How I Got Here: Jay Patel

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here Jay Patel co-founder of Legare in London Bridge

Related tags: Restaurant, London

The co-founder of Legare in London Bridge on why he got into restaurants, ditching social media, and the problems with normalising toxic behaviour in the sector.

Why did you get into restaurants?
I used to obsessively watch A Cook’s Tour on UKTV Food and really got into food. When I was 24, I decided to make the switch from a junior freelance graphic designer, working in retail, to the restaurant world!

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Crazy working hours! Everything is basically back to front when it comes to routine/work. You’re up until really late, you eat at awkward times of the day, you hardly have weekends off and lots of the job involves cleaning. But, the energy and buzz of food, wine and service is one of a kind. There’s nothing else I can see myself doing. It’s addictive, and once you’ve committed to it, it’s incredibly rewarding for many reasons! 

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
Hunan [in Pimlico]. I’ve had a few meals there in the past year that have cemented it as my favourite place to eat and drink in London. It has (in my opinion) an exceptional wine list, and Michael and his dad have created one of London’s most special restaurants. I love Brawn too. Their morel tagliolini is the best plate of pasta I’ve ever had. And Barrafina. I was fortunate enough to work for them and everything they do is exemplary. The quality and consistency of execution is inspiring. 

What motivates you?
My wife. Constant personal improvement. Hitting goals I’ve set myself. Making my wife and family proud of the person I am trying to be.

What keeps you up at night?
I find it very difficult to not dwell on things. If a customer mentions that something wasn’t quite right during service, or when we get the odd negative bit of feedback or review (which are pretty rare to be honest), I find it difficult to shake off because the restaurant means so much to me.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I’ve had lots of great and horrible people in my career that have inspired me. Even the horrible people have often had an amazing work ethic. Biggest influence on my career has probably been the Harts Group. They treated me well, I had great support from my senior management and everyone knows how great their restaurants are. Jose Pizzaro is a friend and a mentor whenever I need advice about how to handle certain situations. And Leandro Carreira is another close friend who has also always provided me with advice and help whenever I’ve needed it. A few good people is all you really need. You don’t need many.

What time do you wake up?
Between 7am and 7:30.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee in the morning. Herbal tea in the evenings. 

How often do you check your email?
I’m horrible at responding to emails. WhatsApp me instead. 

How do you let off steam?
Gym, cooking, and spending time with my wife and friends. 

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
Sofa. But I like to have a yearly blowout week where I go big and get it all out of my system. Then it’s back to work and keeping focused. 

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Beef larb (laap) by Andy Ricker. It’s a riff on his duck laap. Thai curries are a big favourite at home, and also handmade pasta, of course.

Describe your typical Sunday?
Lie in until 9am, wake up, grab coffee at the Watch House on Bermondsey Street, get a big lunch either at a restaurant or we go home to see our family that live outside of London, then back at the flat to chill on the sofa. Sunday is generally the one day I completely take off. 

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
My wife and I are big fans of booking a weekend away if we can. Italy, Spain, Portugal... long weekends full of places to eat and drink and proximity to the sea are always the best. 

Favourite holiday destination?
The Philippines. Went on our honeymoon and it was truly spectacular. I’ll remember that scenery for the rest of my life. 

What are you currently reading?
The Wim Hof Method​ by Wim Hof. It’s a book about breathing techniques. 

What boxset are you currently watching?
At the moment Fauda​. Generally I’m a football, MMA and boxing fan.

What was your dream job growing up?
Designer at Nike. It would still probably be up there as one of my favourite jobs if I was lucky enough to live that dream.

Worst business decision?
We’ve made some seriously dud hires in the past. Toxic people can really upset the flow of business, and slow down progress and momentum with bad energy. The quality of staff in a restaurant really defines the experience across all areas. Other than that, we just over extended ourselves when we first opened, and we could have saved ourselves considerable amounts of money and stress if we hadn’t tried to be too fancy. Now we’ve got an incredible team with lots of great energy and everyone really motivated to drive Legare forward. 

Best business decision?
This is completely personal, but getting off social media (not Legare, but my personal account). It wastes time, energy and clouds thinking because you can easily become distracted by what others are doing, and measuring yourself against the dishes they have on their menus, or the wines they're pouring.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
The devil is in the detail. Be patient, keep your head down and repeat tasks until you’re great at them. Respond well to criticism and feedback. Stay busy... not working is criminal.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Toxic behaviour/people and substance abuse. It’s normalised and accepted as part of the industry, and it’s unnecessary. Also this ‘bad boy’ image is played out and boring. Certain people need to chill out, we’re not saving lives here. Ultimately it’s a very small industry and trust is easily broken. I cannot stress how important it is to the longevity and progress of hospitality for this to change rapidly. 

Bio

Jay Patel was born in Kenya, where he lived until he was five before moving to London with his mum and sister. Having studied Typography at the University of Arts London at LCC, he worked as a freelance graphic designer in fashion and fashion retail while working on the shop floor as a shop assistant. He moved in the hospitality sector 12 years ago and quickly worked his way up London’s food scene, including undertaking stints as a consultant and working as general manager at Barrafina and Koya. He launched Legare in London Bridge with ex Trullo senior sous chef Matt Beardmore in autumn 2019.

Related topics: People, Restaurant, Profiles

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