How I Got Here: James Gummer

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with former The Wolseley and Isabel maître d’ James Gummer who owns 7 Saints in Notting Hill

Related tags: Front of house, Restaurant, London

Former The Wolseley and Isabel maître d’ James Gummer, who now owns Notting Hill restaurant 7 Saints, on what motivates him and his love of pubs.

Why restaurants?
Because I love them! I tried to do something else (on everyone else’s advice) but couldn’t shake the urge to open a restaurant. All jobs have their down days, but if there is something in the back of your mind telling you there is this other thing you want to be doing, those down days become a lot harder to handle.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
To not feel like you have to follow any particular path. I spent a couple of years working or looking for work in other industries that I was never really interested in. If you have a passion for something, go for it.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
During lockdown I really missed pubs, and since have become metronomic about my Sunday pub lunches. I love the Canton Arms and the Camberwell Arms. They have such a great formula.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee – I cannot start my day without it.

How do you let off steam?
Having a late-night whisky at home with my wife.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
Definitely a precious night on the sofa.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Jacob Kennedy’s ragù bolognese.

What motivates you?
I love the feeling of a busy restaurant – there’s nothing like it. When everything is working smoothly and you have a room full of happy diners, it’s both exciting and relaxing at the same time.

What keeps you up at night?
Everything! I am not great at switching off at night.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Matt Kliegman (owner of The Smile in New York). He is an incredible entrepreneur who helped me so much when I was having doubts before opening my first restaurant. I will always be grateful.

Worst business decision?
There isn’t one big thing that comes to mind, but when you’re starting out mistakes are bound to happen and usually end up making you better at what you do.

Best business decision?
Leaving advertising and opening a restaurant. It is hard sometimes, and I work far harder than I did back then, but it is so worth it to do something you love (and that makes you proud).

Typical Sunday?
A proper Sunday Roast at a great pub like The Canton Arms, followed by a walk to The Cow in Westbourne Park for a Guinness and a game of backgammon in the evening.

Favourite holiday destination?
The Talbot Inn in Mells for a staycation, or anywhere in Italy.

What are you currently reading?
I only read cookbooks, and I’m currently reading Massimo Bottura’s Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef​.

What boxset are you currently watching?
I finally got round to watching The West Wing​ – it’s incredible

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Try not to get too caught up on 'what’s hot'. Trends come and go but restaurants have been around forever. If it’s longevity you want, focus on that rather than the latest Instagram trend.

Bio

Gummer grew up in Oxfordshire, before studying Theology at Trinity College Dublin. After graduating in 2012, he joined M&C Saatchi as an account manager, working with clients such as Padella following the launch of the London Bridge restaurant. Realising he wanted to work in the hospitality industry, Gummer moved to New York to work with Matt Kliegman at The Smile. Returning to London in 2015, Gummer joined Corbin & King at The Wolseley to gain more front-of house experience. After six months, he moved to the Santa Cruz co. as one of the maître d’s to launch Isabel in Mayfair. Gummer opened 7 Saints in July 2018 as owner and general manager, bringing Adam Parker on as head chef. Gummer and his wife live close to the restaurant in Notting Hill.

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