Being a restaurateur is tough work. A seasoned one knows that our appetites can’t be satiated for very long, so carving out a concept and identity that cuts through all the noise is crucial to survival.
Someone who has managed this feat is Kurt Zdesar, a former director at Nobu and founder of dim sum chain Ping Pong and Nikkei restaurant Chotto Matte. His latest venture Bouillabaisse aims to highlight the best in sustainable seafood. Here, Zdesar shares more about what makes him tick.
Central in Lima, Peru. “Chef Virgilio created a menu that took me on a culinary journey through Peru’s rich bio-diversity, a meal that genuinely inspired me and was unforgettable.”
Gjelina in Santa Monica, California. “This place really struck a chord for me. It has a low-key yet electric, fun environment and has ethics about the food it serves. One of my favourite farm-to-table restaurants.”
Chez Robert et Louise in Paris, France. “An institution that everyone must visit. This discreet little restaurant serves amazing steak which the butcher carves up almost to order. Everything is grilled on an open fire that looks like a converted fireplace.”
The balancing act
“I eat out on average five times a week so keep eating at home very simple. I’m content with cheese on toast, however it will be gourmet toast with artisan bread and cheese with the right amount of seasoning and perfectly grilled. I also spend time learning cooking techniques in my kitchens with Jordan Sclare (Executive Chef at Bouillabaisse). The most complicated cooking is when you use only three or four ingredients, something I try to emulate at home for guests.”
A valuable lesson
“I have come to learn a very different lesson after years of chasing profits. Seeing my staff grow, knowing they are happy, being able to say we’ve created something amazing – that’s what matters to me, that is success. The ultimate lesson is to take care of our health and relationships. In the pursuit of success one can easily forget about these.”
“More new concepts are focusing on sustainability (which they should), organic ingredients and nutrition. As we learn about the overwhelming benefits of eating well, the demand goes up. Demand creates the opportunity. Single-item menu concepts are also growing. They require a smaller kitchen brigade, fewer ingredients, less storage and have better buying power. So long as an eye is kept on quality and service, it’s a good way to keep prices down.”
“I really admire Wholefoods for their commitment to ethical business. With restaurants, it’s much to do with their attitude. Some cherry-pick elements from other successful restaurants and create something very soulless. I love the concept of the family-run restaurant, something authentic with substance, you can sense the passion the second you walk in.”
Bouillabaisse, 4 Mill Street, Mayfair, London W1S 2AX. T: 020 3794 8448. bouillabaisse.co.uk