How I Got Here: Jack Macrae

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here: Jack Macrae head chef and co-founder Mondo Sando at The White Horse in London's Peckham

Related tags: Mondo Sando, Street food, Sandwich

The co-founder and head chef of cult sandwich brand Mondo Sando, which has recently launched a long-term residency at The White Horse in London's Peckham, discusses his career to date.

Why restaurants?
Food is the best right? Seems obvious but I’m always suspicious of people that don’t love food, and I’ve never been far away from places that serve food and people that make it. Eventually I accidentally made the transition from decent home cook who ate out a lot to actually flogging a product and it’s stuck.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
I wish I’d listened to the people that said I should try cheffing over the years - I firmly believed professional kitchens were too hot for me and I have too gentle a disposition. Now I look at some of the guys doing their own thing in their early 20s and think: that coulda been me! But we’re here now.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
Small, independent, often family run places that are quietly perfecting their cuisine or dish always stand out for me. Smokey Jerky in New Cross, Singburi in Leyton - also I wake up thinking about the lox bagel from Corner Store in good old SE5 at least once a week.

What motivates you?
We have an upstairs kitchen at the moment which means we don’t get to see or talk to people eating our food very often - but whenever we bump into a punter downstairs or they clock that we’re from the kitchen and they tell us they dragged their boyfriend from North London for the  chicken burger, or ask us where we get ideas for sandwiches from, or just that they love the food, that sticks with us.

What keeps you up at night?
This week: are our sandwiches big enough? Next week: quarterly VAT bill.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I worked with a big Scottish guy called Phil in FOH at a place in Brighton - he was great at his job and simultaneously enormously chilled out. I remember things getting quite heated mid-service over the pass and he calmed everyone down and used the phrase in passing “we’re not saving lives!”. I liked that a lot. People can lose perspective in this game pretty quickly and it pays to remember that we’re primarily here to show people a good time for an evening, or even 20 minutes at lunchtime, and no one delivering that should need to sacrifice their wellbeing or mental health for it.

What time do you wake up?
Depends what the prep list is like!

Coffee or tea?
Three cups of tea before midday is better than any coffee at getting you moving and won’t give you a panic attack.

How often do you check your email?
Absolutely not often enough.

How do you let off steam?
Frisbee, karaoke, and going to Corsica Studios.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
Absolutely starting this business.

Best business decision?
Quitting my job and committing to the business full-time.

Worst business decision?
Quitting my job and committing to the business full-time.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Keep up the momentum, and find the right footwear.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Better gender diversity. And air-con.

Bio

Born in south London, Macrae studied a BSC in Psychology at Sussex University. He grew up waiting and bartending in various hospitality roles, and also managed a couple of music venues including Ghost Notes and Wildflower in Peckham. He founded Mondon Sando with his best friend, Viggo, during the pandemic. The pair now operate long-term residencies at Camberwell’s Grove House Tavern and The White Horse in Peckham.

Related topics: People, Profiles, Street Food

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