If you’re running a restaurant, beautiful tablecloths and mood lighting are all well and good – but the real magic happens in the kitchen. From getting the right staff to ensuring you’re certified and compliant with all the regulations, there is a lot to think about. Here’s how Virgin StartUp-supported Peter Walker, founder of Middlesbrough-based restaurant The Curing House, runs his restaurant kitchen.

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Tell us a little about your business

We are a small independent family owned restaurant which specialises in the craft of Charcuterie and preservation. We source some of the best air-dried cured meat products from around Europe such as Iberico Jamon, Coppa, Chorizo and Lardo. In addition we practice the craft ourselves by curing our own bacon, brining beef and making confits. Our ethos is to make everything from scratch so we also bake all of our own bread, ferment pickles and butcher our own beef to cut steaks then we use the bones for stock and grind the trim to make burgers for our brunch menu so that our burgers are made from sirloin, rump and fillet.

How many staff work in the kitchen & how do you find the right staff?

We have three qualified and experienced chefs supported by two apprentices who we are training. They are found through research and interviewing to build a team of like-minded people. Getting your staff right is crucial – it’s essential that they work together really well, as things move quickly in the kitchen. It’s also important that they understand the ethos of your restaurant. Our chefs share our passion for high-quality, well-sourced ingredients, and know how to get the most from them.

The Curing House

How do you get ingredients for the kitchen and how do you know how much food to get?

We work with local suppliers to support the menus. We try and source as much local produce as possible to balance out the European charcuterie products, which obviously have to travel a long way. The quantity to buy comes from the experience of our Head Chef, Joe, alongside what we have learned from sales over the last year. It’s a learning experience and there will necessarily be a degree of trial and error to avoid waste, but having experienced staff really helps.

What goes into putting the menu together?

Lots of things have an influence! It all depends on the seasonality of produce, the creativity of the vision and the execution by our head chef. His innovation, leadership and the skill of the kitchen team means we are able to create menus that excite while still maintaining consistency and quality.

What are some common challenges?

Human resources, getting enough customers through the door, and standing out from the crowd in a world blinded by social media. It can be difficult to stand out above the noise when it comes to marketing, a challenge I think faced by many food businesses. But we are rapidly building a reputation for excellent food, helped along by enthusiastic reviews on sites such as Facebook. At the end of the day, it’s about the quality of the food and building that happy customer base.

Top 3 tips for running a restaurant kitchen?

  • Love food.
  • Get a good Head Chef and Sous Chef
  • Leave them to it as much as possible!

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