Jeremy King, the legendary London restaurateur — one half of Corbin & King — behind The Wolseley, The Delaunay, Brasserie Zedel and the Beaumont Hotel, was today presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Harden’s Restaurant Awards at the Hippodrome in London’s Piccadilly. Eater London was there to hear the operator talk celebrity customers, Brexit, his partner, his staff and his tastes. Here are the highlights from his speech.
On celeb guests: "I retain full discretion. I apologise, but I took a vow to never talk about my guests."
On management: "Chris and I work well as we have a loving relationship (not like that). It's gone on for 35 years. We have complete trust and see the value in one another as well as the flaws. We can be honest, which is integral.”
On staff: "The best staff are the most popular with diners, but not with managers and the kitchen. It's about warmth and love. Technical ability is important. But you have to accept the eccentrics.
"You know Jim Morrison? You remember him, but not his band. They [the band] keep things going, but he is at the front. People love him. It all works together.
"You have to be on the floor to understand your restaurants. You can't run a business solely from the boardroom. It's a tough industry and people work immensely hard."
On Brexit and London’s restaurant industry having grown from immigration and diversity: "[Britain’s] been massively stupid. 61% of my staff are European. There are so many restaurants opening — where will they get the staff? We've built an industry on diversity and Europeans. We're in big trouble. It makes me so angry, but I never swear, so I won't."
"European culture is important. Europe values a sense of service, and that's vastly important for hospitality businesses.
"Brexit is destructive."
His restaurants, he said, are "like his children, they all behave differently but he loves them all equally."
He couldn't pick a favourite or a favourite dish but said he had: "simple tastes."
On helping to change dining in Britain, brasseries (such as Zedel) “helped put a duchess next to a taxi driver.”