THE ROTA ARCHIVE

TOM GEORGE - THE MANAGER

"SOMETHING I AM BEST AT AND SOMETHING I COULD DO MORE OF IS CHECK THE TOILETS."

Follow him on Twitter @tommggeorge

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1. What was your first job in hospitality

I was a barman at a pub called The Mill in Bath Hampton. It gets flooded twice a year, almost every year because it's right on the river.

2. What is your favourite type of cuisine to eat – preferably not the one you work in?

Probably Chinese, I eat a lot of Chinese. I’ve been on a Fuchsia Dunlop bender for the last year and a half. In fact she came in to Som Saa maybe 6 weeks ago and I kind of fan boy’d her and embarrassed her, and myself.

3. Which dish do you most associate with childhood?

Baked beans, mashed potato and X. X can be mince or chicken kiev or that array of strange things you eat when it’s 4pm and someone has made it for you. But always, mashed potato and beans. I think when I was little I could have eaten beans every single day of my life.

4. What’s the soundtrack to your first love?

It’s ‘You Only Get What You Give’ by The New Radicals. I think I was 12 at the time and that was our song. Horribly cheesy. 

5. What do you crave after a long shift?

Just bloody being horizontal! Putting your feet up. Cereal is the other one. Jordan’s muesli out of a cup in the kitchen.

6. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – what do you have? 

I never end up having breakfast. If I can, I have porridge. I really do like porridge, but I really only end up having breakfast on my day off. Otherwise I just grab a coffee or some toast. 

7. What is your favourite word?

Roast. Not because of the word but because of the way you write it. Roast can be written really beautifully. To say, slither is a pretty good word. That really holds its meaning doesn’t it?

8. If you could go on a culinary extravaganza-eating holiday, where would you choose to do so? 

Its gotta be Japan. It’s where everybody wants to go isn’t it? I’d go and gorge on sushi in the market in Tokyo. Which my brother has been to, the bastard and he doesn’t even care about food!

9. All at the same time or coursed out?

All at the same time. Yeah. Perhaps the more you work in restaurants the fewer tendencies you have to enjoy the formality. And the more you enjoy just having a pint and some food. You spend your whole time following rules and procedures and timelines and its nice to not have structure when you eat.

10. What is the one area of working in a restaurant you wish you knew more of?

Well, I’ve kind of done very job. I’ve been a barback, a KP, a barman, a barista, a waiter an assistant manager and a manager. I’d love to learn more about being a chef but in some ways I didn’t want to be a chef because I knew if I did it, it would almost ruin it as well. I kind of deliberately don’t want to know more about being a chef so I can enjoy it. But you know what? Hosting and reservations! Reservations are just an absolute moving chess game and I could always be better at that. You can be a black belt in reservations and what is like four levels down? Like Blue? Yeah, I’m a blue. 

11. What is the best cure for a hangover?

A burger. A Goodman burger actually. Goodman burgers nail it. It’s a burger with egg in it, that’s what does it. That’s what you want.

12. You’re allowed one shift drink – what is it?

Just a pint. A pint is what I want after a shift. A straight cold pint, that has just been pulled. I’m loving our Camden Pilsner at the moment. It’s amazing. I’m not saying that as a promotion, it’s absolutely booming.

13. What is the one thing which guests do that drives you mad?

It doesn’t drive me mad, it disappoints me when people approach a meal with the assumption that we are trying to screw them in some way. Thing is it’s very difficult to make sure that somebody has a great time if their default assumption is that we are trying to just, take from them. It takes a lot of work to get over that assumption. So I guess that doesn’t make me mad, but it’s a shame when people don’t acknowledge that there is a whole room full of people here wanting to make sure that people have a good time. So I guess, forgetting that we are here to make sure they have a great time. That’s the one.

