Rees Whiteley, one of Bistrot Bagatelle Dubai’s talented waiters reveals his most inspirational career mentor, his dream job and why consistency is the most crucial aspect of a restaurant operation
Describe your first ever role in the F&B industry? My first ever role was five years ago while studying politics at university in London. I was a banquet waiter for an event staffing company called Brightsparks, working at big events over the Christmas party period.
Who has been your biggest career inspiration?
Alexis, the previous manager for Bagatelle who was just 24 and had achieved a lot in a very short space of time, but had an amazing passion for the hospitality business. He had impeccable focus, was great with guests, but also taught me that to be successful in this industry, consistency is key. I now view this as the most important component to any successful restaurant.
How do you view the F&B scene in the region?
The F&B scene in the middle east is developing incredibly quickly. When you work in London, you see many great restaurants, but the scene has been around for much longer. Ten years ago in Dubai, there wasn’t much of a market, but now you see Michelin-star worthy concepts, and also crazy fun concepts such as Bistrot Bagatelle, which give you great food and atmosphere. We give you a place where you can start and finish your night, with the end being where you can dance with your waiter to Alicia Key’s “New York” until the lights go up. I’ve never experienced anywhere like this in London.
What is the biggest challenge of your role?
By far my biggest challenge is meeting each and every different guest expectation. Whether that’s giving you and your family a great dinner, or a champagne show of crystal, or whether you simply just want to have fun. I have to adapt myself and read each and every guest to make sure you get that true Bagatelle experience.
What is your favourite aspect of the role?
I’m given the opportunity to create something truly unique in Dubai’s restaurant scene, playing a key part through knowledge and genuine passion. I take a lot of pleasure in seeing guests enjoy every aspect of the restaurant.
If you could work in any restaurant in the world which would it be? There are two groups I would love to work for. The first would be Corbyn & King, the London restaurateurs behind The Wolseley. Not only do they have exceptional contemporary European eateries, but they focus heavily on the overall experience. From when you walk through the door to when you finish your meal, every little bit means a lot to them. If you’ve visited the restaurant a few times, the team will know your name, which dishes you enjoy the most, and what to recommend to you to keep things fresh and exciting. This is something I appreciate over everything, since feeling comfortable and at home in a London restaurant isn’t easily achieved. The second company is Caprice Holdings, who created institutions such as The Ivy. For me, they are the godfathers of London hospitality.
What tip would you share with new staff starting out in the F&B industry in the Middle East? Go into your new role with passion, and the desire to grow. With this growth comes long hours, some unpleasant experiences, and a few knock-backs along the way. But overall, if you wish to succeed in this industry, Dubai is the place where anything is possible.