Mister D co-owner Prue Barton recently picked up the Cuisine Good Food Awards Restaurant Personality of the Year. She chats to Mark Story.

What do you think judges are looking for in top hospo personalities?

For this category I think the judges are looking for individuals who have proven track records who are committed to hospitality and have made it their long-standing career. Someone who is a natural leader, empathetic, caring, with an upbeat positive energy, who can inspire and lead teams and importantly enjoys working with people.

Is your manner geared towards the Mister D establishment itself – or does Prue Barton's style remain unchanged wherever she works?
I feel my manner has pretty much stayed constant no matter what environment I have been in charge of. I have worked out a "good osmosis" for what is important and what is trivial. Having said that, it is always easier to adapt from a fine-dining environment like Vinnies to a more casual one as the skills are embedded to naturally tweak when required.


Is it tough striking a balance between friendly and overbearing?
I tend to be even-keeled when dealing with all our customers. I do take into consideration all the little nuances that come with each individual and find I am generally good at reading people and their needs. Sometimes I might misread a situation, but on the whole I strive to get the service side right and wouldn't describe my personality as overbearing, more as caring.

Hawke's Bay's caught up in terms of produce and award-winning fare – but to you, is the personality/front-of-house element where we're still perhaps lagging?
There are some truly magnificent restaurants in the Hawke's Bay. A restaurant cannot be a complete package without someone truly at the helm guiding the team with their visions, values and goals. These people do not grow on trees and it is getting harder to find such managers. I actually think it is an international problem, not just a national one. Hawke's Bay has a large number of owner/operator restaurants and all these individuals work tirelessly to keep their restaurants buoyant.

What's the biggest hospitality myth?
The biggest hospitality myth for me is that it's a "lifestyle". It surely is and it is completely
all-encompassing if you want to do it well. People often say to me "it must be great running a restaurant and living in Hawke's Bay after the busy-ness of Auckland". Actually, running a restaurant has the same pressures wherever you are in the world. I have found that lying under a palm tree and sipping on a margarita is only achieved when on holiday.