Restaurant openings are tough but restaurant openings in London are even tougher! By Emma Underwood

The Staff Canteen

Restaurant openings are tough. Restaurant openings in London are even tougher.  Restaurant manger and blogger Emma Underwood explores why hospitality workers choose to do it!

I’m writing this in a rare, snatched evening to myself after 6 hectic weeks in London. At the beginning of April, with just a suitcase in hand, I took the train down to start a new life here. A life that would solely revolve around one thing: Stem.

stem chef's table
The Chef's Table at Stem 

Last week we opened the doors of 5 Princes Street, home to the new restaurant from the team behind Anglo and Neo Bistro. To say it’s been an absorbing experience would be an understatement: the last 6 weeks have been filled with tastings, training sessions and trial services; sifting through samples of wine, glasses, paper, cutlery, trays and coffee cups (that still haven’t arrived….) all in order to make sure the restaurant is as perfect as it can be.

I’ve asked myself a million times, ‘if Stem was a soap holder / dessert spoon / oil burner scent, what would it be?’ We’re finally getting there. The restaurant is beautiful, the team is incredible, and the guests are happy.

Restaurant openings are tough. Restaurant openings in London are even tougher. I haven’t had a day off now in over 3 weeks, my WhatsApp pings from 8am-midnight and my email inbox is a constant barrage of tasks I have inevitably forgotten about.

Everything is held together by a series of carefully timed google calendar alerts, I would barely even remember to bring my keys without them (seriously, my boyfriend had to travel halfway across London this morning to open the restaurant’s front door as I’d picked up the wrong set). It’s been a sleep-deprived, stress filled time, during which I’ve had about ten minutes to myself. But, I’ve loved every single moment of it.

There are so few industries like the restaurant industry. Restaurants are absorbing, consuming animals, taking over your life to the point that you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night just to phone the cheese order through.

emma underwood and Sam ashton booth
Emma Underwood and Sam Ashton-Booth

But we all love it. The adrenaline and the thrill are like no other. Seeing guests bowled over with a wine you chose for them, or amazed at a new dish you created, is so immensely satisfying, that we all happily wake up ready for another 16-hour day to start all over again.

At Stem, I have the pleasure of working with a kitchen run by the incredible Sam Ashton-Booth. Last week his brother, an artist, was roped in to help out for an evening shift. He’d never stepped foot in a professional kitchen and was extremely nervous beforehand. We had an intense, busy service, and Sam’s brother emerged at the end full of excitement and adrenaline.

He couldn’t believe how intensely rewarding working a busy service can be, and finally fully understood why Sam had chosen the career he has. This is why we all do it: because it’s one of the most exhilarating and fulfilling jobs in the world. To be given the opportunity to put your full passion into something, as you can when you work in restaurants, is such an honour. As exhausted as I am, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Blog by Emma Underwood, Restaurant Manager, Stem

Emma Underwood blog image
Emma Underwood

Emma Underwood is the restaurant manager of Stem, in Mayfair, having previously worked at Where the Light Gets In, based in Stockport and Burnt Truffle in Heswall, part of Gary Usher’s ever-expanding restaurant empire.

Emma started working with Gary in 2012 when she joined the Sticky Walnut team as a waitress before moving to the sister restaurant, Burnt Truffle as the general manager.

Emma is also part of the TMRW Project along with food writer Anna Sulan Masing which was set up in 2015.

The project acts as a platform for people starting out early in their career to help them grow, learn and connect with each other. It hosts the Chefs of Tomorrow Dinners, the front of house initiative The Switch, and a series of talks and panel discussions.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th May 2018

Restaurant openings are tough but restaurant openings in London are even tougher! By Emma Underwood