Bryn Williams, Odette's, London

The  Staff Canteen

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

After winning the honour of cooking the fish course for Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday on the Great British menu, ahead of many established chefs, Bryn Williams has become one of a batch of new celebrity chefs. His television appearances have included stints on Saturday Kitchen, GMTV, Something for the Weekend, Market Kitchen and for Welsh channel S4C, Bryn’s Kitchen. Widely regarded as one of Wales’ best chefs, his skills are only to be expected considering the prestigious restaurants where the Welshman cut his teeth. After three years learning his trade with Marco Pierre White at The Criterion, he went onto work as sous chef under Michel Roux, Jr. at Le Gavroche for a further three years and later moved to the Michelin-starred Orrery, with head chef André Garrett. Bryn has enjoyed a great deal of success with his own restaurant, having bought the iconic Primrose Hill restaurant, Odette’s. Under Bryn’s leadership, the restaurant, located in one of the most exclusive areas of London, has thrived and seen the chef’s culinary talents praised endlessly by critics. The restaurant itself has existed since 1978, but Bryn’s tenure as head chef has seen it enjoy some of its brightest success.

Sponsored by

cfr_logo_vector

Bryn, Give us an overview of Odette’s please? Odette’s is neighbourhood restaurant, with a little bit of ambition and what we mean by that is a good wine list, great ingredients, hopefully cooked well, good service, but in a relaxed environment. So you can have a three course lunch for 20 quid. You can have a taster menu for 50 quid. We like to give the customer a choice on price but not a choice on quality. So that's what we mean by a local restaurant, with a little bit of ambition, where we're trying to use the very best of what the British shores has to offer. Now you have a stunning background you've worked for some very, very high profile names, Albert Roux, Marco Pierre White, how has that stood you in standing for running your own restaurant? I have been extremely fortunate to work for Chef Michel and Albert Roux at the Gavroche and Marco Pierre White and Chris Galvin actually at Terence Conran, but when you buy your own restaurant nothing prepares you for that to be honest. We all get trained up as young commis from chef de partie upwards, sous chef, head chef, but nobody really teaches you anything about being an owner. So when I bought the place in October 2008 it was the biggest shock I'd ever had in my life. I actually remember saying to myself, “How hard can it be?” because I was already doing 16, 17 hour daysbrynwilliams1 Was having a restaurant an ambition? For me having a restaurant was a massive ambition. I just wanted to see if I could do it. It is tough, I enjoy it and I never get up in the morning and say, “Oh no work!” I genuinely love coming into work but working with these great chefs nothing prepares you to run your own restaurant because you don’t know the ins and outs that the light bulb’s got to be changed, there's the council tax, you have to pay the recycling man, which for me it’s nuts we have to pay someone to pick up the recycling. So the minute someone walks through that front door they want paying. So nothing prepares you it doesn’t matter where you work. Has your food style changed since you've been here? Have you had to adapt what you do? Have you evolved your food style? Yes most definitely. I think any restaurant adapts and moves forward. Because we are a neighbourhood restaurant we have to be quite price sensitive in the beginning and then obviously the price sensitivity dictates what ingredients we cook but as we're going forward we are developing in the right direction, you do have to adapt constantly to try and improve yourself day in and day out. I think any restaurant or any chef/owner is constantly trying to improve day in, day out.. brynwilliams2You’re a neighbourhood restaurant and that's been quite paramount in today are you therefore flexible? Do you listen to what the customer says, or do you say, “No that's my food,” or is it a case of understanding your market?. The biggest thing, when you become an owner you have to listen to your clientele, if you don’t you will not be an owner for very long. We listen to our customers day in day out. Without them we don’t have a restaurant and I think that's the biggest learning curve I had as an owner, As a chef you have to listen to the manager because he's like the go between you and the customers so for me it’s very, very important that I meet my customers, especially the regular customers and we ask them what they want and if they come back twice, three times a week if