Julie & Kevin
Owners of St Albans’ George Street Canteen since it opened in January 2016, Julie and Kevin Lee have won numerous awards for their family and dog-friendly café with its sustainable and local food, courtyard, and unique view of the cathedral. They have two children, Ruby and Jake, and before starting the business they had both worked together in hospitality. Kevin is the chef and Julie is front of house.
‘We both worked so hard for other people that it seemed crazy not to try and have our own business,’ Julie explains. ‘We thought that when the kids were older we could perhaps move and open somewhere by the sea, but then this place came up. We are lucky because we manage to balance things out between us. I can’t cook at all and Kevin would be awful on the floor. Before we started I don’t think we realised how much paperwork and behind the scenes stuff there is to do. We couldn’t do it without my mum and Kevin’s mum. They both help with looking after the children and my mum has the dog as well. Kevin’s mum helps with the accounts. Since we started the café we’ve definitely become more understanding of each other. I think we argue less now. Kevin says laughing: ‘We argue all the time but I’m good at getting over it!’ He adds, ‘I would rather say something there and then. We’ve worked together before so Julie knew what I was like. It can be hard. We do try to switch off at home. I tend to bring up stuff from work more than Julie does and she says, “I don’t want to talk about it now.” ‘We’ve been together for 18 years and Julie’s probably only ever cooked five meals
‘We both worked so hard for other people that it seemed crazy not to try and have our own business’
and they’ve been the same five things. But she’s good with people and I’m not. There are a lot of things about running your own business that I didn’t know about that are harder than I thought they would be – giving all the VAT money away and the general repair of the place. Originally we just wanted it to be a nice little café with a couple of people coming in for a cup of tea. But it’s got more popular and we’ve got lots of ideas. We’re now doing hog roasts and we’re going to have a pizza oven and start doing cocktail nights. Our son Jake is 11 and he’s already talking about taking over the business.’