How I Got Here: Miles Kirby

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Caravan co-founder Miles Kirby on food restaurants and business

Related tags: Casual dining, Coffee, Restaurant

The New Zealand born co-founder of restaurant and coffee-roaster Caravan oversees a growing five-strong group in London.

Why restaurants?
By accident. I was on university holidays when my sister called to ask if I could help out in the kitchen of a restaurant she was working at. I showed up, washed a mountain of dishes and loved every minute. The team spirit in the kitchen was what I fell in love with. I had always been interested in food and cooking but had never considered it as a career option until that day.

What’s something you wish you’d been told at the start of your career?
Not everyone will understand the commitment and sacrifice you make as a young chef. You need to organise yourself, set goals, map out a path to success and remember to make time for family.

What do you do in your spare time?
Family, music, food, friends.
What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
Trio of East London spots: P Franco, Bright, PEG.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
I don’t understand the question.
What motivates you?
Working closely with people and sharing genuine hospitality. I get a real kick out of seeing people succeed and helping them achieve their goals.
Where was your last holiday?
St-Luc in Switzerland. Christmas skiing with friends and family.
Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Al Brown, Mike Whitfield, Arthur Pots-Dawson, Peter Gordon, Matt Burgess. Five incredible kitchen leaders and people from my past and present who have individually and collectively shaped who I am – both in the kitchen and beyond.

What keeps you up at night?
Brexit, and all the uncertainty it brings. I try to imagine it’s all just a massive April Fool’s Day joke.

What has been your worst business decision?
Buying second-hand refrigeration thinking it would save me money.
And your best business decision?
Taking the plunge to open Caravan Exmouth Market. It took every penny and every spare second, but it changed my life and I’m extremely proud of what we do every day.
What are you reading at the moment?
Legacy: What The All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business Of Life​ by James Kerr.
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Only work with ‘A’ players, take your time, don’t try to run before you can walk, give it everything you’ve got and have fun.
If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
I would like to see a national/international minimum requirement of a qualification that all staff to have to achieve in the ‘business of hospitality’ before stepping foot in a kitchen or onto a restaurant floor. Cooks and waiters need to understand why they are in the building and gain a sense of purpose as to how they can truly make a difference to someone’s day. Some restaurants are great at providing mentorship to young talent, others let great people slip through the net and never let them realise their potential. Also, I wish the industry could sustain paying people at least twice as much as they earn now.

Miles Kirby: CV
Born 1973 in New Zealand
Education: Victoria University of Wellington and Wellington College of Education,
Wellington School of Culinary Arts - completed levels 1,2 and 3 of NVQA culinary certificate
Worked for 25 years in the kitchens of some of the world’s leading chefs

Related topics: People, Profiles, Casual Dining

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