As Head Chef at The Ledbury in London, Australian maestro Brett Graham knows exactly what it takes to create a successful restaurant in a competitive environment. But even he admits that it took some time to get the formula just right. Here, he speaks to Elite Traveler TV about the lows and highs since the restaurant first opened almost eight years ago and how The Ledbury has come of age.
Starting out at just at 15 in an unassuming Newcastle fish restaurant, Graham’s culinary career has moved at lightning speed. After relocating to London, a stint at Phil Howard’s The Square in Mayfair won him high praise, including a “Young Chef of the Year” award in 2002.
Lo and behold, just three years later, the ambitious Aussie was running the kitchen of its sister restaurant, The Ledbury, and went on to earn a Michelin star within the first year. Graham admits that obtaining the prestigious accolade so early on meant that he and the team barely had time to absorb it: “To get our first star was a big surprise, but it actually put more pressure on me and I didn’t give myself time…a pat on the back and say, ‘Guys, we’ve done really well here’.”
However although the restaurant is now one of London’s hottest fine dining venues, it took a little longer for the business to grow alongside the overwhelmingly positive critical response. Graham explains: “I think I’m most proud that eight and a half years down the track, when sometimes in the first three or four years we used to do zero for lunch, the restaurant is fully booked, lunch and dinner, no matter what night it is, no matter what we do, the restaurant’s still full.
“And that’s the most important thing for me, I have to make sure the business operates and just try to have the freedom to develop and keep going forward.”
There’s no denying that part of Graham’s recipe for success is his perfectionist streak: “As a chef we go through lots of emotions all the time, because you’re always on that quest to get better. You’re always thinking, ‘What is it I need to improve on?’”
“I’ve never really set myself goals, which is a strange thing,” he adds, “I’ve always been really motivated, which you have to be to run a restaurant like this.”
Click on the link above to watch the full Elite TV interview.