Sam Lucas, Restaurant Manager, The Ledbury

The  Staff Canteen

While studying Hospitality Management at Manchester University Sam Lucas decided mid-way through the course that University life wasn’t for him and made the courageous move to London instead. Sam soon found himself working at the Michelin-starred restaurant, The Ledbury and under the guidance of head chef and former Young Chef of the Year, Brett Graham, Sam quickly worked his way up the ranks to become Restaurant Manager.

The Staff Canteen recently caught up with Sam to learn more about his role at The Ledbury, dealing with unexpected dietary needs and working with Michelin-starred chef, Brett Graham.

You’ve been at The Ledbury since 2011, where were you before that?

The Ledbury interior
The Ledbury

Before I started working at The Ledbury I was at Manchester Metropolitan University studying Hospitality Management. I had just finished my second year but failed one of the modules which I was going to re-sit as I started my placement year at Bovey Castle. I was there for about a month when I decided I didn’t want to continue with University and went to London instead. When I got to London I applied at three or four places and felt completely at home at The Ledbury.

Have you always wanted to be in the industry? When did you first know this is what you wanted to do?

It was probably at sixth form when I had to choose what degree I wanted to do. I was tossing between History and English and didn’t really want to do either, so kind of plucked Hospitality Management out of the air.

I had been working since I was 14 and had always enjoyed it. Then whilst I was at University I worked at a decent hotel and just got really into it and decided it was what I wanted to do.

Can you give me an overview of your job role?

I’m Restaurant Manager so my main job is service and making sure all guests are happy and well looked after. Liasing with Brett and Greg in the kitchen, dealing with dietaries and preferences. I organise the functions and private events alongside our Ops Manager Hannah. Making nice in general.

How does working at a restaurant like the Ledbury compare to working in hotels?

Restaurant wise I don’t think there is that much difference. There are Michelin starred restaurants all over the world based in hotels.

Info bar        

Worst behaved customer they’ve ever served

Don’t really have one, I must have had five lucky years!

Top service experiences

Eleven Madison Park, New York – it’s the perfect restaurant, food wise, service, just everything.

Restaurant Daniel, New York – Probably took me an hour to feel comfortable but it is one of the best experiences I have ever had. It’s just luxury at the highest end and a beautiful dining room.

Alyn Williams at the Westbury, Polo Bar – Really, really good at what they do. The Polo bar is my favourite bar in London with great cocktails and the prawns are something else. Alyn Williams was my favourite meal in London last year, food, service, the room.

Nomad, New York – We went on a Friday night and were made to feel so welcome, it’s a really high end place but I could have been sitting in my local pub in Accrington. They do a truffle hot dog that’s ridiculous!

 

How do you think relationships have changed between the kitchen and front of house team?

I’m speaking from my experience at The Ledbury and we truly are one team. I know in places there can be a bit of “us and them” mentality, but we don’t have that. Both sides know that without the other we don’t play as well.

Do you feel that the FOH is often over shadowed by the chef?

Not particularly. Chefs are always more famous because at the end of the day people go out to eat.

I do think though that FOH is becoming more and more of a career in England and restauranteurs such as Danny Meyer are becoming more famous.

What advice would you give to any young person thinking of embarking on a career in food/drink service?

Be prepared to work the hours and to socialise at very odd times.

I would say to take everything you possibly can from the industry and to try as many restaurants as possible and really immerse yourself within the culture. You can never stop learning and there is always someone doing something new.

Who inspires you?

It would be Brett (Brett Graham, chef/owner at The Ledbury) he took a chance on me when I was 21 when I had no experience and no proper training. He’s let me go about what I do and hasn’t wanted me to change the way I do anything. Brett is obsessed with making the guest happy – whatever it takes - and the way he thinks is hopefully the way I do!

Is the customer always right?

It’s 50/50, if a piece of meat comes out rare when they ordered medium then they are right, we got it wrong. But if a guest doesn’t like something then I don’t think anyone is wrong or right, it just wasn’t to their taste.

What do you think of on-line review sites such as Trip-advisor?

I think they are good. They are a big tool for people especially if they are going somewhere new. What I do think though is that is it takes away the middle ground. People either slate something or love it so much.

What are your thoughts on customers taking photo's during a meal or at the bar?

Rhubarb Scottish Langoustine, Wrapped in Shiitake, Pumpkin and Clementine

Rhubarb Scottish Langoustine, wrapped

in Shiitake, Pumpkin and Clementine 

It’s just the way things are now. People want to take pictures and then put it on social media. I have no issue with it.

How important is it to retain some of the key skills such as table service in the restaurant rather than just having everything plated?

I think its really important, and it is great that some restaurants do still specialise in doing things tableside. Things like crepe suzette, steak tartare, dover sole have been being done for years tableside. Personally If I knew something was being done tableside, I would generally order it.

What's been the most difficult customer you've ever dealt with?

We don’t get difficult customers. We are really lucky that everyone who dines with us wants to be there, we just have to meet their expectations.

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th June 2016

Sam Lucas, Restaurant Manager, The Ledbury