Takeaways from this episode:
Mental Health Plays a Major Role in Hospitality — The world has gone through a lot in the pandemic. The hospitality industry has been affected tremendously. Chef Dave Critchley says the industry’s ability to bounce hinges upon the environment being an enjoyable one to be a part of.
Authenticity is Currency — When it comes to social media marketing, Chef Dave Critchley believes there is no greater technique than being yourself. He leaned into telling his authentic story on social media and has grown a big online audience by being honest.
Balance is Essential — Chef Dave practices what he preaches, and has built his business around balance and the wellbeing of himself and his employee. Making restaurants a better place to work helps hospitality and the future of the business.
Chef Dave Critchley of Lu Ban Restaurant in Liverpool is responsible for creating magical moments with food.
Food plays an integral role in society. It is the way to a person’s heart. It is often the constant variable in some of our fondest memories. It is the elixir that seems to make everything alright, even if only for the moment. It’s nearly impossible to be upset while eating a great meal.
Serving great food is a responsibility Chef Dave takes seriously. He fell in love with the industry at the tender age of 15 and still is to this day.
“I just popped my head into the local pub and asked for a part time job,” Dave Critchley said about his restaurant beginnings on the Restaurant Influencers podcast, hosted by Shawn P. Walchef of https://calibbq.media. “Being a chef wasn’t something I wanted to do. But I fell in love with that kind of hustle and bustle of the kitchen.”
Prior to working at the pub, the executive head chef and “Great British Menu” competitor had aspirations to be a children’s book illustrator. Those dreams remained with him through college, but his passion for the restaurant industry never dwindled, and he turned his creative talents towards the kitchen.
“I still kept that kind of aspiration, that kind of talent, that skill, but it had turned to the kitchen at this point. The camaraderie, the teamwork, the creating these dishes and pushing them out,” says Chef Dave of missing the commercial kitchen atmosphere as a young man.
“As soon as I finished university with no other jobs available in the field I wanted to do, I went straight back to the pub and went full time,” he says.
Still a student of the craft, Chef Dave, who was not yet officially a “Chef”, describes his early years as a learning experience. “I got all of my qualifications on the job to become a chef, and it’s something that I’ve fallen in love with now. I kind of put all of the artwork on the backburner. Pardon the pun.”
The learning continued as Chef Dave traveled to China in 2019 to study under some of the top chefs in China. That experience, he says, “really opened my eyes to what Chinese food could be.”
In 2019, Chef Dave opened the doors to his own Chinese cuisine restaurant entitled, Lu Ban, which is a nod to the creativity of China.
“Outside of China, Liverpool has the oldest Chinese community (in Europe). So it made a lot of sense,” he says of his decision. “Liverpool’s my hometown, my passion, my city and I get to bring this amazing restaurant to them now.”
Mental Health Advocacy:
Recently, Chef Dave has leaned into his role as a community pillar, and began discussing mental health on Instagram Live feeds. He believes that mental health is at the forefront of the restaurant industry returning to its pre-COVID form.
“It’s been a really tough few years because of everything going on around the world. So, hospitality needs to come back fighting, and we need everyone we possibly can,” he explains. “I want to make it a nicer place for people to enjoy coming to work and enjoy being part of hospitality again because that’s what’s going to help us survive and move forward as an industry.”
Chef Dave doesn’t only preach the importance of mental health, he has taken action to ensure he is doing his part to create the environment he believes is conducive to successful workers.
“We’re a four day working week. I think it’s been really important for us. We’re closed three days a week. That enables us to do all of our stuff; to have the proper rest time and downtime and also have a life outside of work,” Chef Dave explains of his motivation behind this work model. “So most of our staff have those three days off to rest, recuperate and get everything done that you need to get done. We’ve got half a week to examine and then he can come into work with a more positive attitude.”
Chef Dave’s impact is felt throughout his community. He posts on social media from his heart. He leads with what he believes in, and follows that with his actions. In an age of social media engagement taken precedence as the ultimate marketing tool, Chef Dave values authenticity instead of Likes. Although those come too when you keep it real online.
“I’ve always tried to be true to me, and I find that people actually may come to me. They flock to me because they like me as a person. I’m not sure why.”
Anyone should be able to see why what he does resonates. It’s because he’s being true to himself. The man, chef, person, passion, and attention to detail is why Chef Dave and Lu Ban has been able to continue creating magical moments for so many guests.
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