Tampopo – we chat to founder David Fox
David Fox tells us about his inspiration and his new Wimbledon opening…
David Fox launched his first Tampopo restaurant over 25 years ago in Manchester in 1997 recreating not just the flavours and smells of the food he had found on his travels over the Far East, but the informality in their style of dining, and all the subtle differences each country, and region, had to offer. Thai, with its hot, sour, sweet, and salty flavours; Vietnamese, slightly more delicate and lighter; and Malaysian, with its more Indian influence.
Over twenty-five years on, Tampopo has restaurants in Fitzrovia, Central London, and across Manchester.
What got you started in your field of work?
The idea came from travelling and my desire to bring back the food I had come to love. That’s what got me going initially. I was working in London as an accountant and thought if I don’t leave now I never will. I knew 80% of restaurants fail in their first year, so I thought I’d either go bust or be rich beyond my wildest dreams, neither of which has happened!
Who have been the biggest influences on your work?
Within the industry there have been a lot of influences, but the main two would have to be David Chang and Jeremy King. David Chang has been very innovative in New York, in terms of making casual dining more popular and accessible. And Jeremy King, co-founder of Corbyn & King, with his array of classic and accessible restaurants across Central London, including Brasserie Zedel and Manzi’s. Hospitality is in his genes.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Growing people within Tampopo. People underestimate how much hospitality can be a path to a decent career, and a route to opportunities that they may never have had. It can be perceived as hard work for low pay but with the right attitude it’s such a positive experience. When we first started, we had a kitchen porter who had been working in a kebab factory for £2.75 per hour. He went on to train as a chef with us and now works as a top chef in a hotel. This industry and the teamwork involved are a great source of self-esteem for many.
What does your typical day involve?
I get out to all the restaurants as much as I can. Having learnt to cook many Far Eastern dishes in cookery schools I took on my travels, I am able to step into the kitchen and cook on the small plates section for a few hours. Everyone forgets I’m there after a while and I can support the team, and it’s at that point I really see what’s going on, how we can improve and evolve. There’s also catch ups with site teams, menu development, marketing, paying the bills and of course opening a new site!
And how do you relax on your days off?
I like to cook at home, play five-a-side footie and hang out with the family. My four kids keep me occupied. I also enjoy having a dance when I can.
What is the best advice you have been given or can give?
You have to listen. Not looking for what you want to hear from your team, suppliers and customers, but actually listening. It achieves so much. I also like Steve Jobs’ ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’ approach. Hungry to do better, to be better, but not taking yourself too seriously.
What makes a great restaurant?
I believe Marco Pierre White said, “running a good restaurant is doing 100 little things really well!”. From the design to the hiring, to having enough on shift all the way through to how dishes are made, prepped, cooked, presented. These all need to come together for that 90 mins a customer is at our restaurants, 7 days a week.
Tell us what to expect from Tampopo Wimbledon?
Our new Wimbledon restaurant is quite an evolution from our other restaurants. We will be open for brunch every day from 10.30am, there is a great bar where you can come for a drink and nibbles. We have worked up some Far Eastern influenced cocktails (including a great selection of non-alcoholic versions. We also have some great new dishes including a cote de porc katsu as well as some of our classics including Balinese pork belly and Indonesian Nasi Goreng. What’s more we also have a license to open later – up to 1am at the weekends for late night drinks. And we have a great kid’s menu too!
What is different about Tampopo to other restaurants in Wimbledon?
We are a small independent restaurant group with over 25 years’ experience with a great team and contacts all over the Far East who we collaborate with to create some delicious dishes to bring to the people of Wimbledon. We work closely with chefs in places such as Bali, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur to make sure we get the most up to date dishes onto our menu for the good people of Wimbledon.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE OPENING HERE
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27-39 Hartfield Road, Wimbledon SW19 3SG