When I was growing up in Western Australia, our family friends had a small hotel which had two restaurants. I remember being taken into their Chinese kitchen as far back as I can remember and by the time I was about 13 I was doing prep in both the Chinese kitchen as well as the bistro. It was intriguing and full of action! But, what I found magical was how effortlessly the chefs would produce large volumes of these wonderful creations - as if by magic. I guess I’ve been hooked on the wonder that is restaurants since then.
Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Be humble. I remember winning medals as a young apprentice chef which made me feel and act like I was untouchable. But, whilst medals are nice short-term rewards, you're only as good as your last dish and you need to always work hard to improve no matter how good you think you are.
What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
El Bulli and The French Laundry are my top two restaurant experiences ever. But, Tickets picks up on some of that El Bulli magic and it’s become a firm favourite these days.
What motivates you?
Knowing that there is still so much more that I’m yet to learn and create. What I really love to ponder is the thought that I’ve been at this for over 30 years and I’ve had some awesome experiences. But, I feel like the best is yet to come.
What keeps you up at night?
Not much. If I switch on the TV at night, it has this kind-of hypnotic effect on me and I’m out in minutes.
Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
It has to be Nobu. People might think that he had it handed to him but they may not know that his first restaurant burnt down. He had to set up a new place just to pay back the loan on the one that perished. Talk about grit!
What time do you wake up?
Coffee or tea?
How do you let off steam?
Running. 10-15km usually does the trick.
What are you currently reading?
Grit by Angela Duckworth.
What was your dream job growing up?
Best business decision?
Starting Kurobuta as a pop-up with a very lean budget. It was a demonstration of how to simply get on with the task at hand without the luxuries (equipment, supplies, staff) that you think is required. Hard work and focus makes up for fancy tools and too many staff. It worked well and its the right approach, even if you are well-funded.
Worst business decision?
Working to the the ‘field of dreams’ theory - build it and they will come. It’s nonsense. You might get lucky, but, your best bet is to do your research and re-work your forecasts until you’ve considered all eventualities. Be ready for turbulence - if your business plan was only modelled on sunny days then you’ll be in for a shock at some stage of the game.
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Don’t ever get complacent. When you feel like you’re on top of things you can feel like you’ve nailed it, like you can take a step back. Wrong. This is actually the time to work harder
If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
The old fashioned bravado that used to plague kitchens. Yeah, I subscribed to it too but it was careless and distracting - like a cabaret show of lunatic chefs. Anyway, that side of things is already changing.
Born in Collie, Australia, in 1975, Hallsworth left school at 16 to do an apprenticeship with French chef (ex-La Gavroche) Alain Doisneau, and has worked in hospitality ever since. Having worked in both Australia and Canada, Hallsworth joined Nobu London in 2001 and worked as head chef there until 2007 when he relocated to the group's Melbourne restaurant. His career has also seen him establish a number of restaurants including Wabi in Horsham (2009 - 2013); Kurobuta in London's Fitzrovia (2014 - 2017); and, most notably, Freak Scene in Soho (2017 - 2020). Earlier this year, Hallsworth launched his latest venture, Double Dragon, in Clerkenwell, which takes its cues from Japanese cuisine.