Saturday, 16 July 2011

Open a restaurant? You must be mad!

I have been thinking long and hard about the next steps on my food journey.  I still have the restaurant dream.  It doesn't matter how many times people tell me it's a terrible idea and that it'll ruin my life and my finances, I still want to open The Hungry Gecko somewhere in Manchester.  Then Liverpool, then Leeds...

But let's be realistic about these things.  I have neither the money nor the experience (yet) to pull that off successfully.  I also feel that those friends who tell me the timing's not right just now, and I should be cautious in this climate, are probably right.  It takes a mighty amount of money to back a restaurant and they have a tendency to haemorrhage any profits.  Rent, staffing costs, insurance... and hanging over all that, the fear of financial uncertainty and risking my own home, as that's the only place I could raise the kind of money that would encourage the bank to listen.

I also have other doubts.  I'm starting to learn that the restaurant business is very competitive, and so are many of the people who work in it.  Not all places are like that, and I have been privileged to work in some amazing kitchens amongst what seem like 'zen' chefs by comparison to some of my previous experiences a waitressing student.  But the fact is, there is a lot of jockeying for position amongst chefs and many want to reach the top.  The problem for me is that it then stops being about the food.  Well that, and the fact that I'm a forty year old woman who's too old and has worked too hard to go back to playing those games.

A friend at work, when I told her my feelings about this, reckoned it was just like the erotic triangle in English literature (stay with me here guys - it will make sense eventually).  In literature, there's the girl, and then the guy who really loves the girl and the other guy, who also really loves the girl.  Except the story is never about the guy's total love and adoration for the girl - it's about the competition between them to win the girl.  My friend reckons the girl is like the food - it stops being about the food and it's all about competition.

So feeling like this, I arrive at Sara's last week to help prepare a few gorgeous little puddings for the charity dinner to raise money for York ICU.  107 mango parfait with a passionfruit glaze, and a cute little edible viola.  I had so much fun and it was just great to spend some time together after so many months.

Sara's dining club is just wonderful and growing nicely.  And most important of all, Sara is making her beautiful and delicious food, on her terms and without having to compromise on the things that are important to her.  She then spent the next 12 hours convincing me that a vegetarian dining club would be a great way to move forward with my food, without turning my life upside down - well anymore than it already has been anyway.  Seeing her at home, doing what's she's doing, made me ask myself, why not?  And the answer is, no reason not to try... 

A dining club would give me the chance to create great vegetarian dining, on a scale that means it is fresh, beautiful and a standard worthy of MasterChef.  It would also make it affordable dining to others - more egalitarian even.  The idea greatly appeals to me.  I still want to do pop up and other dining events, and open that restaurant one day, but plans are now afoot for Manchester's first vegetarian dining club...

Friday 21st October - hold that date!


  1. Good luck, Jackie - I like your ethos!

  2. What exactly is your definition of "a dining club" Jackie?
    Good luck with it too though!!