Friday, October 16, 2015

Behind the Scenes at 'Soho Create' with Alexis Gauthier

An interesting interview from back in June with Alexis at the Soho Create festival, where he talks about life in a changing Soho.

Soho Create is an annual festival celebrating all the extraordinary offerings of London’s most vibrant district –Soho. Entertaining, thought-provoking, and well curated, Soho Create is a platform to share the best of modern art and creativity. At ‘The Art of Live’ discussion, Comedian Sara Pascoe, chef Alexis Gauthier, and theatre director Steve Marmion came together and shared their perspectives on the live moment. 


L- R - Journalist Craig McLean, Alexis Gauthier, Sara Pascoe and Steve Marmion | Courtesy Stuart Keegan on behalf of Soho Create
Whether on stage, facing a live audience, or catering to a crowd at a restaurant - a single moment has the power to delight or disappoint. With so much effort involved in creating the live moment, what does it mean to a live performer or a chef who aims to present his ideas in edible form? To shed light on the ‘The Art of Live’ and to discuss food, the vibe that attracted him to Soho, and more, we interviewed Chef patron of Gautheir Soho – Alexis Gauthier. Famous for being the U.K’s first Michelin-starred chef to include a calorie count for every dish on his menu, Gauthier Soho boasts a strong celebrity following. French celebrity chef, Alexis, has succeeded in creating a space where many of his customers become regulars, and the food manages to delight and wow as much as the ambience.

Q. We live in an age obsessed with social media, and that means diners taking selfies with their food. Do you think that taints the experience of fine-dining at your restaurant?

A. No not at all. I believe we should all be free to live as we want to, and my restaurant is about feeling relaxed and comfortable and enjoying yourself. If you enjoy taking pictures of the food, and you’re not constantly using a flash or bothering others, then please go ahead. It’s good for business exposure anyway.

Q. When you were asked at 'The Art of live' session at Soho Create who in your field of work is the best live performer, your answer was 'The Pope'. Could you elaborate on that for our readers?

A. It was such a broad question I couldn’t think of a better answer. Of course there are people I’ve seen live from popular culture - Coldplay, The Cure, Peter Gabriel for example - who are fantastic at capturing an audience’s attention through art and charisma. But the Pope - like other global religious or political leaders - is commanding attention through completely different channels, and their live performances are founded on a much greater responsibility.

Q. With the new residential development around Soho, and campaigns to 'clean up' Soho, do you think it is losing the charm and mystique associated with Soho's dark side?

A. For me, the cleaning up and regenerating of Soho is inevitable, but slightly sad, and sometimes I don’t see the logic in it. All the estate agents are selling these super apartments and restaurant rents on the dark, independent, seedier side of Soho, it’s as if they are saying ‘hey, come and live in Soho, it’s where the gay scene is, it’s where the cool creative kids hang out, it's where naughty things happen’.I think the biggest problem will be when the last dark alleyway, sex club and grimy bar is finally replaced with a shiny apartment block or branch of Starbucks, the very thing Soho is sold on will be lost. It will simply become a central London version of an airport lounge shopping centre. Who will want to live in a central London Westfield? The same thing happened in the 90s with Greenwich Village in New York. It went super ‘normcore’, and nobody wants to be there now. It’s a ghost town. Everyone went to Brooklyn.

Q. You believe in the freelance style of cooking without the use of scales, does that apply to when you bake as well? Especially as baking is considered to be such a precise science.

A. Because baking is such a precise science, there are rules and timings you simply have to adhere too, if you want consistency in fine patisserie for example. But there is always room for a little self-expression and freedom, especially with rustic breads and puddings.

Q. Which chef most influenced you at the start of your career?

A. Alain Ducasse, Alice Waters, Roger VergĂ©

Q. To a first timer at your restaurant, what dishes would you recommend they try?

A. Well, our classics are the truffle risotto (best in October/November, when the white truffle is in season) and the Golden Louis XV chocolate pudding, both directly influenced from my time in Monaco in the early 90s.
I would recommend also they try the tasting menu, which changes every season. It is the best way of enjoying a little bit of everything we try to do best, without the burden of choice. Apart from those, the fresh brioche we make daily in the kitchen is always wonderful, and that’s free! You can eat as much as you like.

