MICHELIN STARRED CHEF AND PROPRIETOR AT WILD HONEY ST JAMES, ANTHONY DEMETRE, JOINS DUNCAN O’ROURKE, CEO ACCOR NORTHERN EUROPE, ON THE HEART OF HOSPITALITY PODCAST
“It’s a glorious profession and it pays dividends if you work hard, like anything in life,” said renowned British chef Anthony Demetre, joining host Duncan O’Rourke, CEO Accor Northern Europe, on the latest episode of Accor’s inspiring Heart of Hospitality podcast.
With a career spanning more than three decades, five proprietary restaurants and many coveted Michelin stars, Demetre carved a name for himself during the emergence of British Bistronomy, a movement with roots in France, which reinvented the traditional British dining experience. His Arbutus and Wild Honey restaurants won huge acclaim in the UK and internationally. Demetre is lauded for resurrecting and popularising forgotten cuts of meat and produce such as beef bavette, lamb belly and Jerusalem Artichoke.
Despite his esteemed career, Demetre explains his first foray into the industry was by chance. “My first love was to be a naval pilot,” Demetre tells Duncan. “I signed up into the Royal Navy in the Fleet Airborne Division, but had a recurrent knee problem and unfortunately was medically discharged. But during that time, I worked in a kitchen and I fell in love with it. There was some synergy with the discipline, the camaraderie and the precision of military service. I never looked back.”
With no formal training, Demetre pursued his new-found passion and went on to work for culinary trailblazers such as Marco Pierre White, Gary Rhodes and Bruno Loubet in the formative years of his profession. After rising through the ranks of the kitchen brigade, he took the helm of Putney Bridge Restaurant where he earned his first Michelin Star and Four AA Rosettes for culinary excellence within his first year. He upheld this Star rating for eight years, before taking time out from his career for the birth of his son.
“My wife is from Paris and we went back to Paris for a while, during which time I visited small restaurants and I thought: ‘this is what I love about restaurants. It’s this. It’s passion, soul’.”
Demetre returned to London and opened his first restaurant, Arbutus, in Soho, where he introduced British diners to Bistronomy.
“It’s quite humbling because it was massively successful and we won everything that the industry threw at us and the icing on the cake was a Michelin Star,” said Demetre.
Following the success of Arbutus, he opened two more restaurants, Wild Honey and Les Deux Salons, which flourished in tandem as Bistronomy blossomed throughout London’s trendiest neighbourhoods. Demetre went on to sell both locations, before getting in touch with the former General Manager of Sofitel London St James, Nicolas Pesty, who had been a regular guest at Wild Honey. They discussed reinventing the concept at the hotel and Wild Honey St James was born.
Along with exploring Demetre’s journey in the sector, the podcast episode discusses changes in the industry and adapting hospitality for the next generation. Both agree changes need to be made to both salary and team wellbeing – both of which Accor has addressed in its hotels in the UK in the last year.
“It’s always been hard to find staff, that’s just the nature of the industry. But I think, throw the pandemic and Brexit in it has left a huge yawning chasm in the industry, and we have to work extremely hard to entice people, the next generation, into the industry,” said Demetre.
Duncan O’Rourke agrees: “We need to look at encouraging and bringing talent in because it is a wonderful, wonderful industry and just listening to what you’ve done and achieved inspires people. It’s a really rewarding industry.”
Demetre adds: “Cooking has had massive publicity in recent years in terms of TV and media, more so than ever it had in the years past. So what is it that we’re doing wrong? And it’s simply working conditions, work life balance and salary. It’s not all about money, of course not. But it has to be competitive. It has to be enticing. It has got to be fun because it is tough. There’s no getting away from it. But if we can strike a balance and make it enjoyable, ensuring good working conditions, I think it’s as good as any profession. It’s a glorious profession and it pays dividends if you work hard, like anything in life.”
The episode shares the vision and passion for both industry leaders and their love of great culinary experiences – including where to find the best burger in London!
The Heart of Hospitality podcast is part of a pan-European industry platform of the same name, built to tell stories of the sector and its people. Accor is inviting stories from across the industry to be shared via #HeartOfHospitality
To listen to the full episode, visit https://heart-of-hospitality.com/portfolio/anthony-demetre/ or find the podcast on Spotify and other leading Podcast platforms.
For more information and more stories from hospitality, visit https://heart-of-hospitality.com/