‘I left school at 16 but launched a Michelin-starred restaurant’ – The Guardian

Restaurant News

Name: David Moore
Age: 55
Occupation: Michelin-starred restaurateur, London
Income: £150,000–£200,000

I inherited my industriousness from my mother who ran a hotel in Ireland. From the age of nine I was behind the bar sorting bottles and getting stuck in whenever I could in the kitchen. By 12 I wanted to be a chef and left school at 16 to start my training. I worked as a kitchen porter to fund myself through college.

It was a summer job in a Blackpool hotel where orange juice was powdered and beef served grey that convinced me cooking was not for me. Instead I started a catering management diploma, and got a placement working as a commis waiter and runner at the Box Tree restaurant in Ilkley which had two Michelin stars.

The spirit of conviviality in the front of house and the buzz in the kitchen when produce arrived engaged me – crates of mushrooms with names I couldn’t pronounce and wild strawberries so fresh the chef would change the menu to fit them in. I was earning £25 a week and my lodgings cost the same amount so I was living on cash tips.

When I returned to college, I was advised by the Box Tree’s head chef to get a job working for Raymond Blanc in Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire. I applied for the first job I saw advertised in the Caterer – assistant head waiter. I booked a table for lunch – £17.50 for a set menu which was nearly my whole week’s wages – and I called the head waiter over and asked him to invite the restaurant manager to join me at the table for the job interview. I talked myself into a job as waiter and was told that if I managed a year I’d be promoted to assistant head. On my first day, my schedule had me down for 9am to 5pm, which looked great until I realised it meant start at 9am, take a break at 3pm and resume at 5pm. I came home with £750 after tax in my first month and lodged with the head chef followed by anyone who had a spare room.

When my then girlfriend joined me in 1989 we bought a £67,000 two-bedroom flat in Abingdon and a year later mortgage rates hit 13%. We’d wanted to get our foot on the property ladder but we blinked and found ourselves in negative equity.

After six years at Le Manoir, one of the chefs and I hatched a plan to open a restaurant in London. The idea was that he’d go to Paris to work and I’d stay at Le Manoir and phone wealthy customers who might want to invest. I sent out quarterly updates to interested people and ended up with 50 names signed up and £187,000 of investment capital which was enough to buy a 17-year lease on a three-storey building in the West End and do it up.

Santander Cycles

The lease cost £50,000. We had no staff. My business partner was the chef and I did front of house and lived above the restaurant. I’d left a £33,000 job at Le Manoir to live on £10,000. But there was no time to spend the money because we worked seven days a week. We got a Michelin star at the end of the first year after I wrote to the guide to let them know we were there. By the third year things were harder because there was more competition and there have been many months when I drew no salary. But when times are good, I put money away.

My monthly personal bills now come to £4,100, excluding my older daughter’s school fees. My wife and I had bought a two-bedroom apartment in 1998. It had to be a walk away from the restaurant and it cost £245,000, which was more than we could afford. I was earning £18,000 back then and had to talk the bank manager into a 95% mortgage. In 2004 we stretched ourselves to pay £410,000 for the two-bedroom apartment above and when the children arrived we knocked them into one to create a family home. We don’t have a car – I use a ZipCar at £8 an hour and I pay £90 a year for a Santander bike key which allows me to unlock a communal bike anywhere in London, As I work six day weeks there’s not much time for spending.

Source: Thanks https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/dec/28/i-left-school-at-16-but-launched-a-michelin-starred-restaurant