The first skill David Moore, 48, learned when he arrived in Blackpool from Ireland in 1977 was how to adopt an English accent. At the time, "Irish people weren't too popular in England. I didn't want to attract the wrong type of attention." The second skill was how to cook. "My mum had a successful B&B and I'd grown up watching her cook for people." Dreaming of becoming a chef, at 16 he went to catering college. But the lifestyle wasn't as glamorous as he had imagined. On graduating in 1982, he "ended up serving food to geriatrics in a local hotel".
Disillusioned, he went back to study catering management. This time, his studies were far more fruitful. "I didn't have the type of personality to be a chef... they are artists. I was more of a social animal and great at working with customers." He landed a job as a waiter at Le Manoir, a Michelin-starred Oxfordshire restaurant run by famous chef Raymond Blanc. In his five years there, Moore rose from waiter to assistant restaurant manager.
Together with one of the chefs a rising star called Richard Neat he began planning a restaurant in London. Neat would go to Paris for a year to hone his skills, while Moore would look for investors. Blanc "was really supportive of us and even helped us find investment". In 1992, Moore opened Pied Terre near London's West End. The restaurant got off to a good start when it received a respectable 7/10 rating from an influential food critic. Neat's cooking skills helped the restaurant win first one, then two Michelin stars, a feat managed by only a handful of other London restaurants. But after a few years of success, Moore began to learn how volatile the restaurant trade can be. As a result of a much-publicised incident where a chef allegedly attacked a trainee with a knife, Moore had to change chefs, which saw the restaurant briefly lose a Michelin star. Then, in 2004, "just as we were getting our momentum back", a fire destroyed the place. The building had to be rebuilt, which meant shutting for a year.
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"Staff are the key to a restaurant's success," says Moore. He kept 15 of them on at full wages until the restaurant re-opened. A dispute with the insurers meant this became a huge drain on his resources. But when the restaurant did re-open, retaining the staff meant he could hit the ground running. And there was even a silver lining. "Food critics often tire of writing about the same place, which means many established restaurants can be ignored. After the fire, we were an exciting story again."
Two years of booming sales helped pay for a second restaurant, L'Autre Pied, which opened in late 2007. Moore staffed the restaurant with some of the best young chefs and waiters from Pied Terre "I always like to develop talent rather than poach it from elsewhere" and within 14 months it had its first Michelin star. With both restaurants going well, Moore gave his staff more control and focused on new projects. He appeared in reality TV shows, such as BBC2's The Restaurant, and began acting as an angel investor for new restaurants. Moore is now looking for partners to help him expand the Pied Terre brand globally. "There's very few great restaurant brands out there I think there'd be a lot of international demand for what we have to offer."
James graduated from Keele University with a BA (Hons) in English literature and history, and has a NCTJ certificate in journalism.
After working as a freelance journalist in various Latin American countries, and a spell at ITV, James wrote for Television Business International and covered the European equity markets for the Forbes.com London bureau.
James has travelled extensively in emerging markets, reporting for international energy magazines such as Oil and Gas Investor, and institutional publications such as the Commonwealth Business Environment Report.
He is currently the managing editor of LatAm INVESTOR, the UK's only Latin American finance magazine.
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