THE ROTA ARCHIVE

LAURA SHEFFIELD - THE FASHION CHICK TURNED BUDDING RESTAURATEUR

"I REALLY HAVE NO SPECIAL OR INTERESTING SKILLS WHATSOEVER, EXCEPT MAYBE 'EXTREME' TYPING AND SPELLING.  NEITHER OF WHICH GO DOWN TOO WELL AT PARTIES."

Follow Laura on Instagram and Twitter @laurasheff

1.   What is one 4th of July tradition you either miss or always carry out?

My cousin and I have followed each other from Texas to NYC to London and so we celebrate all the American holidays together.  She's now married with a son, and thankfully they always include me in their celebrations. These days it's twice the fun because it's all about 2-year-old Owen, and introducing him to the trappings of back yard, American-style bbq's: devilled eggs, fried chicken, strawberry shortcake and, erm... beer drinking.  

2.   What was your first job in hospitality. 

A grotty pub, in the least grotty part in Surrey (the Surrey Hills), at the most beautiful time of year.  I’d never seen the English countryside properly, and I offered to work there to make ends meet when my partner and I were struggling. I learned to pull pints and make old people feel good just by serving them with love and personality – American charm.  I learned to carry three plates, and how to tolerate unreasonable behaviour (screaming) from employers.

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

British seasonal

4.   Which dish do you most associate with childhood?

Fried okra.

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

Chumbawumba (Sorry.)

6.   What do you crave after a long shift?

Someone to talk to about it all.

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

Healthy eggs scrambled with veggies, though I’m coming around to Marmite in a big way.

8.   What is your favourite word?

Corazon

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

Mexico

10. All at the same time or coursed out?

At the same time.

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

In the past six months, I’ve learned more about finance than I ever thought possible, yet there’s so much more to learn!  Not P&L’s, but the way the nuts and bolts of £££’s fit together to get off the ground.  (No surprise - That’s lots of £££’s in London.)

12. What is the best cure for a hangover?

Milk. Lots and lots of milk. Most likely straight from the carton.

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

A spicy Virgin Mary.  Wakes me up temporarily without diluting the responsibility that goes into closing.  I wasn’t always so boring, but getting older takes its toll.

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

Lie about their reservations. Bad spatial awareness is a close second but I know that until you’ve worked in a restaurant, you just don’t ‘get it’ – it’s my issue to manage, not the guest’s.

15. Do you have any rituals during a shift?

Not really, just get bloody prepared and get your lipstick straight.

16. What’s the last film you saw?

Force Majeure – mighty clever.

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

When I lived in NYC, I used to have my birthday party at Da Silvano every year. I’d drag along several equally poor fashion friends each year and dine on food that at that point, I really didn’t appreciate as much as I would now. 

One year, Paul Shaffer from David Letterman was sitting next to our table.  At the point it was time to sing happy birthday, it was arranged ALL the lights went out, candles went up, the cake came out lit up like a bonfire, and Paul Shaffer joined in to serenade me.  All arranged by my glorious friends.  That’s love.

18. What’s your tagline/motto?

I could never limit myself to just one of those.  So much talking, so little time.

19. Photography while eating – yay or nay?

Yay with respect, and in moderation.  Nay otherwise.

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

Food, wine, sex.  The first two set up the third.

21. What would be your last meal – drinks included.

Golly I can’t answer this – though barbeque from Franklin’s would be near the top of the list.  I think it would be more about the people around me. 

22. What makes you happy?

Success. Exercise. Laughter. Friendship. My sister.

23. How do you relax?

Exercise and Night Nurse.

24. What is the background on your phone?

A picture of me reuniting with ‘Squidge’ – a black labrador that used to live nearby my old Cotswold pub who would sit on a special seat and watch me work. Our love was strong and mutual, though on her side it may have been more about the dog biscuits I was always sneaking her mid-shift.  She used to follow me with her eyes while I worked, to the delight of customers – and sometimes she’d disappear from her home and wander down to the pub, just to come down and say ‘hi.’  My favourite six-year old customer took the picture.

25. Favourite Instagram accounts to follow

@sanchezrosio

@hijadesanchez

@alexanderstupak

@blakemycoskie

@empellon

@davidloftus

@pottingshedpub

@thebodycoach for fitness inspiration after all this food

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

It’s such a nice intersection of all my interests – food, ‘family’, fun, style & interiors, business & strategy.  It feels like all my experience has come together in this crazy job.

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

I'm horrified I've never done any proper eating in Paris.  Only dodgy tourist food. I've been all over the exotic Earth on a quest for great dining, and have somehow overlooked the greatness nearly on our doorstep. It's ridiculous considering its proximity and influence. ('Hint, hint' to the boyfriend)

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

Tough questions, but it has to be Danny Meyer.  He 'put words' to all the unarticulated ideas and passion I had about restaurants: from crafting somethig special ('different or better'), to looking after people with commitment and creativity (guests and staff).  And for staying a good guy despite all his success.  Also Zuleika Fennell at Corbin and King. 

29. What is your go to party trick?

I really have no special or interesting skills whatsoever, except maybe ‘extreme’ typing and spelling.  Neither of which go down too well at parties…

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

Sardines.