Rudabeh Moghadam is Reception Manager at recently opened neighbourhood cafe and Konditorei Fischer’s.
Photo: Rudabeh Moghadam, Reception Manger (L) & Claire O’Sullivan, General Manager (R)
How you have ended up here?
I studied maths at University but I have always been a foodie. I was obsessed with food programmes before, and actually until, they were trendy. In my final year of uni I wrote food reviews for The Journal and was very taken with the idea of becoming a food writer and so working for a restaurant seemed like a natural step. My brother-in-law, Anders Osterberg, who is the restaurant manager at Colbert, got me a trial shift at The Wolseley straight out of university; after one shift they liked me, I was hooked, and it went from there.
I started as an Assistant Maître D’ in The Wolseley then went to Colbert as a Lead Maître D’. I left after a year to focus more on writing but when Fischer’s was opening I was contacted and they coaxed me back into the business; it didn’t take much!
What’s the hardest part of being front of house?
Whether it is training your team, dealing with complaints or providing tailor-made service, you have to think on your feet. I would say the hardest part of this is dealing with real-time complaints – the key to this is the ability to rectify an issue with such style that you transform the situation from a negative one into a positive one.
Do you often get tricky guests?
We are trained so that most of the work we do is preventative. The idea being that we aim for our service to be so good that there should be no reason for guests to be tricky or unhappy. Luckily we have been welcomed so warmly by local businesses and residents that the vast majority of our guests are incredibly friendly and are rooting for the business to succeed.
I mean you do get the odd one, but I just think it’s a combination of being hungry and having had a stressful day – once you apply a drink and some food they relax. Normally tricky guests on the way in are happy, mellow and even apologetic on the way out. The main thing is not to take it personally so you have the clarity to figure out how to turn such difficult situations around.
Was it always your aim to work for Corbin & King?
No, to be completely honest. I was working in finance and media consultancies right up to my last year of university so I just didn’t have any exposure to the industry to know what giants of the industry Jeremy (King) and Chris (Corbin) were. Anders however has had over 20 years experience in the industry and he sold it to me as the best company he had worked for yet.
I think I knew I was a part of something special when I heard Jeremy and Chris talk in my induction about the passion that underlies why they do what they do. Their sense of creative integrity is inspirational.
Is there an expectation that comes with a high profile new opening?
Of course there is. The company has been going for thirty years; the brand is older than I am! I can’t even begin to conceive of the depth of the relationships that have been built since opening The Ivy. In fact, I am so glad that the expectations are high – it has made me the Maître D’ I am today and continues to challenge me in the right way.
Do you view the Chiltern Firehouse as competition?
No, because they do something really different to what we do.
If you are in Marylebone (and not going to Fischer’s) where do you head for a bite to eat?
Well, I love cheese so my current favourite is La Fromagerie, primarily for the quality and freshness of the produce. It’s also very accessible – you can pop-in whenever and they always have space. Natural Kitchen is where I get my salad-fix, as a maître d’ you need healthy food to keep going. If I want something filling I love Getti – they are always so warm and welcoming. Also, I’m gluten intolerant and they have gluten-free pizza, so we’re a match made in heaven.
You mentioned you have Iranian roots, how does this influence your experience at work?
It is a conversation starter for sure, especially because the combination of my very English accent and Middle Eastern looks tends to confuse people. For me Iranian culture is the most hospitable culture I have ever experienced. Growing up, I thought we would be having a quiet family meal and by the time it came to eating we’d have about twenty of my parents’ closest friends and colleagues all dotted around our dining table. It was always a case of ‘the more the merrier’. This tremendous sense of generosity with its emphasis on respect towards your guests has hugely influenced my sense of what is means to be hospitable.
Do you ever head back to Tehran to visit?
I used to yearly but not for the past 5 years. It is a beautiful country though and I’m planning to go back next year to see family and tour some of its historic cities – some of the architecture there is just breath-taking.
Do you have any favourite dishes on the Fischer’s menu?
My favourite would have to be the braised beef Tafelspitz – it’s slowed braised beef shin, if you’re a meat lover it’s the one for you, it just melts in your mouth.
Tell us about breakfast?
I mean Fischer’s is spawned from the minds that invented the London restaurant breakfast trade with The Wolseley, so obviously the menu contains some Corbin & King favourites – fresh pastries delivered from The Delaunay, the birchermüsli, pancakes – but then it’s given an edge but some authentic Austrian favourites – Austrian Gröstl (paprika fried potatoes & onion, bacon and a fried hens’ egg) and our Viennese Breakfast (smoked ham, beef sausage, salami, artisan gouda, boiled egg and pretzel). It is well worth the visit.