How I Got Here: Raz Helalat

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with Razak Helalat who runs The Salt Room and The Coal Shed restaurants in Brighton and London

Related tags: Restaurant, Brighton, London

Razak Helalat runs The Salt Room and The Coal Shed in Brighton and a further The Coal Shed at London’s One Tower Bridge development. This weekend the latter will launch a 60s-style Surf 'n’ Turf brunch menu featuring Himalayan salt-aged sirloin and ‘nduja with mussels.

Why restaurants?
By chance, I had dropped out of university to pursue a career in music production. I dipped in and out of bars and restaurants whilst working and running clubs. I’ve always enjoyed good food & wine and found there was a massive gap in the offering in Brighton. That’s when I used this opportunity to open somewhere where I wanted to eat.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
When I first opened The Coal Shed Brighton, I realised the importance of time managing staff, training and developing the team and the relationships between each other. When I opened The Salt Room and The Coal Shed London this is something I really tried to focus on.

What do you do in your spare time?
I really enjoy spending time with family and friends doing a variety of activities such as eating, socialising and travelling.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
I have so many favourite restaurants and groups it is hard to choose, but Corbin & King, JKS and Ennismore would be my chosen favourites. I love their diversity; you can learn a lot from them and how they approach the restaurant industry.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
I can’t imagine not working in restaurants. It is something I have always wanted to be immersed in, so I couldn’t imagine not working in the industry!

What motivates you?
I’m a perfectionist, which sometimes has its challenges, but I always give each task and situation as much motivation and concentration as I can.

Where was your last holiday?
Malta with the family. My wife is Maltese, and it is our home away from home; we try to visit at least once a year. I love eating the salt-baked wild seabass there, it is so delicious!

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
My father-in-law, Don Camilleri, has helped me from the very beginning. He was development director at Center Parcs, and built and designed each site so has a wealth of knowledge. Also Ben Mckeller from the Gingerman Restaurant Group in Brighton, and Joe Wadhams (business development director at Hallgarten Wines). They have all been my sounding board and my support through the years, and I cannot thank them enough.

What keeps you up at night?
My children… not through choice I might add. On a serious note, though, climate change is very worrying.

Worst business decision?
Buying a second-hand coffee machine when we first opened.

Best business decision?
Opening The Coal Shed in Brighton. It was such a successful opening, and was the catalyst for us to open The Salt Room and The Coal Shed London. 

What are you reading at the moment?
I recently read There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years​ by Mike Berners-Lee.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Don’t be scared to go for it! If you have a clear enough vision and drive, you can achieve what you want.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
That the profession of hospitality in the UK can be better recognised as a standalone career like it is in Europe.

Your CV to date

Born: Iran, 1973

Studied: Financial Economics at City University in London, but dropped out after year 1

Worked at various leading restaurants and bars in Brighton before opening The Coal Shed in 2011

Related topics: People, Profiles

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