So you want to open a… restaurant
He’s worked at the best restaurant in the world, but now, Tom Sellers is taking the same ambition for his first restaurant, Story, opening February 2013.
Tom Sellers is just 25, but already he’s worked with some of the UK’s most notable chefs including Thomas Keller and Adam Byatt, as well as having done a year-and-a-half stint at the three-time world’s best restaurant, Noma. February 2013, however, will see the opening of Story, Tom’s very own venture as a restaurateur.
“On my return to London [after Noma], there was a lot of movement and a lot of people began to approach me for collaboration. I sat down with Adam [Byatt] who said he had always wanted to be involved with my own project and back me. I decided now was the right time to have a restaurant,” explains Tom.
“I was looking at sites around London for about a year before I randomly came across a property developer who had bought a toilet block and didn’t know what to do with it. So we decided to knock it down and build the restaurant.
“I’m a cook and a chef, and business can be hard at times. It’s a mammoth project, a lot bigger than I imagined. It’s not just about painting walls and choosing pots and pans. We’re going from a building site to a fully working restaurant in six months, it’s a big ask. Nothing ever prepares you for this kind of workload and the challenge that’re put in front of you. I’ve been very lucky to have great mentors such as Tom Aikens behind me. All the people involved are very supportive.
“It’s always been important that it’s my vision. Story will be a special place to be. It’s right on the edge of Tower Bridge, and there’s a lot of history soaked in that area. The idea is to be the best restaurant in the world.
“When you’re setting up a business, you need a big strong team. Adam has opened five restaurants and will be a shoulder for me to lean on from time to time. I have a fantastic team on board, and the people I’m working with have always wanted to work with me on my own project. They are literally taking my vision from my head and making it a reality.
“When I was younger, I told my mum I wanted to have a restaurant. I never forget one night we went to dinner and she said, don’t you feel like eating in a restaurant is like them telling you their story through food? Then, Story just stuck. I will be telling my story, but when you go to a restaurant there’s a story for why you’re there, whether it’s because you heard about it from a friend or going for someone’s birthday. You share more stories there. It all made sense.”
So what are Tom’s aspirations after opening? “What I want is a really busy restaurant that I’m really proud of. I want it to be a place everyone is proud to work. If the accolades and the awards come with that, then fantastic. It can be narrow-minded to open a restaurant to have a goal for three [Michelin] stars. My sole drive isn’t to achieve that. You have to ask yourself, what makes the best restaurant in the world? Is it because it has three stars or that it’s full every day and everyone that leaves had an amazing time? The point is, if you start with looking after your guests and making them feel special, then your finishing point is stars.
“I always held onto the dream that I would open my own restaurant. No matter what I always knew it was possible. Without belief there’s no point. It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how many opportunities you get, you have to work really hard and surround yourself with people that have the same ethos. You could never do this on your own. It’s a combination of many people. The best thing that ever happened to me was getting kicked out of school. You can’t get anything without hard work.”