14. Do you have any rituals during a shift?

Do you know what, they are probably so ingrained I don’t even know what they are anymore. I find it difficult not to check the toilets every 25 minutes because that was drilled into me from the start. Something I am best at and something I could do more of is check the toilets. {laughing}

15. What’s the last film you saw?

The Neverending Story in 1994? {laughing} I just don’t watch films. And you know what it is, I was thinking about this the other day and this is not going to be a fast answer for an interview. But most people’s jobs, they wake up, they go to work and then they have 4-5 hours to either do admin or meet someone or do something and go to the cinema. In hospitality it’s always the other way around, even if you start work at 4pm, your whole work day is coming towards you for the rest of the day. So there is always a deadline coming towards you, the deadline of service is always approaching. I dislike going to the cinema because it’s another deadline coming towards me. It makes me feel uneasy having a deadline. I mean making a reservation for dinner is about as committed, as I like to get on my day off.

16. Best thing that has ever happened to you in a restaurant?

The one that stands out, this is such a cheesy hospitality answer, but it’s when I went to Union Square Café and I was pretty excited about going, and I’d read Setting The Table before I went. My Mum and sister were going to NYC and they asked me if I would like to go along and I basically took it as an eating trip, they went shopping, I went eating. I took my Mum to Union Square Café for her birthday and I think I must have written on the booking notes, I think I said ‘Hi guys can’t wait to come, it’s going to be my Mum’s birthday and we’re looking forward to a great time’. As we walked in, clearly the hostess had this note, and she knew it was party of three, she knew it was going to be a Mum’s birthday and she had my name and she put them all together. She said ‘you must be Mrs. George how is your trip going?’ and then said happy birthday to my Mum. Smashed it.

17. What’s your tagline/motto?

‘Time to lean to clean’ That’s a classic. Perhaps not the one I would like to be known by but it is a classic.

18. Photography while eating – yay or nay?

If that’s what makes you happy then great – it’s not for me. You’ll never see me doing it but some people like watching netball, some people like playing baseball, I don’t do that either.

19. Rank the following in order of priority; wine, food, sex

Sex first obviously. Then it’s got to be food and then wine. Because if it was baked beans on toast forever with amazing wine or amazing food with Julio Gallo, you’d have to have amazing food with Julio Gallo!

20. What would be your last meal – drinks included?

It’d have to be….slightly sombre answer, but Peking duck because then you can share it with whoever you’re with. Yeah, everybody likes Peking duck. To drink, hmmmm, trying to think what would go with Peking Duck. I’m not really a Burgundy kind of guy. I will say some kind of California Syrah from Sean Thackery. Wait, does he even make a Syrah? NO! Wind Gap Syrah. That’s what I would choose.

21. What makes you happy?

Having time to see your friends and family is the only thing that makes you truly happy. After you’ve established food, oxygen and shelter. Time to be with the people that you want to spend time with.

22. How do you relax?

I don’t anymore. {laughing} Do you know what, just going to the pub with my mates, that is the best way to relax. I really enjoy going to restaurants and drinking nice wine, but there is a certain effort involved in that as well. It’s great, its definitely enjoyable, but it’s just, you know…putting on your old shoes and going to the old pub with your mates and drinking a pint of Heineken is pretty great.

23. What is the background on your phone?

The first Som Saa logo that ever was, which was at Street Feast.

24. Favourite Instagram accounts to follow?

I’m rubbish at Instagram. Twitter I use quite a lot but Instagram I am rubbish. So on Twitter probably; @tuckandvine @dannymeyer and @thewhiskeyexchange

25. What is the best thing about working in hospitality?

It’s very easy to enjoy because you see the enjoyment, you see the product being consumed. The best bit is seeing people eating. Here at Som Saa in Climpson’s Arch its really nice because we have communal seating, you have two couples who don’t know each other having a chat, and at the end of the meal they are drinking wine together. That’s pretty cool. But you know, it’s just seeing guests enjoying their time. If you don’t enjoy that part of front of house there is something dreadfully wrong.

26. Which restaurant are you ashamed to NOT have eaten at?

Le Gavroche

27. Who is the person you most respect in the industry?

I’m trying to think if there is any answer that is not Danny Meyer. No, it has to be Danny Meyer.

28. What is your go to party trick?

Man, I gave up trying to find a party trick a long time ago so I just talk to people instead. If I get to a party these days I’m impressed.

29. Finish this sentence; I eat everything except ...

Plastic bags? I eat everything! I used to hate mushrooms when I was younger but now I love them.