THE ROTA ARCHIVE

GRACE WELCH - THE HEADWAITER

‘YOU KNOW WHAT, I WOULD LOVE TO SELL YOU TOAST.  I FUCKING LOVE TOAST, TOAST IS DELICIOUS!’

Follow her on Twitter & Instagram @gracie_welch

1. What was your first job in hospitality

I worked in a restaurant called Brunswick House in Vauxhall and it’s wonderful. It's owned by a friend of mine, Jackson Boxer, who was just someone that I grew up with from living in south London and I knew him and his brother Frank just from being a teenager and going out. I left film school and I was trying to work out what to do and I kind of thought I wanted to be a lawyer, because my sister is a musician, I wanted to do the exact opposite to prove that I was different. Then Jackson one night said ‘come work for me for a little bit until you figure out what it is you want to do’. You know when you have a restaurant job and everything kind of clicks?  It's like everyone that works there is the best and you have a lot of freedom because you’re managed by people your own age and you basically just have a riot. That’s kind of what it was like in the early days of Brunswick House – it was so much fun. Jackson was in the kitchen making this amazing food and we were just having fun all the time and we drank too much and we were going out all the time and everyone just got on so well. It was one of those jobs that made me say ‘I want to work in restaurants’. 

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

I live in Dalston so I go out for Turkish late night a lot. My boyfriend (Daniel) and I both work in hospitality so we often have mini dates at like 1 in the morning at Turkish restaurants because they are open all the time, and we never see each other.  Date night at 1am on a Wednesday! It’s also so good for you, high protein, lots of vegetables, delicious. 

3. Which dish do you most associate with childhood?

I guess spaghetti bologonese. I have 6 siblings and I think that was the only thing we all agreed on across the board.

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

The first boyfriend I was ever in love with was when I was 18 or 19 and he was in a skiffle band and played the washboard. So I guess it would have to be his music. They were called The Severed Limb.

5. What do you crave after a long shift?

Oh my god, toast! I love toast and butter. Someone said to me the other day in the restaurant ‘You’re really good at describing the food I bet you could sell me toast’ and I was like ‘You know what, I would love to sell you toast, I fucking love toast, toast is delicious!’ she was like ‘oh, ok, um I was kidding’ (laughing)

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

If I wake up in time I always try and have breakfast. I brew my own kombucha, I must have kombucha in the morning, that makes me sound mental I know but I do enjoy it. I have something on toast - tomatoes on toast, avocado on toast otherwise like cereal or eggs. My friend told me to have eggs in the evening though, if you finish late at night and you need to eat something after service because you haven’t eaten since 5pm, have protein only.

7. What is your favourite word?

This is something I have thought about a lot actually

Somnambulance

Soporific is also a good one.

I have words I hate as well.  Golf. Say it, just say it over and over again, it’s disgusting. It’s a horrible word. Moist is another one I don’t like, terrible connotations.

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

My Mum’s from New York so when I went to New York when I was younger and in my teenage years we never got to experience any kind of food, because it was family, family, family. I have been to NYC once a year my whole life but I have never been to Brooklyn. It’s insane. It’s kind of frustrating that I have been there so many times and haven’t actually been to many restaurants. So I think I’ve got to say NYC. I am going to try and go this year with Daniel. 

9. All at the same time or coursed out?

I like to be constantly surprised, so I think little things coming in waves is best. That’s my favourite kind of way to do it. I like Middle Eastern food because I like loads of different things all at the same time. I’m really greedy. If I’m on a table I try everything off of everyone’s plates. So I would always say waves coursed out. It’s nice because sometimes it will be like ‘Oh look I forgot we even ordered this and this! Brilliant!’

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

There’s a couple of things I think. The boring answer is financials.  I think I would love to know how to get that perfect thing of still maintaining that you’re an amazing sustainable restaurant and you have amazing social ability with your staff and everything is kind of great, but you also make money. That like secret formula, I would like to know more about that. I really want to learn more about how to manage people and help staff. 

11. What is the best cure for a hangover?

I just eat and eat and eat.  Or crisps, crisps are like the single best food ever. There really is no cure for a hangover apart form getting drunk again.

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

I feel like a Negroni settles everything, or a Fernet Branca.

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

Asking me what else I do in my life. 

Guest: ‘So you’re from London, so what is it that you do? Are you an actress?’

