As big fans of the Roux family and Le Gavroche, we got the chance to speak to the former restaurant manager and much-loved fixture of the London restaurant scene, Silvano Giraldin.
Giraldin talks candidly about working with the Roux family for over four decades, what it felt like to be the first restaurant in England to achieve three Michelin stars and his favourite sporting memories.
Describe in three words how it has been working with the Roux family for over 40+ years?
One word – fantastic. You know I cannot complain, the Roux family for me is like family and I think I was adopted by them.
How do you enjoy spending your time when you’re not working alongside the Roux family?
When I am not working I enjoy a lot of things. My main thing, especially this time of year is shooting, I do a lot of live shooting of small birds. I don’t shoot big birds because I don’t believe in that. I only shoot ones which we can reproduce; I only shoot partridge, pheasant because we can reproduce them.
Do you cook what you shoot?
Yes I do.
Does Albert help with that?
Well Albert was a very keen shot when he was a young man and so they (Albert and his brother) introduced me to shooting in England.
Having spent 37 years working at Le Gavroche, what is it about the restaurant and hospitality industry that really appeals to you?
For me, in my heart, it’s the best restaurant you can find in England, we try to promote it for the fantastic food, fantastic service and the ambience. Gavroche is Gavroche. It has become the talk of the town and for me is very symbolic and fantastic – so I have loved every single moment of working there. I retired because of my age – when you arrive at a certain age, you’re better staying at home than working. But I do miss it a little bit, but not enough to come back.
It’s probably one of the only restaurants that celebrates front of house as well? Yes, the main thing is the food. However, everything else has got to come with it; you have to have the front of the house helping with that. There are a lot of places, especially in London, where the food is fantastic but you don’t go back because the service is rude and they’re not welcoming and they’re not recognising you and so on and so on. That’s always been the good thing of Gavroche.
How do we replicate that at The Gatsby Club?
People who went last year are coming back. One customer said to me, I know it is expensive, but I put a bit aside all through the year to come back. It is the highlight of my season, to eat at The Gatsby Club and then watch the tennis, and that’s what the guy said. And we got regular people at The Gatsby Club – I recognised quite a lot of people coming back year after year after year. So that means when the people are coming back we have value for money. You can fool people in London through good PR to go to a place for the first time, but you cannot fool them to come back again. In Gavroche we have customers that I can remember their grandparents, then their sons and now their grandsons who are still customers of Gavroche. They have been customers of ours for 49 years since Gavroche has been open. And they’re still open, even if I am not here!
Explain how you felt when La Gavroche achieved the first third Michelin star in England?
Well, I was very, very happy because we were the first to achieve three Michelin stars, few were achieving two. I was there when we were the first in England to receive a Michelin star which was an achievement on its own
And how did the team celebrate?
Well we popped open quite a few bottles of champagne – how it should be done!
What’s your most cherished memory from your career with the Roux’s?
I don’t have one bad moment to recall.
The best joy I have is when they go out and they’re happy – I have always said my job is a merchant of happiness. When I see guest smiling as they leave – that’s when I know I’ve done a good job and that’s the best feeling to get every single day. When they smile and I say thank you for coming – that’s fantastic.
Did you ever find it difficult working unsociable hours?
It is very difficult but what is helping me is marrying my wife because she was working with us before so she understood the hours we had to do. Often it is very difficult, and a lot of my friends in the catering industry have had failed marriages due to a lack of understanding outside the business.
What do you enjoy most about assisting at Wimbledon and Epsom?
It reminds me of working at Gavroche and allows me to feel part of the floor.
What’s your most memorable sporting memory?
Italy winning the world cup!
Are you a big tennis fan?
Yes and my wife is a big tennis fan also. Last year a friend gave my wife a pair of tickets for Wimbledon for her and her best friend, which she enjoyed.
Best advice for anyone working in the restaurant and hospitality industry?
The restaurant and the kitchen is vocational so you have to be going there with the right idea and right commitment, otherwise please don’t do it. You know, it is a very tough job and you need to be committed to your career, to your profession. If you’re light hearted you should go and do another job.
It takes patience and devotion. You got to like people, you have to take enjoyment of giving enjoyment to other people. It is a lot of sacrifices whether you’re in the kitchen, whether you’re in the room, you have to work long hours. If you do it with pride and you believe in what you’re doing it is fantastic.
My last thing is I am a trustee of a competition – The Gold Service Scholarship – and whenever we get the young people we tell them you are the top because you’ve beaten the competition, but you need to spread the word that our job is a fantastic job – you are meeting all types of society. This is the only way you’ll meet as many people as I have met in my life. If you are happy to occasionally close your eyes to the hours, then you’ll be happy all of your life.
What’s your favourite dish?
The foie gras (Coeur d’artichaut Lucullus) is beautiful – it is a heart of artichoke with foie gras on top and it’s covered with a chicken mousse and served with a truffle sauce – it’s mind-blowing. I try to taste some of the new dishes which I love, but when I go out for supper I will reorder that.
Other than Gavroche, do you have a favourite restaurant?
I have plenty of favourite restaurants in London. There are two main favourites, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester and also Restaurant Gordon Ramsey. The Ledbury possibly, as well. Other than these, there are a lot of good places to go but they have different things to offer than just food.
Do you have a favourite Roux…? And why
Oh my god, I am not going to answer this because I like all the family. It’s like asking children, do you prefer your Mum or your Dad? Full-stop.