How To Turn Challenges Into Opportunities



There’s a quote I love “if it doesn’t challenge you, it wont change you.”

During my 30-odd year career in the hospitality industry, I’ve faced many challenges that have almost sent me packing. But I’m all about having a crack and making the most of my experiences, good or bad.

When faced with a challenge, rather than seeing it as a setback or letting it defeat me, I prefer to see it as an opportunity to work even harder and achieve my goals.

Opening my first restaurant, Salt, was a big challenge. Finding the right staff for the job, always a challenge.

Another big challenge was the expansion. I opened three restaurants at once, quicker than I should have. Because of this, Salt nearly went under and I almost went broke.



We’re opening a lot more restaurants now than we did in the early days and we’re expanding in a different way and in different countries.

When times were tough, I never thought about giving up completely, but I had many dark days thinking to myself, what am I going to do? How am I going to get myself out of this?

But I always kept coming back to, I can always get a job as a chef at a café, restaurant or hotel so I always have a stream of income.

I never thought I would do something else, but I was always worried about what it was going to be. I’m just lucky everything worked out in the end.


Before you throw in the towel, look at your options. Yes, it’s a hard business if you’re opening up your first restaurant. But if you are a head chef in someone’s kitchen owned by someone else, learn from that person.

I learned a lot from Mr John Hemmes about figures and staff management, so I think that is important to learn as much as you can whilst working for someone.

I’ve tried to lessen the risk nowadays. When I was younger, I took bigger risks and it can either go one way or the other, hopefully it goes the right way.

You have to back yourself and I was probably more confident back then taking risks than I am now. I’m more conservative, probably because I have more knowledge and learned from my mistakes.

My advice would be to not put everything in one basket like I did for Salt … diversify your risks!

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We’ve also got a great team on board now, some of who have been with the company for over 10 years and worked their way up the ranks, which has been a great learning experience for them and given us, the company, a huge advantage.

While some of our staff have only been with us for a year or two, I feel now we’ve got the team we always strived to build #teammangan.

I wouldn’t have got to this point or achieved what I wanted to without having set goals.

I wanted to work in London, so I called Mr Roux at The Waterside Inn. I wanted to be head chef by 25, have my first restaurant by 30 and I managed to make these things happen.

Setting these goals and having a bit of grit kept pushing me. Especially for young people, I think goal setting is really important for helping them to achieve their dreams.



Having goals keeps you focused when you’re faced with adversity, you might fail a few times but don’t let this stop you from getting to your end goal.

Failure is good because it gives you an opportunity to learn something you wouldn’t have otherwise and getting back up to try again is the best thing you can do.

Being younger helps but having the support of colleagues and friends in the industry is also really important. But in the end, you just really got to get up and have a crack.

I think if you’re determined to make something work, you will keep pushing and make it happen!

I’ve achieved everything and more… I didn’t think I’d have restaurants on ships and trains.

Although I’ve always wanted a restaurant in New York, however but the older I get I don’t feel I will get there… Maybe one day! Never say never.