I have had a love of food and cooking since I was very young, starting with my mother in the garden and always cooking at home. I wanted to be a chef from a very early age, but an opportunity to start as a bus boy where my old babysitter was the events manager got me started in front of house and I fell in love with the excitement and energy of a busy service.
Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Save some of the money you’re making.
What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
I would have to say Union Square Hospitality. Like a lot of people, I consider the book Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, as my bible. I lived right by Maialino in New York, and enjoy the vibe and staff at all their sites.
What motivates you?
Happy guests. I feed off the energy of great service and seeing the enjoyment from people. One table saying “it’s the best experience they’ve ever had” is pure adrenaline.
What keeps you up at night?
If I haven’t got to something on my ‘to do’ list for the day - generally a report or email that needs to be sent - I’ll stew on that for a bit, just so it’s fresh on the list in the morning.
Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Anshu Vidyarthi (and Antoine Blech) - he has been my boss twice, first when he was the GM at L’Escale in Greenwich, Connecticut, when I was a bus boy aged 15, then 12 years later I was the GM for his (and Antoine’s) new restaurant, Le Fat Poodle. Their business sense and approach to taking care of staff, as well as atmosphere in their restaurants, is how I like to run a restaurant.
What time do you wake up?
Between 5:30am and 6am. I like starting my day early and having an hour or so uninterrupted before people get into the restaurant or the emails start.
How often do you check your email?
Constantly. I find it hard to detach even when I am off, and don’t like putting ‘out of office’ on when I’m away.
How do you let off steam?
Running. Nothing is more relaxing than a long run in the park on a sunny day.
What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Côte de boeuf with buttery mash, demi-glace and garlic haricot verts.
What are you currently reading?
City of Dreams by Tyler Anibinder. It’s a history of New York City through the eyes and experiences of immigrants.
What was your dream job growing up?
It really was to own a restaurant, or bar. Several of my friends and I would have ideas of names and concepts, all of which were ridiculous looking back, but it’s great that a few of us are still chasing it.
Best business decision?
Joining the sommelier team early in my career to expedite my ascent to senior management. The accounting and business skills I use every day, and managing a large wine cellar, teach you to get organised quickly.
Worst business decision?
Leaving restaurants to go into wine distribution. I realised very quickly that I love being around people all day and part of a team, not being out on my own.
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Never be afraid to ask questions. Find someone you aspire to be, or their role, and ask them what they did to get there.
If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
The perception of a lot of the younger generation that working in a restaurant is 'just a job' not a 'real career'.
Born in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1986, Toogood started his career as a bus boy at L’Escale restaurant under Chef Francois Kwaku-Dongo. After leaving business school at the University of Connecticut, he worked full-time in restaurants and rose through the ranks, joining Marlon Abela’s Gaia restaurant, which later relaunched as Morello bistro, as head captain. He later trained as a sommelier with the company, taking over the Michelin-starred A Voce Madison in New York City as Head Sommelier in 2010. After assisting in the launch of A Voce Columbus in the Time Warner Center (now Blue Bird NYC), Toogood returned to Connecticut to neighbourhood favourite Le Fat Poodle, in Old Greenwich, as general manager. Toogood eventually moved to London in 2017, and worked for both Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay before joining D&D London at Le Pont de La Tour, as assistant general manager. He took over as general manager at Launceston Place, which is led by chef Ben Murphy, in spring 2021.