How I Got Here: Joe O’Connell

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with Kiwi café and restaurant brand Ozone's executive chef Joe O’Connell

Related tags: Chef, Restaurant, Café, London, New zealand

New Zealand-born chef Joe O’Connell oversees the food output and is sustainability co-ordinator for Kiwi café and restaurant brand Ozone, which recently opened its second London location in Bethnal Green.

Why restaurants?
I’ve always been attracted to the true meritocracy of the kitchen environment. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you turn up and do the job, you’re in the family.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
I wish the focus on true sustainability had been there from day one. It needs to be the driving force in everything we do, and not just an afterthought or side hustle.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
Black Axe Mangal.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
Playing the drums in a mediocre punk band, most likely.

What motivates you?
The people in our team, and proving that we can do what we do with transparency and awareness of our impact on the planet.

Where was your last holiday?
Inver Restaurant in Scotland.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I’m pretty lucky to have three chefs in Sam Scott, Mitch Phillip-Tait and Chino Salazar that are helping to drive the ethos in our kitchens and keep us on track.

What keeps you up at night?

Worst business decision?
No real clangers yet, but there's bound to be one soon, though...

Best business decision?
Investing time in the right people.

What are you reading at the moment?
GUT by Giulia Enders.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Put your head down and get stuck in. Also, don’t be a dick.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
The cost of eating out has to truly reflect the cost of running a responsible restaurant. We need buy in from our customer base to support everyone who has contributed to getting that plate of food on the table. It takes an army to do it the right way.

CV to date

Born:​ New Plymouth (New Zealand), 1988

Education:​ City and Guilds at the Wellington Institute of Technology, Petone.

2003–2004 - Commis Chef | New Plymouth RSA, Taranaki
2004–2006 - Chef de Partie | Waiau Estate winery, Taranaki
2008–2009, 2010–2012 - KP/Commis Chef/Chef de Partie | Boulcott St Bistro, Wellington
2009–2010 - Chef de Partie | Arbitrageur Wine Room,Wellington
2014 Chalet Chef | Vaujany, France
2014-present Sous Chef/Head Chef/Executive Chef & Sustainability Co-ordinator | Ozone Coffee Roasters, London & NZ

Related topics: People

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