Lessons, like dads, come in all shapes and sizes and with Father’s Day just around the corner, we are here to pay tribute to the men who imparted their wisdom on us. From hospitality hacks to classic dad jokes, keep scrolling for a little insight into what our team has learnt, and passed on, from their pops.
Chef Jowett Yu, Ho Lee Fook
I have these really awesome memories of watching dad cooking in the kitchen, taking over from mum from time to time. It was an important lesson in sharing the load, even though he joked that he only did it so that if mum left, he would be able to feed all of us. Cooking is a life skill I think everyone should acquire and I vividly remember being seven years old and thinking, ‘hey man, this is something I could do for real’. Being a dad now to Otto, I love spending time with him perched up on the kitchen counter cooking together. Thinking back on it, I am not even sure if dad’s dishes were any good but the lesson never left me.
Chef Theign Yie Phan, Le Garçon Saigon
One of my dad’s greatest gifts to me and my sisters is a simple lesson: to live within your means. He was the eldest of five brothers and supported his siblings through college and major life choices, so his knack for being financially savvy is inherent. Now as a chef, and especially during times of crisis when business is most adversely affected, I find myself questioning and analysing everything in more detail, especially while figuring out the restaurant’s budget. I think that that idea of “wants vs needs” has become second nature to me and that is all because of my childhood teachings.
Chef Billy Otis, Taqueria Super Macho
When I was 19, I started working in the kitchen at Domani Bar & Trattoria in Boston, under Chef Rene Michelena who became like a father figure to me. This is where I began to understand the camaraderie and family network that comes from a kitchen crew. I was young and kind of reckless so there was a lot of tough love, but collectively the team worked with me and gave me the tools for a successful culinary career.
Chef Rene, incredibly talented, fiery and passionate, fueled an interest I had only just discovered within myself. I wanted to learn more about food and had begun visiting Chinatown quite frequently, so Chef gave me a book on dim sum and Chinese cuisine, encouraging me to read, practice and learn. That book opened my eyes and taught me the value in focus and discipline when it comes to cooking. After a few years and with an itch to move forward, I made the leap to Chicago for culinary school; a decision that would never have been made without Chef Rene’s support. Fifteen years later I am in Hong Kong because of him and his guidance and mentorship have never left. He is here now, too, and whenever we get together, I still find myself looking to him for advice.
Arnaud Bardary, BELON
I am the fifth generation in my family to work in the wine industry, a tradition of transition from father to son. When I was old enough and decided to pursue a career in this industry, there was nowhere else to start to learn than with my parents, behind the bar or on the restaurant floor. My father took me under his wing, teaching me everything he could. There were basics first: “Stand straight behind the bar”, “Keep your head up and watch guests, even when you are polishing glasses”, “Plan your order so that drinks are served at their optimal temperature” and so on. I took all of these tips and tricks to heart, polished my shoes every day and as soon as I stepped onto the floor, everything just made sense. Moving from my parents’ venues to other restaurants and becoming a Master Sommelier felt natural because the basics were already ingrained in me.
Claire Stenhouse, Carbone
I have been fortunate to have had several professional mentors that have guided me through this industry, many of whom I see as father figures. But it is my own father that taught me my first, and most valuable, lesson in hospitality.
I grew up in a family of three, with my father and brother. We rarely got the chance to sit down to a meal together, as we were all so busy getting the house in order. At an early age, this taught me the value of teamwork, understanding a long-term goal and feeling a mutual responsibility to get things done. My lesson in hospitality came a little later, when one Christmas my dad arranged a huge feast, inviting around twelve friends to join us for the celebration. They were such an interesting group, with amazing stories and such gratitude for life. Having grown up in a small family unit, it was a truly magical experience to be surrounded by so many individual personalities, all somehow connected and there for a sole purpose: to share stories over food and love.
Many years later I asked my dad about that Christmas; who those people were to him and why he had invited them to our house. He explained that they were either homeless or people he knew to have no family or place to be; “lost souls” he called them. I told him how wonderfully selfless that was to invite them all and give them that gift but he explained that it was not for them, but for us, for his children to feel like we had a big family. To feel like we were a part of something bigger, by giving. I suppose then I realised the power that hospitality can have not just on our guests but on ourselves.
Chef Luke Barry, Black Sheep Restaurants
Something I learnt from my father was to always check in on your people. On a daily basis, I ask my team how they are doing, how their kids are and what is going on at home. This sense of family is so important in the restaurant industry, spending all day and night with each other you become invested in the lives of those around you. Common interests bring us together, over lengthy conversations. Being a working parent, especially in a tough industry, is no easy feat, so sharing stories can be therapeutic.
My daughters, Thyme and Autumn, often visit me at work and I think it fosters a sense of community in them too. We go on walks through SoHo, they chat to other team members, some of whom have become friends; plus they often get a bite of something delicious from the restaurants. It definitely makes coming to daddy’s work more exciting! I genuinely believe that having kids around brightens up the day, so I encourage team members to bring their little ones to work too. I love seeing how they are all growing up and becoming friends. It is inspiring to know that these little minds bear witness to the fantastic job their parents do. Being a father is a blessing, but one that comes with enormous responsibility and I am proud to share that with this community.
Amy Stott, Ho Lee Fook
Being from a fairly old-school English family, table manners were everything growing up, especially for my dad. He taught me how to use a knife and fork correctly, no elbows on the table, no talking with your mouth full and always ask to be excused from the table.
You can ask my dad about a time when I was very small (small enough that I do not remember this) when he told me to ‘empty my mouth before I talk at the table’. Of course, tiny Amy took that quite literally and, allegedly, I spat the entire contents of my mouth out, right back on to my plate. My dad was, naturally, in total shock. I get it now.
Despite being on the other side of the table these days, I believe that having good manners is part-and-parcel of hospitality. It is something I watch out for and notice pretty quickly, but also something I insist on instilling within my team.
Declan Doran, Black Sheep Restaurants
As kids growing up, mum was the one who usually took charge of the cooking in our house.
However, Sunday was the one day when my father took over. I have fond memories of him preparing a traditional Sunday roast: chicken or beef with all the trimmings, vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and, in true Irish fashion, several types of potatoes – boiled, mashed, roasted – and lashings of gravy. As we got busier and entered our teens and early twenties, Sunday lunch was the one time we made sure we were all available to congregate as a family and regale each other of our stories from the week. We all chipped in and helped him out in the kitchen; I was usually in charge of the potatoes and washing up. Food is such an integral part of family traditions, and the time spent sharing across a dining table is priceless. That is something I will always treasure, and pass on.