they want something different, off the cuff, off the menu, give us a ring a few hours beforehand and we’ll do anything they want because without them we don’t have a restaurant. Bryn we've seen you obviously on Great British Menu, we've seen you on various other TV programmes, how difficult is it to balance the sort of PR, promotional side, with running a business as well? The Great British Menu put me in the public eye you could say, now running brynwilliams3Odette’s for the last three years you have to make hay while the sun shines in some respects so if there's a great PR opportunity to highlight the restaurant you take, plumbers and tradesman advertise in Yellow Pages, as chefs we need to advertise as well, TV is our forum for advertising but I'm very conscious of making sure that I'm here 5½ days a week and anything else I try and fit around it. For me it’s a balancing act of the two, doing the right exposure but making sure that your at Odette’s enough of the time. Also today’s customer wants to know the chef’s in the restaurant as well? Massively If I’m on Saturday we get up for six, we’ll do Saturday Kitchen and I'll be back in the restaurant for midday and then people are genuinely shocked when they see you but I quite like that, “I think that puts a bit of confidence into customers. I come back in the restaurant quarter past 12, and people say, “Didn’t I just see you on TV? Was that recorded?” “No that was live.” And then they see you cooking lunch for them. So the balancing act between TV or any PR and running a restaurant is a very delicate scales to be honest. brynwilliams4People see chefs like you on TV and they think there's a fast track to that and I think what they don’t see is the fact that when the bogs are blocked it’s you that gets called and so on and so forth. It’s not, as we said earlier, it’s not all champagne and opening parties is it? No, there's no such thing as a fast track in this catering business, no chance. Before I bought Odette’s in 2008 there was 12 years of hard work for Marco Pierre White, the Roux Brothers and Chris Galvin. They were like 16 hour days. Yeah not easy places to work? No they’re tough places but there’s not a fast route in this business you have to work, you have to put the hours in, you have to sacrifice an element of your life, a few years, if you want to get to that top... no football player, rugby player, rally driver, Formula One, doesn’t get there just because he wants to get there, he gets there because he puts the hard work in. I think unfortunately there's this celebrity culture now where people are famous for nothing isn’t there? I think for a chef first and foremost it’s what you put on a plate and I think that's the most important thing, you need to be tbrynwilliams5rained, you need to educate yourself, go on websites, The Staff Canteen website, look at different chefs, read different books, go and eat in different restaurants you learn so much there’s no such thing as a fast track in this trade. If there is I want to find out what it is because I'm on that train!!!! I’ll be behind you. And last but by no means least you've been very successful here, Odette’s is now on the map, people are seeing you on the TV, you've got a great balance between PR and here what does the future hold for you? What new projects have you got coming up, I suppose you’re angling towards do you want a star? Yeah we’d love a star but what we do I think a star would be good for the kitchen, for the restaurant because we try, we're professionals at what we do and we care, the chefs they really genuinely care, so to have that Michelin star that would be great for the team but it wouldn’t change anything for the customers because we wouldn’t change the menus because that's what it is. I'm trying to open a pub up in North Wales so we’ll know next month if we take over the pub. I do a little bit of work with Victorinox, the knives, because I've used Victorinox knivesbrynwilliams6 since I was the age of 16 and then they heard about it. So hopefully I'll do different things in the future but for me Odette’s is everything. I know it’s a bit of a cliché but my business is everything because if this doesn’t work, one, I don’t have a job, two I don’t have a flat because if I lose this I lose my flat and three I don’t have any income, so everything revolves around Odette’s, so even though when I'm on holiday I'm still working. So Odette’s is everything to me but in a good way. Well look thank you very much. It’s been fantastic thank you very much indeed. Cheers Mark.

Contact Details:

Odette's Restaurant, 130 Regents Park Road, Primrose Hill, London, NW1 8XL
In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st June 2012

Bryn Williams, Odette's, London

IN ASSOCIATION WITH