How I Got Here: Arya Razi

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with Arya Razi founder of Mexican-inspired restaurant and bar Caldera in London's Hackney

Related tags: Mexican cuisine, Restaurant

The founder of Mexican-inspired restaurant and bar Caldera in London's Hackney on sustainability, growing up working in his father's restaurants, and what motivates him.

Why restaurants?
Growing up, my father used to own a couple of restaurants and I loved helping out. I enjoyed the hands-on approach and the end-to-end care for our guests; seeing them leave with a big smile was always worth the hard work.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career? 
Learn to appreciate your successes, even the little ones. There’s no denying that the hospitality industry can be challenging, so it’s important to embrace all of the positives that come with it.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
Kiln is my favourite restaurant. It was the first restaurant I visited which blew my mind. I also love JKS restaurants for their ability to turn everything into gold. Their restaurants are diverse and none of them feel generic which I admire.

What motivates you?
The desire to achieve my personal and professional goals. For example, at Caldera, we are working towards becoming a more sustainably run restaurant.

What keeps you up at night?
My head is always full of ideas! It’s tempting to want to implement everything immediately, but I’ve always found the best results come from being patient and following a plan of action.

Which colleague, mentor, or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
My brother has been my biggest influence for sure. The one piece of advice that stands out is to ‘get it right first time’. Before we launch anything new at Caldera, I remember this phrase and take my time before making any major changes.

What time do you wake up?
7.30am.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee.

How often do you check your email?
Everyday.

How do you let off steam?
I enjoy a good chat and catch-up with friends.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
A night on the sofa. There’s nothing I quite like more than enjoying my own time and reading! We have lots of fun at work so I value my down time too.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
I love a good Deliveroo - ordering in also gives me a chance to try other peoples’ cooking. That aside, I make a mean steamed whole sea bass with a sweet Chinese inspired sauce, alongside some Persian saffron rice.

Typical Sunday?
I use Sunday to do some admin and get a head start for the following week - doing the important things like stock counts, responding to emails and setting up meetings.

Favourite holiday destination?
Iran, the country is spectacular. Not only is the food incredible, but there is so much to enjoy from a cultural and historical perspective.

What are you currently reading?
The Five Love Languages​, by Gary Chapman. It's a really interesting take on how you can show love and affection towards people. I'm sure this is going to come in handy both personally and professionally.

What was your dream job growing up?
I wanted to be a TV journalist.

Best business decision?
Set up deliveries before lockdown. To cater to our varied customer base, we decided to run a limited delivery menu with some of our most popular dishes. Shortly afterwards, lockdown hit and it’s largely thanks to our delivery service that we were able to stay afloat these past 15 months.

Worst business decision?
I think every business decision I’ve made – good or bad – is something I’ve learnt from. But the decision that has brought the most challenges is probably not having a business partner. While I have an incredible support system, making all the top-level decisions alone can be stressful. That being said, it has definitely increased my resilience and allowed me to trust my instincts.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
I think it really important to keep learning and have the right people around you. I've always taken the view that we learn best from people, so I've always tried to surround myself with people who can inspire me to be better at what I do.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
How sustainable it is. We need to take collective action to become more sustainable from top to bottom, which isn’t just limited to the packaging we use, but the menus we create, and the energy we use, too. At Caldera, we are also working with a sustainability consultant to strive towards lowering our carbon footprint and continuing to reduce our waste.

Bio

Born in Derby, Razi studied a BSc Hons in Mathematics with Finance and Economics at City University, and subsequently MSc Finance at Cass Business School. His first experience working in the sector was as waiter at his father's restaurant, Pepitos in Derby, where he later progressed to operations manager - with a stint in client relations at Société Générale investment banking company in between. He opened Caldera in 2019. 

To mark 'The Day of the Dead', Caldera will be launching a special menu running from 28 to 31 October that will include a number of classic Mexican dishes that have been adapted especially for the occasion by head chef Felix de la Lorenzo. For more information, click here​.

Related topics: People, Profiles, Restaurant

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