Chef’s Pass - inploi meets Simon Boyle from Brigade Bar & Bistro inploi Team | 25.10.2016
This week, inploi met with Simon Boyle, founder of Brigade Bar and Bistro and Beyond Food Foundation, to discuss bending the rules, tantrums, sailing around the world, and his charitable work. A true hospitality hero, Simon’s career as a chef has taken him around the world, inspired entrepreneurship, charity work and amongst all these pursuits, he is also a published author. However, his success has come with his fair share of stress - rooted in ruthless determination, an unending desire to learn and self-improve, and ultimately an unshakable desire to create and share good food.
"You’ve got to roll your sleeves up and work hard”
What first inspired you to pursue a career in hospitality?
I always wanted to be a chef. When I was ten, there was a programme called the Food and Drink programme, and there was a guy called Anton Mosimann – a very famous Swiss chef. They had a piece about him, and I just absolutely fell in love with food because of that. There was also another programme called Take Six Chefs, and that was very rock ‘n’ roll – they had Marco Pierre White when he was in his early twenties, getting his first Michelin star. I was just hooked at that point. It was the passion and commitment to food that these guys had – I didn’t want to do anything else.
I didn't do particularly well at school, so food seemed like an accessible thing I could do. My school was not geared up to inspire people like me. I went through school thinking I wasn’t very smart, but actually when I left school, I realised I was very smart, I just hadn’t been steered in the right direction. My father really felt I shouldn’t be a chef, he felt I should be a hotel manager. I went to local college, and and I just lost enthusiasm very quickly.
One day, I was sat in the Student Union, not having turned up to my lessons for two days. I had had about three or four pints of beer, and all my class came in with suits on, and I was a bit puzzled by this – “Well, why have you all got suits on?”. They said, “There’s these famous chefs that have turned up, and they’re interviewing us all for this new course that’s running in conjunction with the best hotels and restaurants in London”. And with that, I ran to where these interviews were, burst in the door and got told to get out by my college lecturer, who thought I was a waste of space. When everyone had had their interviews, I was invited in. By this point the beer had sunk well in, and my college lecturer started off by saying, “This guy’s useless and not committed”, at which point I lost the plot, and sort of burst into this angry tirade of, “I am committed to good food, but this college is rubbish”.
There was fourteen places on this trial apprenticeship – very elite – with people from the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts – and out of fourteen places in the whole country, I got one. And so that passion and commitment, even if it was angry and slightly misguided, got me through it. I left there about two weeks later and started an apprenticeship at The Savoy in London, which is where I had always wanted to work, I just never knew how to get there. A nice story – but you know, it was a stressful time. I felt like I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. And when I got to The Savoy, I felt like I was in the right place. I very quickly had to grow up. It was a very harsh world – a dog eat dog existence in those days. So you had to be better than the worst person at all times.
Is the industry still like that?
We work with The Savoy now. When you go there, it is constant. As soon as I get there, and I’m stood in back of house, I feel the tension. It is just a very busy place, with very high expectations all the time. So that bit hasn’t stopped or changed. But it’s not as harsh as it was. Now there’s a lot more nurturing and training and support. But you do feel like if you’re not up to standard, it would be a very quick removal of you. But you know, that’s the industry we’re in, you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and work hard.
Go check out part two here: From The Savoy to the founding of Brigade, Simon Boyle's story
About the author: Victoria Bushnell is Head of Marketing/PR at inploi.