Guillaume Brahimi


GQ: How’s the scotch? Justin Hemmes: Not bad at all. Guillaume Brahimi: [Re­mains mute – save for an enigmatic French shrug, im­ply­ing either lav­ish praise or far darker damna­tion.] JH: Sorry, this mustn’t be Guillaume’s of­f­cial whisky spon­sor [laughs]. GQ: What ad­vice would you give any­one think­ing they could make a mint in the hos­pi­tal­ity game? GB: This is not a day job and you have to be in love with it from the start. It’s not a din­ner party, this is ev­ery day. JH: I’d say it’s not too late to turn back. If you’re get­ting into this industry, the only valid rea­son is that you love it, you’re cer­tainly not do­ing it for fnan­cial sat­is­fac­tion. In­cred­i­bly long hours keep you away from fam­ily and it’s gen­er­ally a busi­ness of low re­turn. If you know all that go­ing in and still want to do it, then you’re in a good place. GQ: What of trends – do you care about the next big thing in pro­vid­ing to a peren­ni­ally-tough-to-please pub­lic? JH: If you look at Guillaume’s busi­ness, it couldn’t be fur­ther away from trends. It’s about clas­sics, done well. I take the same ap­proach: ex­cel­lence in prod­uct, pro­duce and ser­vice. We don’t fol­low trends. We make our own way. GB: Value for money is cru­cial. That doesn’t mean cheap. So, if some­one or­ders a $50 steak, I have to make sure the ex­pe­ri­ence is jus­tifed. If you try to base a busi­ness on what the next big thing is go­ing to

be in­stead of what you do well, you’re al­ways go­ing to be on the back foot. GQ: Nice use of cricket ter­mi­nol­ogy, very Aussie. GB: Well, you would be on the back foot. [Cue un­com­fort­able si­lence and a look that sim­ply states were GQ in his em­ploy, we’d be peel­ing pota­toes the en­tire sum­mer.]

GQ: Justin, you clearly ad­mire Guillaume’s work – why haven’t you made him an of­fer? JH: I couldn’t af­ford him. GQ: Now ev­ery­one’s a food blog­ger/ restau­rant critic/drinks ex­pert – do you sift valu­able feed­back from the mass dig­i­tal chat­ter? GB: It can be dan­ger­ous sit­ting around read­ing Tripad­vi­sor all day. It’s im­por­tant to know what’s be­ing said, but nowhere

near as im­por­tant as fo­cus­ing on the next few sec­onds of ser­vice and the few sec­onds af­ter that, and so on. JH: I fnd it one of the most im­por­tant tools. I read ev­ery piece of feed­back frst thing in the morn­ing and be­lieve there’s al­ways some­thing to be gained. You might learn that you never want that per­son back in your venue. If some­one has a rant, but some­thing has trig­gered it, I want to know what it is. What I like about in­ter­net feed­back is that you can deal with is­sues im­me­di­ately. GQ: Set­backs, you’ll have both ex­pe­ri­enced them – how do you over­come pro­fes­sional stum­bles? GB: By fo­cus­ing on the next thing rather than the past. And some­thing I’ve found use­ful is to get my team to be din­ers in the restau­rant. That way they ex­pe­ri­ence those spe­cial lit­tle touches, such as a maitre’d know­ing you like a dry martini, or walk­ing some­one to the toi­let if they don’t know the way. Ini­tially, you work to make your busi­ness 80 per cent good and the real chal­lenge is then fo­cus­ing on that ex­tra 20 per cent. The 80 is never good enough. JH: In 20 years in the busi­ness, I’ve been kicked so many times it doesn’t hurt any­more. Busi­ness is a mine­feld, the more you do it, the more you learn where the mines are. But that’s only be­cause you’ve stepped on them. You are now in a po­si­tion where you can fo­cus on that 20 per cent. GQ: Is suc­cess also built on em­brac­ing risk? JH: Start­ing off, I took way greater risks than I do now the busi­ness is es­tab­lished. I had to get where we wanted to be. Es­tab­lish­ment is the per­fect ex­am­ple – in 1998, for some­one to spend $60m do­ing up a glo­rifed pub with a cou­ple of rooms in the CBD was un­heard of. My Dad’s friends kept telling him I was go­ing to send him broke. But he was my big­gest sup­porter – all he said was, ‘If you think it’s go­ing to work, it will.’ He had blind faith and un­con­di­tional love. GQ: And you wanted to prove him right? JH: It’s more that you start to be­lieve it your­self when some­one you idolise does. Then when you’re bet­ter es­tab­lished, you can be more cir­cum­spect. I wouldn’t do some­thing like Ivy, on which I spent $160m in 2007, again. I don’t need to. GH: I took a lot of risks early on, but it was about time more than money. I risked be­ing away from my fam­ily and just like that my three-year-old daugh­ter was 15. Those risks have paid off, which is why I don’t have to be at the restau­rant tonight – I can be at home mak­ing her lamb cut­lets and rata­touille. JH: And he wants three Hats from his daugh­ter tonight. GQ: Any ad­vice you’ve been given in your re­spec­tive ca­reers that’s stuck? GB: There is a French phrase that roughly trans­lates as, ‘The love of the work well done.’ That is, do­ing what­ever is in front of you to the best of your abil­ity with no short­cuts, no cheat­ing and fnd­ing joy in that. JH: Never give up. Tenac­ity’s key.

GQ: Go on then, who’d win in a fight? JH: What are the rules? GQ: Fists only.

JH: I wouldn’t even show up. Have you seen him? GB: I’m a lover not a fghter. JH: I’m still not turn­ing up. n

“What I like about in­ter­net feed­back is that you can deal with is­sues im­me­di­ately.”

Guillaume wears black wool tuxedo, $4035, and white cot­ton shirt, $495, both by Ermenegildo Zegna; black silk bow tie, $175, and white cot­ton pocket square, $45, both by Har­rolds; sil­ver ‘Gan­cio’ cuff­links, $335, by Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo; bracelet, Guillaume’s own; pink gold ‘Octo’ watch, $31,000, by Bulgari. Justin wears tuxedo and shirt, both Justin’s own; black satin bow tie, $99, by Thomas Pink at David Jones; white cot­ton pocket square, $19.95, by Nigel Lin­coln at David Jones; pink gold ‘Bulgari’ watch, $25,600, by Bulgari.

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