GETTING TO KNOW: MICAELA PHILIPPO, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, PACHAMAMA RESTAURANT GROUP

Thu 12 2016  |  admin

HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR CAREER IN BRANDING/HOSPITALITY:

I had always been interested in food and restaurants but found it hard to define what role I wanted to play in the industry. I spent a few years working on different projects from supper clubs, pop ups and then project managing a restaurant opening in Soho. A restaurant is a huge production and I was always drawn to brand strategy, concept development and designing an experience that consistently expresses the brand throughout from the interiors to the menu layout, the food presentation and the brand tone on social media.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT PACHAMAMA AND CHICAMA/WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WORK FOR A SMALL GROUP:

The group is family-run which is really nice as there is always a mother around (literally). Working with a small group means you have so much more control over your position as you’re the only one doing it. Decisions are made quickly and working directly with the owners means approval for big ideas can be made over whatsapp. It also means that I get to be involved in high level conversations and meetings regarding global expansion or pitching new concepts to landlords. I don’t think it would be the same working for a bigger company.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE CONCEPTS OF THESE VENUES?

The concept for Pachamama was always about delivering the best food in a relaxed environment that can be a great place for a date, a group dinner or a night getting smashed on pisco sours where you can’t remember leaving. It took a year of working together with the Head Chef to perfect the menu and really, very little changes. The food is incredibly good, and memorable. People still come back two years later for ‘thaaat lamb belly’. Chicama is a pescaterian restaurant. I wanted to do something different; a fish and seafood restaurant that doesn’t have the token steak on the menu, so that everyone is pleased. The restaurant has been greatly received in Chelsea. People love a good piece of grilled fish.

ARE YOU INVOLVED IN CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT? HOW DOES THE PROCESS UNFOLD:

Typically I will be briefed by the owners with anything from ‘We want to open a late night bar’ to ‘this site in x is available, what can we do there’. I will then do some research and put together a concept proposal. We’ll chat about it and then I’ll produce a landlord pack so we can start to pitch for sites. I have roughly 4 concepts that we are trying to find sites for at the moment but there’s a million more I want to do!

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES THAT YOU HAVE FACED IN THIS INDUSTRY?

You face SO MANY challenges when opening a restaurant – I don’t think many people really understand when they go to a new restaurant that behind the scenes there is probably complete chaos. The lead up to opening is just the most mental time ever and then the doors open and you can’t even take a breather because now what was a building site, has people eating in it. It’s a seriously tough industry to work in – a 7 day a week business that only really closes between 3 and 7am. There are so many oscillating parts and if one little cog stops working, the whole production could fail. Every customer is a critic and if they aren’t satisfied with their experience, can go on trip advisor and destroy you, or worse, will forever remember your restaurant as being a shit one and will tell any person that asks, not to go.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY?

So much. I love that I have an opportunity to create spaces and experiences that make people happy, full and drunk and maybe even given them something they had never tried before. When the restaurants are buzzing and there’s good vibes going on, it’s so rewarding. Working in this industry, whatever the position, your job is to create really fucking great memories, which is pretty unique.

IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE VERY IMPORTANT TIP TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO WORK IN
HOSPITALITY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Be confident, your job is to be a performer, an actor and a very discreet salesperson. There’s nothing worse than foh staff that have no personality. Also, working in hospitality you should take an interest in food & drink generally. I never understand people that work in restaurants but don’t eat in restaurants.

WHO IS THE IDEAL PACHAMAMA CANDIDATE?

Pachamama looks for staff that have charisma and charm and take an interest in what they are selling. The restaurant is busy so ability to move fast, act quickly, be self reliant and even if you’re stressed, never express that to the guests.

WHEN HIRING, WHAT SPECIAL PERSONALITY TRAITS DO YOU LOOK FOR?

Again, personality is so very important. Optimistic, friendly, considerate, intuitive, observant.

WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU IN A CANDIDATE? TRAINING OR PASSION?

Passion for sure – skills can be trained but if they don’t care whether they’re working in a restaurant or at a call centre, it’s not great.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT IN THE LONDON RESTAURANT SCENE AT THE MOMENT?

Finally Mexican is happening in a taco-focused way so pretty pumped about that. I put tacos on the menu at Pachamama in the summer. They’re yum. Bad Sports and Corazon are both great and I’m looking forward to the opening of El Pastor.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE LONDON BAR/RESTAURANT SCENE?

It’s the most exciting of any City I have been to but at the same time, I wish Private Equity and VC would just BACK OFF. I understand from a restaurateurs perspective that concepts are often designed to be rolled out and the best thing they can wish for is big backing to support this but my god, do we really need one of your restaurants in Fitzrovia, and then down the road in Soho and then in Covent Garden and then also in Marylebone? The fun of dining out is travelling to a different area and going to a local bar before or after. Seeing something new. The chain situation in London is making every area a copy & paste.

WHATS IN STORE FOR YOU AND YOUR VENUES GOING FORWARD?

Chicama will be opening for lunch in January so we are developing the menu now. Big salads, fish buns, ceviches, fish on the grill. I’m excited. Both restaurants are open on NYE and will be doing normal a la carte until 9:30 with a banquet tasting menu later in the eve.

Also this month we’re launching our brunch collaboration series. The first one is with my favourite Mezcal brand, Mezcal Amores. We’ve come up with some really yum Mexican-ish dishes like roasted cauliflower nachos, Mexican fried chicken waffle and a fat rib of beef to be served with tortillas and salsas. Mezcal cocktails for half price all weekend.

WHAT ARE YOUR 5 FAVOURITE VENUES IN LONDON? AND WHAT ARE THEIR SIGNATURE DISHES AND/OR DRINKS?

I don’t know about signature but these dishes will have me going back again and again.
Luca – truffle toasted cheese sandwich
A Wong – sesame buttered smoked chicken and duck custard bun
Black Axe Mangal – caramelized banana flatbread
Sushi Tetsu – omakase
Hoppers – everything but mainly the Ceylonese split chicken