Me: ‘Umm no, this is what I do.’ 

Guest: ‘Oh so do your parents own a restaurant?’

Me: ‘No no, this is what I do, I am a waitress’

14. Do you have any rituals during a shift?

Daniel and I used to have one after service, which was putting your feet up against the wall and letting all the blood drain out of your feet. When we first started dating we would go home and put our feet up and have a chat and catch up. It feels amazing, your feet just feel so much better. 

15. What’s the last film you saw?

I watched the Hunger Games Part 3, before that I saw a film about a New york woman who was from Iran, I can’t remember what it was called. But I do like films I can switch off in.

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

As a guest Daniel and I had such a special meal at The Ledbury. We went for our anniversary dinner and we just got looked after so well. They are so amazing at The Ledbury for making you feel really really special. They sent us loads of stuff and had a card that said happy anniversary, I’d never had an anniversary before so I was like ‘This is great! We should do this all the time!’

But I actually have better experiences as a server in a restaurant. I have had someone who said they were going to name their child after me, that was quite good, its nice to be good at your job.

17. What’s your tagline/motto?

'Life is a vessel for mayonnaise.' I have often said that. My friend Coco coined it, which I have taken on board.

18. Photography while eating – yay or nay?

Yay. I don’t mind. I don’t like people who don’t look at their partner or the person they are dining with or don’t enjoy their food. I also understand food gets cold, but as a server of a restaurant, I quite like there is an element of being proud or representing good food and letting other people see that. Instagram is good for for that. I saw someone eating a baked vacherin at Brawn and so the other night we went to Brawn and had once! That element of it is good.

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

Food, sex, wine, in that order.

20. What would be your last meal - drinks included.

I have no idea. I guess if it was that I never had to worry about my health and my heart ever again it would be something deep fried. If I was going to die I don’t think I would be very hungry. No you know what I would have a loaf of white bread with loads of spreads - peanut butter, jam, marmite, cheese, tomato.

21. What makes you happy?

Cycling, I love to cycle, when I cycle its like meditation. Making other people happy makes me happy, so service is really good for me. I really like doing my job. My boyfriend makes me happy, he’s very considerate like really really hilariously considerate. The other day was a perfect example, I had asked him to do the washing up and he was like sweating when I got home, he had raced home so fast to make sure everything was washed up. 

22. How do you relax?

I listen to Woman’s hour religiously. Which is both a form of relaxation and anxiety. I drink wine. I do pottery, I’m terrible at it but it’s really relaxing.

23. What is the background on your phone?

It’s a picture of Daniel and I on New Years Eve. 

24. Favourite Instagram accounts to follow

@raven_smith
@gemmabelleats
@korokimono
@arthurdeborman

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

That I enjoy my job. I love speaking to people and making people happy and the fact that your whole day starts at 5pm and finishes at midnight and if it’s a bad shift, that shift is never going to exist again. If it’s a good shift then its never going to exist again, it’s just kind of there. It’s just quite nice that everything is different, you’re never going to have the same day ever – it’s not like a sitting down monotonous answering emails job. You’re always moving! It’s something I kind of had to assess and say ‘this is actually work’. My Mum is an academic so work is writing or work is being at your computer and sending emails. That is how I was brought up, so it’s been an on going battle with myself ike 'Is this actually work?'

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

Hundreds! Because I work in restaurants I always work nights and I just haven’t been able to eat in restaurants in London that I would love to have eaten at. I’m kind of embarrassed to not have gone to things that are around my neighbourhood.

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

A guy called Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim who used to kind of mentor me. He has a place called Primeur in Islington, which is a very beautiful place and he consulted with Brunswick House when I was there. He has very much taken me under his wing and has been unbelievably amazing for me.  He has just been so great to me, I’ve always really respected him and his advice. 

28. What is your go to party trick?

I am massively un-skilled. If I get drunk enough I try and sing wildly. I’ve got an attention seeking streak which elevates me to any table surface or platform to try and sing. So I wouldn’t call it at trick so much as like an urge. I have enough drinks and I am like – ‘I have to get higher up and sing’

29. Finish this sentence; I eat everything except:

Eyeballs. Or anything that is alive. I will happily kill my food, I think it is an important process and I think everyone should understand where food comes from if you’re going to eat it, but I will not torture my food.