This article was originally posted on theculturetrip.com. 
By Manjiri Chitnis of Sliceoffme blog
Sliceoffme is a food,travel and lifestyle blog with fusion recipes, reviews and more. Moving soon to ‘travelsfortaste’ with lots of tips of the best places to stay and eat at while you are travelling. Twitter: @manjirichitnis Instagram: travelsfortaste

Monday, October 05, 2015

10 rules for running a restaurant




I wrote this list because over the years I've found myself repeating bits of this mantra to my staff, over and over again. I think it's all relevant today.

Alexis Gauthier


1. Going to a restaurant should make the customer feel special. 

Restored. This, without contest, is by far the most important thing to remember.

2. A customer should not have to remind you of personal preferences. 

For example: If a customer has been more than once in the past year, and each time they mentioned they were allergic to shellfish, this should be remembered.

3. A restaurant should be flexible and cater for all of its guests. 

Take dietary requests with grace and menu choices with a smile. If someone wants a tasting menu and the others a la carte, of course that will be no problem. Nobody goes to a restaurant to obey petty little menu rules from an uptight cook and be ordered around like a child at school by an overzealous restaurant manager.

4. Give a little love. 

A great example is when my grandmother used to cut the crusts off sandwiches when I was a child, because she knew I liked it like that. No crusts just made the sandwich a little bit more special, and I loved my grandmother all the more for it. If you apply that philosophy to every dish and bit of service in some way, the love will transfer to your guests.

5. Kill problems with kindness. 

You will always get the odd problem customers. Deal with all problems with humility, generosity and kindness. It is amazing how a bad experience dealt with calmly and generously can turn a furious customer into your most faithful regular and ambassador.

6. Look after your regulars. 

Returning customers are 5x more valuable than new customers, and worth 5x more effort to keep happy than constantly investing in finding new customers. You’ve already won them over, now it’s your job to reconfirm their affections. Get this right, and every time they visit they will act as your best ambassador.

7. Be careful of the ‘them and us’ attitude.

Visiting a restaurant is not like going to a show. At a show, or a football match, or a concert, you are part of the audience, watching a performance. Nothing more. You buy your ticket, you’re herded in, you patiently wait, you watch the show, you leave.
At a restaurant, it is not them and us. We are not performers, we are friends. The customer is a fundamental part of the experience, and the whole time there should be constantly organically adapting to reflect that. 

8. Make your booking process as friendly and convenient as possible. 
The moment a customer makes the decision to book a table, picks up the phone or books online, you have become their servant. Make the process as easy and hassle free as possible, just as if you were their personal PA.
Work as hard as you can to allow for your guests booking late, if that’s what they sometimes do. Late cancellations should be taken with good grace. Life is like that, we can’t always predict. A good restaurant will understand that life doesn’t always run smoothly, and your customers will love you for that.

9. Be very careful with heavy-handed rules. 

Same with regulations, taking deposits, giving table time limits, terms and conditions. The experience of going to a restaurant begins far earlier than when they sit down at the table, and the worst possible thing to do is put guests in a bad frame of mind before they’ve even arrived. Make them love you before they've arrived. Half the job is done.


10. Don’t take yourself too seriously. 

Remember we are just chefs, waiters and customers, We are not prophets and disciples. This is not medicine or politics. We are simply feeding appetites and making people comfortable. And thank God for that. 


All The Best Parties Happen in Soho....



Party season is upon us!

Gauthier Soho, the classic five-storey Georgian Townhouse at 21 Romilly Street, is the perfect setting for a really special dining celebration. Five independent rooms offer a completely personal dining experience, with flexible table arrangements, versatile menu choices and all the special touches you expect from Damian, Pierre, Claudiu and the rest of the team. 

All party menus include complimentary gifts of canapĂ©, amuse bouche and pre-dessert courses for each guest, with prices starting at £30 for three courses.

Call Events Manager Samuel Aiglon now on 0207 494 3111 or email s.aiglon@gauthiersoho.co.uk to enquire about your party.