This year is big for me because on December 23 we will do our last service at Merediths after 10 years in business. I've pretty much made my reputation here on Dominion Rd, and closing wasn't an easy decision to make, but it was one that I had to make. I decided about two years ago that it was time to leave the industry, at least in the format of the fine-dining restaurant. It's good ending on my own terms.
Restaurants are not easy. In front, it all seems glamorous: you're in magazines and papers and on the radio talking about beautiful ingredients and there's the performance of cooking.
But there's also the hard side: the hours, the sacrifices, the stress and no sleep and the compromises. When you believe in something so much and work so hard and put everything into it, you spend all your time living with big expectations, so the fear of failure is always in the back of your mind.
Names are very important. "Merediths" had a good vibration to it, but people always said about the name: "You can never step away from it now."
When we kicked off, there were only a handful of restaurants at our end of the market. We were quickly booked out a lot. After a year or two we moved into degustation and we were the only restaurant doing that. That was a good concept for a small space: you have a set-spend and there's hardly any waste.
I never expected to do it forever. When we opened, I said we'd do it for five years, but we rocked along and paid all the debt in two years. Then we extended the size of the restaurant and got into more debt, so decided to keep going for a few more years.
But it's an everyday job and although some days are easier than others, you have to get up every morning, no matter what, and turn up to work.
You build a lifestyle around a restaurant, and it's a trap, because there's no way out of it. Before you know it, you've been there 30 years.
There is responsibility. The business has to survive. Diners have to trust you. You have to build a reputation. Media come and write good or bad reviews. In the early days, you can be quite reactive to criticism because you work so hard that you think everything you do is perfect. Then someone comes along and says you're not that perfect.
If you take things too personally, you won't grow. With social media and bloggers, sometimes they miss half of what you're trying to do. But you're not going to convince them. If you don't believe in yourself, then you won't be doing what you want to do, and the whole point of your own restaurant is that you can put your own food ideas out there.
I love pressure, so when we close this year I feel I will miss a little bit of that. But I won't miss the everyday thing, especially with a new baby on the way. I've gone through this in my head enough times to know what I'm walking away from. Your ego is thinking: "This is what I used to do; what am I going to do now?" But I'm not stepping out of food. I'm looking at something else next year.