Gregory Vergnes, Restaurant Manager, Texture

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th June 2017

Gregory Vergnes is the newly appointed restaurant manager of the modern European restaurant and champagne bar, Texture, which has a star in the Michelin Guide UK.

Originally seeing a career for himself in pastry, Gregory was soon drawn to front of house working for a number of highly established restaurants including the Michelin-starred Gauthier Soho Restaurant, followed by The Westbury 5 star Hotel and most recently at the Greenhouse. Having risen the ranks from chef de rang to assistant manager at the modern British restaurant, Gregory recently joined the Michelin-starred, Texture as restaurant manager.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Gregory to discuss his time at the Greenhouse, why he chose a career in front of house over pastry and why he looks for personality over credentials when hiring.

Texture
Texture

How is your new role as Restaurant Manager at Texture going? 

I’m quite happy. It’s exciting to be in a new position. It’s going quite well. I feel like I’m catching up with a lot of things but it feels normal.

What prompted the move from The Greenhouse?

I had been at The Greenhouse for about five years. I started as a chef de rang and have been promoted a few times, but I haven’t had the chance to go for the manager’s position. So five years at The Greenhouse was quite some time and I just felt that it was time to move to the next step and Texture has provided me with that opportunity.

What did you learn from your time at The Greenhouse?

I learned a lot. Five years at The Greenhouse was a long time and I could talk so much about what I learned from my time there. The biggest thing I learned though was probably how to transition from one role to another. As I mentioned earlier I started out as a chef de rang and got promoted to assistant manager, although it was the same restaurant it was a new job and it felt like I was starting from the bottom again. I got a different aspect of the business and contact with the customers as well so it really pushed me and I learnt a lot from my time there and from being in that role.

What would you say is the biggest thing that you took from that position to where you are now at Texture?

The main thing would be in terms of standards because stand-out customer service is all about good knowledge and stuff like that. The Greenhouse is a well-established two Michelin starred restaurant but Texture is a very nice place with nice potential.

Would you say there’s more pressure running a Michelin starred restaurant as opposed to a restaurant without one?

I haven’t been working in a non-Michelin starred restaurant for some time now so I don’t really have anything to compare it to. I believe every type of restaurant has their own type of stress. I don’t think it’s because of the Michelin star that we have more or less pressure. I always like to provide the best service whether we have a Michelin star or not. I just want to give the best service on a daily basis.

Icelandic Cod
Icelandic Cod 

How did you get into the industry?

When I was a kid I was always fascinated by food and I loved cooking like any kid. I did a lot of baking with my grandmother on a Sunday. I was in love with vegetables and gardening, and the relationship with the product was very important to me even when I was five years old. So after finishing my studies at college, I moved to a hospitality college where my goal was to become a pastry chef.

>>> Read more from Are You Being Served here

How did you go from wanting to be a pastry chef to doing the front of the house?

Whilst I was doing my degrees I had an internship where I had to work on the opposite side of the restaurant, not just in the kitchen. So if I was working in the kitchen I also had to do a two month stage on the opposite side as well. When I was 16 years old, working in a restaurant, I found I preferred having the interaction with the guests and the contact you get that comes from being at front of house.

You and Cyrielle Mascaro (head sommelier) were working at the same restaurant together and have the same background.

It’s quite interesting starting more or less at the same time because we both have experience working in Michelin starred restaurants, whilst I worked at the Green House Cyrielle worked with Hélène Darroze at The Connaught which also has two Michelin stars. So we have the same vision for the business and the same goals, which is once again the level of service we provide.

Starting at the same time we don’t face the same judgement from someone who has already been in the building who has been working for the business for quite some time. So we are both starting from the ground up and there’s something very positive in that. We are here to help each other because we can’t know everything from the first day.

You have great reviews on Trip Advisor and you respond to customers’ feedback regularly. What is your overall opinion on online review sites?

I have two points of view. As a restaurant manager it’s quite difficult to manage as everyone can write reviews and feedback can be both positive and negative so it’s a bit tricky. As a customer, when I visit a new city or a new place, I want to go somewhere where I can research Trip Advisor comments. It’s 2017, we have to deal with that, everyone can give feedback. What I miss is the human aspect, so I’d prefer someone give me feedback on the night after dinner directly, rather than write an online review. But it’s very important for business. I feel like it’s my duty first thing in the morning even when I’m not at work to check the reviews online, it’s something that I’m really following right now.

What about people taking photos during a meal or at the bar? 

It makes us proud. It’s kind of like being in a gallery or a museum. So we are proud of what we put in front of them, meaning the chef will do something quite interesting as well. As long as they don’t use flash or don’t disturb people around them, it’s something I’m really proud of.

Texture
Texture

Have you had to deal with many difficult customers? What would you do in that situation?

Every customer is different so what I keep telling my team is to try to understand what they expect. Sometimes they complain because we misunderstand what they wanted or what they asked for. Sometimes it’s just about communication. It’s just going to the table to have a little chat with them to apologise for something that went wrong or listening to their stories, every situation is different, it can be many different things so there’s never one solution to suit all.

What advice would you give someone looking to start a career in the hospitality trade?

To think twice, just joking. Seriously, to be passionate. To know what you want in life for any type of jobs. Be sure and don’t be afraid of what people can say. I remember when I was at hospitality school, everyone around me was saying ‘you have to understand you’ll have a different life than regular people with office hours, working during bank holidays, having your holidays at a different time, working late in the evening’ etc. Sometimes people around you don’t measure what they are saying. However, when you are passionate about a job, you can travel, you can meet very interesting people. I don’t have any regrets of my own. To be passionate, to be interested, and to be curious are all important.

What qualities do you look for when hiring?

When I was in France we were looking for a diploma, a background, and stuff like that. Here at Texture, what I’m looking for in a candidate is more personality. Knowing the steps of service is something I can teach to someone, but personality is something you either have or you don’t.

How come you look for different personality traits in the UK compared to in France?

France is a bit more old school. It’s difficult to progress in your career, and they will look at your CV and what school you went to, which diploma you got and so on. I've been here in the UK for eight years now and I've got the feeling that you like to give people a chance who want to work and to bring something to the job, so it’s much more relevant.

What are your future plans for Texture?

My plan is to get a professional team and to bring Texture to another level. It’s very well established; it’s been open for 10 years and has had a Michelin star for many years as well. I don’t want to change everything from one day to another, however, I’ve got an idea on how to improve little things and details to bring my own take on the restaurant and the job. We can always do better.

Are you interested in hospitality jobs in London? Find all the information and jobs available here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th June 2017

Gregory Vergnes, Restaurant Manager, Texture