As businesses go, restaurants aren’t for the faint of heart. The hospitality industry is one of cutthroat competition. This industry demands discipline, dedication, constant innovation, passion, opportunity, and perseverance from restaurateurs, managers, kitchen staff, and front-of-house staff.

Creating fine-dining cuisine is as much an art form as it is the science of food. Filling the bellies of diners – and keeping them smiling and coming back – is an art perfected to a science by Chefs Warehouse’s Liam Tomlin.

Liam Tomlin is an Irish-born chef that’s travelled the world in pursuit of his craft. After living and working in Australia (and opening his first restaurant, Banc, an award-winning restaurant in Sydney), Liam settled in Cape Town in 2004. Here he operated a consultancy firm assisting a variety of industries, ranging from independent restaurants, food companies and retailers, to luxury game lodges, leading urban hotels, international airlines, and wine farms.

The original Chefs Warehouse opened in 2010 as a retailer of quality kitchen equipment, unique food products, and cookbooks for both the trade and the public. He also opened a cookery school that same year. “It was a natural extension of my enthusiasm for training young chefs to the highest standards of either basic cooking or the skills required to work in the finest dining rooms in the world,” said Liam.

The adrenaline rush, the passion for cooking, and the joy of working closely with people saw Liam open his first South African restaurant in 2014. The Chefs Warehouse and Cookery School pivoted into the Chefs Warehouse and Canteen for fine-dining quality global tapas to develop Liam’s now-famous “tapas for 2” menu concept.

Operating five restaurants in and around Cape Town requires bucketful’s of dedication and energy. The sixth restaurant – named The Bailey on Bree Street – is set to open mid-2022. A multi-sensory three-level dining experience with an all-day casual European-inspired café with a classical French brasserie and a whiskey bar. His success today is attributable to his approach.

“My ethos throughout my restaurants is to celebrate ingredients, small producers, and most importantly our staff to create happy, healthy workplaces,” said Liam.

Not one to relish in the spotlight, Liam has won numerous awards and has been a judge for the San Pellegrino World’s Top 50 Restaurants and in 2013, was a member of the Eat-Out judging team, Chef of the Year and Best Eatery in the 2017 Eat Out Awards. Liam is also the author of five critically acclaimed books with another one due for release this year.

The hospitality industry was the hardest hit industry in the COVID-19 pandemic. Countless restaurants, eateries, cafes, bars, and the like, closed down during the government lockdowns. COVID-19 was the catalyst for a shift in ideology to create happy and healthy workplaces. “Needing to acknowledge mental health issues globally and to create a greater sense of community in the workplace,” explained Liam. “The #jobssavelives movement was an initiative to keep the industry afloat during the lockdown and in turn to look after the clientele who supported us during COVID-19.”

Said Liam: “We lost a member of our Beau Constantia team during the lockdown and created the Mark Mbotya Internship Program in his memory. The internship aims to take in students who are not able to afford professional training and provides an old-school apprenticeship learning program that offers practical chef skills intending to pursue a cooking career.”

Even in such a competitive industry, one devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and one so at the mercy of market fluctuations, Chefs Warehouse and its five restaurants maintain that people are the centre of their business and their purpose.

“We need to all look after one another, be kinder and show more support,” concluded Liam.

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