How I Got Here: Sam Lee

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with Temper restaurant group MD Sam Lee

Related tags: Temper, Restaurant, London

Sam Lee is the managing director of restaurant group Temper, which currently operates three London sites in Covent Garden, Soho and the City.

Why restaurants?
Food and drink have always been my passion, but I am a business person at heart so the opportunity to combine the both was too irresistible. Restaurants and airlines have most of my money.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Always be prepared to be let down by the most unlikely people, and don’t take it to heart.

What do you do in your spare time?
I have a 12-year-old who takes up pretty much most of my time, but so does restaurant, travel and friends. I love to laugh, so the friends part is very important.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
In a small town called Geneva NY I had one of the most creative a delicious dinner’s I’ve ever had at a restaurant called F.L.X Table. Back on home turf, I am a massive fan of a Hawksmoor scallop; I eat lots of meat, so their menu is perfect for me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
Home interior design. It’s my only creative outlet. I’ve ‘done up’ a few now; some easier than others, and some with more surprises than others. Either way I’m told that I’m not too bad at it.

What motivates you?
Success, and proving people wrong.

Where was your last holiday?
IBIZA … I’m a late starter with all that.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
My old boss Kris Gumbrell, now owner and founder of Brew Pubs and Kitchen, has had a massive impact. Savvy, smart and a true gentleman. I learned a lot from the two occasions I worked with him, and corrected some of my business approaches for the better. I learned a lot by standing back, watching, listening and shutting up.

What keeps you up at night?
Work, kids, staff, Brexit, and a Peaky Blinders box set.

Worst business decision?
Moving to Singapore and not seeing out my time with Kris on our last job.

Best business decision?
Working for myself.

What are you reading at the moment?
Boy George’s autobiography again; it’s the most honest thing I’ve ever read.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Surround yourself with people far smarter and far more talented than you.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Make false trip advisors a criminal offence.

CV to date

Born: Chesterfield, 1972

Studied: ​School and A levels, then straight to work

Employment:

  • AA as a branch manager
  • Area manager for AMT coffee
  • Area manager for Spirit pub co
  • Snr Area manager for Greene King Pub Co
  • Operations Director for Chester Boyd
  • MD for Vinopolis
  • COO for Convivial Pub Co
  • CEO Scarlet Events – Singapore
  • MD Inn or Out events
  • Ops Director Searcys
  • Owner/MD Casper and Cole – Temper Restaurants

Related topics: People

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