GETTING TO KNOW: MATT EMMERSON FROM PERILLA DINING

Thu 12 2016  |  admin

Q. When and how did you start working in the industry?

I started working in the industry before I went to university. I did a brief stint in the kitchen of a local pub. Then I did a few years of uni, a masters in chemistry actually, before I realised it really wasn’t for me. I then started working FOH for Polpo about 3 ago. I stayed in the group for about 2 years moving from Polpo to Polpetto with Florence Knight towards the end. Ben and I were also doing our pop-ups Perilla at the same time. It was a totally different experience doing Front of House from Back of House.

I really love working with people and am passionate about home cooking as well as eating good food and dining out of course. So it seemed a pretty obvious industry for me to move into.

Q. And you’ve just opened Perilla Dining, can you tell us a bit more about that?

As I said we were doing the pop-ups concurrently whilst working at Polpo. Initailly Ben and I were doing them with Ollie Norman, Russell’s (Polpo’s founder) son and a close friend of mine. We started a series of dinner parties and then some longer residencies and it really allowed the brand to evolved and let us figure out where we wanted to take Perilla.

We then did a 4 month pop-up at Platform 1 in East Dulwich, off the back of which, we raised funds and found our permanent site in Stoke Newington. We were very lucky going from a pop-up to a permanent site so quickly, taking about 8 months to do it all! It’s been a whirlwind year! We feel incredibly lucky to having such a great team of investors on board, all from the hospitality industry; Phil Howard from Elystan Street and Thomas Kochs, previously at Claridge’s and now MD at Cafe Royal and Martyn Nail, executive chef at Claridge’s. Each of whom have brought something different to the table!

The idea behind Perilla is to take high quality food and bring it into an informal atmosphere with a friendly, relaxed style of service from kitchen through to front of house. It’s all about informal service without compromising on quality of what come out of the kitchen. In terms of the food itself, we’d describe it as (the overused) Modern European. A veg-heavy, carb-light, menu. Its definitely a different and unusual style of cooking, not like many things I’ve seen before really.

Q. How tricky is the process of staffing a new restaurant and what sort of characters we’re you looking for to represent your brand?

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do! Finding good staff is really really difficult. We have struck gold with our current team and found a fantastic group. We’ve either worked with everyone before or friends had made suggestions and recommendations which is always a great way to recruit.I had already worked with our current Restaurant Manager, Lauren, within the Polpo group which was great!

In terms of the kitchen team, our Sous Chef, Jack, is someone Ben trained with and who helped with all the pop ups, so it was great to have him on board. And the rest of the chef teams that they have previously worked with. Chefs have certainly been the most difficult to find.

We operate a really close family vibe. When you’re here as much as you are it kind of has to be like that!

Q. What do you love the most about this industry?

For me, it’s all about a love for good food and wine combined with enjoying and spending time with people and chatting. It felt very natural as soon I started.

Q. What re the most important tips for working a busy floor?

Stay calm, keep smiling!!

Q. If you could give one very important tip to someone interviewing to work t your venue, what would it be?

Three points:

I guess having a real passion for food and drink and not to be nervous, just being calm and having your head screwed, and lastly being charming or cheeky. Not giving off the impression that you get flustered easily. Always helps.

Q. What is more important to you in a candidate? Training or passion?

Passion! Training can be taught. My job is to make my staff represent how I want the restaurant to be represented and that can be done through training so if the person has the charisma and right attitude, then the rest can be taught.

Q. What do you look for in a good candidate for your venue specifically?

Three attributed above anything else – being charming, hardworking, having a real passion for food and drink and the finally like I said in the interview being calm and alert and having your head screwed on all the time.

Q. How do you keep your staff happy?

As a young business we can’t offer the biggest salaries but we do make a point of pay all of our staff a salary rather than hourly as we expect them to treat this as a career and take it very seriously. We give our staff all of their service, something which should just be an industry norm but sadly isn’t. And more than anything, it’s like a family. We try have as much fun at work as we can. And thus far it has worked!

We put a big onus on staff welfare as we want our team to feel like they can ask for anything and they see Ben and I working longer and harder than everyone else which i hope makes them feel like they’re not the only ones who are putting in the hard yards.

Q. What’s your favourite dish at Perilla?

My favourite dishes at the moment are the fish dishes actually. Loving the roast cod with cuttlefish bolognese and chard and the fillet of red mullet with lardo and radicchio is pretty special.

An old favourite would have to be the grilled lettuce.

Q. What trends are you most excited about in the London restaurant scene at the moment?

I’m really happy about the way Thai food has developed over the last 4 years. Looking forward to the same thinking happening with Chinese and other Southeastern Asian cuisines and seeing how that progresses.

There are a few glimpses of regional Chinese like Silk Road or Xiang Impressions and I’m excited to see how that is going to expand.

Q .What are your 3 favourite restaurants in London? and why?

Clove Club, Som Saa, Pidgin