Peter Klimczak, Restaurant Manager, The Latymer, Surrey

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th August 2014

In association with

nespressoPeter Klimczak is the restaurant manager of Michael Wignall’s The Latymer at Pennyhill Park which holds 2 stars in the Michelin Guide UK.

He was born and grew up in Poland where he mixed studying hotel management with training to become a professional footballer. Catering was the career that stuck though and after working with several Michelin-starred chefs such as Tom Aikens, Mark Jordan, Shaun Rankin and Tom Sellers, as well as a stint with Formula 1 team, McLaren, he found himself leading the front of house operation at the acclaimed Surrey restaurant.

Team at Pennyhill Park
Team at Pennyhill Park 

How would you describe the philosophy towards service at The Latymer?

The team is the key; people are always the most important for me. No matter how great the cooking or the interior, equipment you have, if you don’t have the right people you won’t go far. It’s been a little bit of a challenge getting all the people front and back of house working together but we’re getting there and it’s a lot better than how it was. It’s quite a small team so it’s a little family; you work together for 12-14 hours a day so you’ve got to be very close because if there are issues it will take more time to achieve your goals.

Top service experiences: Roganic Galvin at Windows The Ledbury Restaurant nightmare: World Economic Forum in Switzerland with Tom [Aikens] was challenging - I was to run a function for 44 people including some of the richest people in the world and a couple of prime ministers. They turned a small café in Davos, Switzerland into Tom Aikens Restaurant, which meant creating a one-Michelin star restaurant in a small village in two days. I had only two days preparation and I met my team of 17 only two hours before the event. I had to train them and set up the restaurant not knowing any of their names and we couldn’t have name badges. I had to cut a few corners. I asked them the most popular names in Switzerland for men and women and this is what I had to call them. In 44 customers we also had 12 dietary requirements. It was on the edge but it turned out well in the end!

How do you ensure that closeness and good working relationship?

It’s important to make sure that your team is relaxed. With most of the managers I’ve worked with in the past, they put too much pressure on teams and the way they spoke to staff wasn’t right so I try never to do that. I try to go with my own style which is about looking after people and giving them opportunity to shine. In other words if you look after people, people will look after you. I want them to be relaxed, to smile, to put their own style into service: If I have any suggestions from my team regarding service, most of the time I say ok, let’s try it. It’s important for them to feel part of the team.

Where did your early career take you before coming to The Latymer?

I graduated from my course in hotel management when I was 24 and went to Jersey where I worked at Bohemia, which was one Michelin star and run by Shaun Rankin at the time, then I worked with Mark Jordan at the Ocean Restaurant which was also Michelin starred. I then did a project with John Benson Smith who was the catering director for Manchester City; he was opening a new restaurant called The Boathouse and I came on board as a waiter and within eight months I was promoted by John to restaurant manager. I spent three years running the restaurant before I decided to move on. After a few months travelling and back in Poland I went to visit my brother in London and decided to look for a job. I was offered work at The Square and Tom Aikens. I went to see both and I really liked Tom Aikens; I thought our personalities matched perfectly so I started as assistant general manager in 2009 and I was there three years.

What would you say you learned from your time at Tom Aikens restaurant?

I learned dedication definitely and hard work because Tom is a great guy to learn from. The restaurant scene in London is different to Jersey; there’s more pressure and the clientele are a bit different, so I learned a lot more about dealing with customers. I learned a lot from Tom in terms of food and I’ve done some functions outside the restaurant as well. For example we ran a function for the G8 countries at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland; Tom was cooking and I was running front of house operations so I experienced lots of different things, not just the restaurant. It was a really good time for me in terms of getting experience in different environments. I also learned about front of house and back of house working together because in most of the places I’d worked before there were always two teams but with Tom, because we understood each other, it was always one team working towards the same goal.

>>> Read more from Are You Being Served here

The Latymer
The Latymer 

You also did a season working with McLaren; how was that?

Yes I was a little bit tired of the London scene and wanted a bit of a change in environment. It was unbelievable, especially for someone like me who has followed the races since I was kid. I met some amazing people and travelling is one of my passions as well so it was an amazing experience.

How did the opportunity to work at The Latymer come along?

While I was living in the area I searched for the best restaurants to work in. One of them was The Latymer. I went to see the style of food and so on. I approached them, asked for a job and they got back to me in three days. Two weeks later I got the job.

Who are your heroes in the service world?

Peter Klimczak
Peter Klimczak

I don’t really have any; it’s more about my experiences in the different places I’ve worked. Service in every restaurant will be different because it’s about the personality and dedication of the top guys so you have to find someone who matches your personality or criteria and then you can learn from them.

As someone from outside the UK originally who has travelled in lots of different countries, how do you feel the UK is doing in terms of service?

In the last ten years I think it’s become a lot more relaxed because that’s what customers demand. When you go to a restaurant, you’re going to relax and celebrate. When I first started working in UK the Michelin star environment was very formal, usually stiff atmosphere with people whispering to each other; now it’s much more relaxed and I think the industry in general is getting better and doing what the customers actually want – they want to be relaxed and have fun and good food with good service at the same time. It’s definitely got much better and now It’s one of the best countries

The Latymer
The Latymer

in the world to go out and have a meal.

Do you ever see yourself opening your own restaurant and who would it be with?

Yes, probably in the next couple of years I would like to do that. I don’t see myself going down the route of food and beverage manager or hotel manager. I met many amazing people on my journey and there are a few who are interested in running a business together.

Want to work in front of house like Peter? Then view current vacancies here. 

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th August 2014

Peter Klimczak, Restaurant Manager, The Latymer, Surrey