O'Connell Street Bistro's Chris Upton on childhood, food and Miss Moneypenny

By Sarah Daniell

Chris Upton, owner of O'Connell St Bistro. Photo / Michael Craig
Chris Upton, owner of O'Connell St Bistro. Photo / Michael Craig

My first memory as a small child is growing up in a small North Devon village with beautifully long, endless summers without a care in the world and memories of picnics enjoyed near Exmoor with Mum's pasties, Branston pickle and good English cheddar.

My life first changed dramatically when I went from working in a hotel in Wales to joining the cruise liner QE2 and travelling the world. It taught me the discipline of working within a very strict structure where every aspect of your life on the ship was managed at all times.

When you first set out, it's all about proving yourself, whereas as you progress in life it's more about legacy and what you've contributed - the people you've helped or influenced along the way. We have employed a lot of great people who have gone on to be successful in their own enterprises and there is a lot of satisfaction in seeing their progress.

I could never forgive deception.

But I must forgive myself for my type A personality; I could be more understanding of others' deficiencies.

I think that deep down everyone has a deep desire to please their parents, although the focus of this does change as you get older and more comfortable in your own skin. Probably something deep and psychological in there somewhere.

I was emotionally fragile when I was confronted by our restaurant on fire in late January. It was devastating, but you pick yourself up again because you don't have any choice. You have to.

If I were a kitchen utensil I'd probably be a wooden spoon, not flashy but solid and good in a crisis.

The perfect dinner company would be friends and family, and we would probably incorporate a beach barbecue featuring seafood and fish, accompanied by a large selection of wines.

During the Bistro's renovations over the last seven months, I became a little bit addicted to The Chase. Watching the host, Bradley Walsh, lose it on occasions over some of the questions is hilarious and very infectious.

Maybe I am superstitious. I usually err on the side of caution, just to be safe. As a rule, I never take bananas on a boat.

I've had to reassess my concept of spirituality rebuilding the restaurant over the last seven months after 19 years in business. You do question why this has happened and if there is a message in there. Maybe just sometimes bad things happen and you need to find your inner strength to get through it. Someone once said "sometimes bad things happen to good people for no reason", so I guess the answer will become apparent soon. In the scheme of things, no one was injured or (perish the thought) killed and it is just property that can be rebuilt. I think sometimes we put too much emphasis on material things and money and how people see us or what they think of us.

Accolades are always nice to get, as they are an acknowledgement that you're keeping on trend and in favour - they're a great motivator for our team. The restaurant industry is competitive and it feels good to get the awards, but the last seven months has taught us that it's all about loyalty and the support of our regulars and team.

My screen crush is Miss Moneypenny. Everyone needs a Miss Moneypenny.

It's last orders. My last supper is Mum's cornish pasties. They are so good she should have gone into business. Failing that, my sister's bakewell tart.

- Canvas

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