How I Got Here: Stephen Tozer

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Stephen Tozer co-founder of London-based kebab restaurants Le Bab, Maison Bab and Kebab Queen

Related tags: Stephen Tozer, Restaurant, Kebabs, Casual dining

Stephen Tozer is the co-founder of London-based kebab restaurants Le Bab, Maison Bab and Kebab Queen.

Why restaurants?
Because I have dreamt about having a restaurant since I was about 10 years old (I've cooked all my life).

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
I genuinely feel like any serious level of elucidation early on might have killed the journey, and the journey has been a beautiful thing. I'd love to have had a heads up about Covid though...

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
Port Sa'id in Tel Aviv. I just feel so happy whenever I'm there. The food is good, but it's about so much more than that - there's a deep level of chill in that place that imbues you with a feeling of incredible warmth and relaxation. I love it. It’s part of an amazing group of restaurants (which is now international). I also love Contramar in Mexico City for similar reasons. For me good restaurants are about a holistic social experience. Food is just one part of that.

What motivates you?
I'm driven by the idea of breaking new ground in the world of food and drink. I love sharing food and drink so much. If I can add anything to food and drink that others take pleasure from, just the possibility of that is hugely motivational to me.

What keeps you up at night?
Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Priti Patel

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Manu Canales, my partner in kebab crime, has shown me how little I know about food. I used to think I knew a lot, but he's put me in my place. Iqbal Wahhab [Founder of The Cinnamon Club and Roast] has been an amazing friend and mentor to me throughout my restaurant career - he's taught me about the importance of social enterprise, and he's generally an epic guy who inspires me in many ways.

What's your best business decision?
Pairing up with Ed [Brunet] and Manu. We are a family and I couldn't have done anything without them.

And your worst​?
I imported two pallets of Czech natural wine at the very start of Le Bab. Our guests were just not as into that as me (I maintain it was great though).

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Reach out for help. It's an incredibly friendly, welcoming industry and guidance is very forthcoming. And DON'T do it if you're not very, very passionate about hospitality. There are much easier ways to make a living.

What time do you wake up?
7.30

Coffee or tea?
Coffee, although tea can be sensational.

How often do you check your email?
Too often. My screen time stats don’t make pretty reading.

How do you let off steam?
I love to work out, and I love to meditate whenever I manage to do it. On a less virtuous level, I also love the pub (although obviously my drinking stops promptly at 10pm).

A night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
I'm partial to both, but life's too short for too many sofa nights.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Lasagne. It's a 24-36 hour affair

Describe a typical Sunday
It’s usually a lacklustre gym session followed by an early embarkation of the pub and then 8-10 hours later, a pizza.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
In a single night in Nashville I managed to miss my flight home, book a one-way car rental to Los Angeles, and adorn my ass with a low-grade tattoo. It was a very spontaneous evening.

What's your favourite holiday destination?
It’s a cliché, but Italy is just overflowing with beauty and gastronomy to an almost ridiculous level. I feel like I grow my soul whenever I visit.

What are you currently reading? ​A book called On Beauty and Being Just​ by Elaine Scarry, bought for me by my friend Jamie.

What box set are you watching?
I am eagerly awaiting the next season of Succession, which is absolutely amazing.

What was your dream job growing up?
After watching Dante’s Peak, aged 7, I reached the conclusion that I wanted to be a Volcanologist. But from about 10 onwards I always dreamt of having my own restaurant (although probably not a kebabby).

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