How I Got Here: Amar Takhar

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with Amar Takhar co-founder of London Dalston restaurant Angelina and Soho cocktail bar Golden Gai

Related tags: Golden Gai, Angelina, Restaurant, Soho, Pub & bar

The co-founder of Angelina in London's Dalston and Soho bar Golden Gai on getting his restaurant start at JKS, the importance of learning self-discipline, and tackling the culture of overworking.

Why restaurants?
I was working in property for six years, I loved it, it was comfortable and a decent living, but I never felt fulfilled or motivated. My best friend Josh, who I’d known since I was four, had always worked in restaurants and had an idea to open his own Italian-Japanese concept, which everyone else thought was crazy, but I loved. He needed some investment and I provided some funds, but the more we discussed it the more I felt the desire to give up my career and start fresh with something that I’d truly love and feel motivated to do and I haven’t regretted it since.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
I wish someone had taught me the importance of discipline and working hard from the very start. At school and university I never really applied myself, didn’t really revise much for exams and was more focused on having a good time with my friends and this impacted my early career hopes.

What motivates you?
The success that you dream of, becoming an established, recognisable brand and maybe one day attaining that Michelin star.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I had never worked a day in hospitality in my life, and I somehow persuaded my friend Karam (Sethi) to wangle me a job at Brigadiers as a waiter. When I showed up, I couldn’t even hold two plates properly let alone a tray of drinks. I could tell all the staff were growing impatient with me and didn’t particularly want me there and I couldn’t blame them. But the team persevered with me everyday, helped me grow, helped me become better, taught me so much about the steps of service, gave me a chance (no matter how many glasses I smashed) and for that I owe them so much and I wouldn’t have been able to hit the ground running when we opened Angelina with such a small team.

Best business decision?
Investing in Angelina.

Worst business decision?
Staying in a comfortable setting for so long, losing valuable years of career progression.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
JKS. Everything they do is done with precision, it’s excellent food, excellent service and a variety of concepts to try, you’ll often find me at Brigadiers inhaling Butter Chicken wings and lamb chops.

What time do you wake up?
About 9:30am (I often don’t finish until 1am).

Coffee or tea?
Double espressos all day.

How often do you check your email?
Between 10 and 15 times a day.

How do you let off steam?
I love a whisky soda at Three Sheets in Dalston after a long shift.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
Much more fun to be had on the tiles than the sofa.

Typical Sunday?
Brunch service at Angelina followed by a nice dinner somewhere, with maybe a negroni or two to finish the evening.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Put the hours in, learn all you can from people that have valuable experience and realise that for a while you may have to sacrifice the nicer parts of life, but that it will one day pay off.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Anti-social hours and the culture of overworking, it’s something we’ve worked very hard on in Angelina and make sure everyone gets their two days off and three evenings off a week.

Bio

Born in Fulham, London, Takhar studied Marketing at Bournemouth University until 2012 and subsequently worked as a property manager for several years at Hamptons International. He finally joined the hospitality industry in 2018 as a waiter at JKS's Indian barbecue restaurant Brigadiers in the City's Bloomberg Arcade. A year later he joined forces with childhood friend Joshua Owens-Baigler and opened Japanese-Italian restaurant Angelina in Dalston in 2019. Late last year, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the pair launched Golden Gai - a playful but gastronomically ambitious bar on Soho’s D’Arblay Street.

Worst business decision?
Staying in a comfortable setting for so long, losing valuable years of career progression.

Related topics: People, Profiles, Restaurant

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