front of house on the stage instead of talking about the kitchen all the time.
What do you think makes a good or a bad maître d'?
The key to being a good maître d' is to anticipate the guest's needs. Good service is when you don't see the service: when people look after all your needs without you actually realising that they are doing so. As soon as you start to look for service, it means its lacking somewhere, because you need attention. A good maître d will be able to organise the service to achieve that.
What have been the highs and lows of your career?
I'm a positive person, and when bad things happen I just move on, so I don't focus on low points. My time with Gordon Ramsay was unreal. The TV shows, going to New York, all the travelling, the private parties for the Beckhams… we did parties for everyone. It was all absolutely great. That was a high, but being back at D&D is definitely another highlight because it’s a tough job, for a very professional company. I start next month. I'm looking forward to it.