Paul Walsh, City Social: “If you want to get out there and you want to make a name for yourself in this industry then you've got to overcome the bad days and benefit from the good ones.”

The  Staff Canteen

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Spotlight: Paul Walsh, Executive Chef for London, City Social

Starting his career off at the age of 18 at London’s Savoy Hotel, under the then executive chef Anton Edelman, Paul’s career has flourished and includes top jobs at some of the industry’s most renowned restaurants.

During his time at the Savoy, Paul witnessed the appointment of both celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing at the hotel, before leaving with Gordon two years later to start a new position at the three Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

Paul worked at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay for five years where was introduced to Jason Atherton, which kick started the unique working relation between the two and the Michelin-starred City Social restaurant.

“I think we've got a unique set up where Jason really trusts the exec chefs in the group,” Paul explained.

He added: “He [Jason] gives us a lot of freedom. Obviously, he's still in charge but he does give us a lot of freedom to work on dishes.”

MICHELIN STAR

After receiving an inspection from Michelin’s Rebecca Burr just six weeks after opening, Paul and the team at City Social saw the restaurant receive its first Michelin star.

“They were finishing off the guide for that year and I think we just snuck in 2014. I think we had just been open long enough for them to say that we've hit that standard,” explained Paul.

Describing what being awarded the star meant for him and his team, Paul said: “The celebrations here were unbelievable because the pressures of just opening and getting through all that, you know opening restaurants is hard anyway, and then a couple of months later all your hard work has been rewarded by Michelin star. Everyone was screaming here, and we've managed to hold on to that to this day.”

STAFFING SHORTAGE

Paul’s experiences working across the industry has given him a great insight into the many different aspects and challenges that come with running a restaurant, in particular retaining and hiring the right staff.

Commenting on how he’s hit back at shortages across the industry, Paul highlighted how Compass has helped him with this issue.

“Where there's such a shortage, I think Compass have decided 'we need to do something about this’,” Paul said.

He explained: “I think it's a very different strategy because when you're an independent restaurant you wouldn't go to Compass to ask them for things. You would be doing that background work yourself, whereas having a group behind you, you have a facility to go to them and say 'guys we really need staff, we really need some help here,' and you have that facility that you would not normally have as an independent restaurant, so that's the plus of being part of a group that you wouldn't have as an independent restaurant. There's a team of people working actively on recruitment, as well as training, which is something that most people don't normally have.”

TALENT FROM OVERSEAS

Having access to the best staff means creating a wider network beyond candidates in the UK, and it’s a benefit that Paul’s really experienced through his involvement with Compass.

“I think opening out to other countries and sponsoring visas and things like that is something that Compass has jumped on. They'll say 'right, if we have to get people visas then we'll get people visas', which is great because I think a lot of people will just go there's nothing we can do about the labour shortage,” explained Paul.

Explaining this key benefit in more detail and how Compass’ offerings differ from other commercial catering providers, Paul said: “Part of being a massive global brand means that they can do that pretty easily, which for us helps by broadening our scope, while maintaining the high standards and skills we need.”

THE NEXT GENERATION AND MAKING IT IN THE INDUSTRY

For Paul supporting and inspiring the next generation of industry talent is something that restaurants and firms within hospitality should prioritise and nurture.

At City Social, the restaurant is focused on ensuring that junior members are properly supported with existing members equally challenged and given the opportunity to grow and develop to take on the next steps in their careers.

Describing the process at City Social, Paul explained: “We'll start off by putting new chefs on a section with somebody and it wouldn't be getting someone straight into cooking fish. We'll put them in the larder with a bigger team, so it's not them alone feeling like, 'oh my god what am I supposed to do? I've got 120 for lunch'. They will start in the larder or managing the garnish or something like that with a team of three or four, so they can build up slowly.”

He added: “You don't have to do anything spectacular to keep staff, you just have to give them a bit of your personal time to say this is how I want it, this is what I want you to do, this is how you set this section up; rather than just dumping them in there and say go and fend for yourself.”

For those starting out in the industry, Paul highlighted that it is important that newcomers stick to their guns and don’t let bad days define you.

He said: “We all have bad days but it's just getting up and going right I'll be better today, I won't make that mistake again. I think all the people that have got to the top of any good restaurant is because they've never given up. I think that's ultimately the one thing I'd say, don't give up because if you go to any top chef in this country, they've never given up at the first hurdle.”

Paul concluded: “If you want to get out there and you want to make a name for yourself in this industry then you've got to overcome the bad days and benefit from the good ones.”

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st October 2022

Paul Walsh, City Social: “If you want to get out there and you want to make a name for yourself in this industry then you've got to overcome the bad days and benefit from the good ones.”

IN ASSOCIATION WITH