How I Got Here: Imogen Davis

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Imogen Davis Native restaurant Borough Market founder

Related tags Front of house London Fine dining

Imogen Davis is the co-founder of Native, a modern British restaurant in Borough Market that's big on foraging and has a zero-waste ethos.

Why restaurants?
Food! My whole upbringing revolved around food inadvertently, and I don’t think there is anything better than the idea of bringing people together to share a meal. I am 1 of 6 children (I’m number 2) and my Mum made sure that we always ate well - we would have one meal containing high quality meat once a week, and the rest of the time would mostly be vegetarian, which has really influenced the way we run Native. I think my childhood pulled me towards this industry without me even realising.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Be confident in what you believe, regardless of what anybody else says/does. Also, be savvy when talking about properties, nothing is guaranteed until your doors are open and the kitchen is in full swing.

What do you do in your spare time?
In between working, I love to spend time with my family and friends, generally eating. And I’ve joined a netball team close to the restaurant which is a great way to switch off.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
I love The Gentleman Baristas our neighbours on Southwark Street - their breakfasts are a great way to fuel me through the day. Oh, and Brigade on Tooley Street for a really great roast dinner on a Sunday (our day off).

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
I would be more present in my other job as a falconer! I run my family business and Rufus the Hawk is my Harris Hawk, who works at Wimbledon to scare away the pigeons.

What motivates you?
My family, and Native. Doing the best for our staff and making sure we strive to be as great as we possibly can. Trying not to stay still and risk becoming stagnant is important to us as a business.

Where was your last holiday?
Copenhagen. Of course, it was a pilgrimage to Noma which was phenomenal. I have never had a bad meal in Copenhagen, it is such a wonderful place. We went to Balderdash for some amazing cocktails too.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I have to say Ivan, the co-founder of Native! We’ve made every decision that has somehow got Native to where it is now, and although we don’t have time to consider it, that in itself is a huge achievement.

What keeps you up at night?
The Native Whatsapp group and VAT.

Worst business decision?
I try not to label anything as the worst, so try and learn from each experience, both good and bad. That’s the beauty of the restaurant world, no two days are ever the same so you have to keep moving, learning and try not to dwell on the not-so-great things. 

Best business decision?
Just doing it, and working it out along the way.

What are you reading at the moment?
In Defence of Food by Micheal Pollan. I find myself ferociously nodding in agreement on my morning commute. I’m also reading a crime novel that my uncle gave me - he drops into the restaurant with books he thinks I’ll like, which is great because whenever I walk into a bookshop I struggle to decide and end up in the food section - sometimes it is good to not think about anything to do with work.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Give it your all and try to always remember what it is you love about the business. Also, remember that everybody is winging it. Although this sounds like a flippant statement, I think there’s so much more to it. It means, be flexible, accept the good and the bad and remember you’re not alone. 

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
I’d help change the perception that it is not a reputable career choice. I remember reading a survey last year that said less than a quarter of 16-21-year-olds in the UK say they would consider a career in hospitality, and also that one third of parents actively discourage their children from pursuing a career in hospitality, which I think is really sad. It is such a rewarding industry with so many opportunities to learn and grow. That, and I’d lower the VAT rate for restaurants.

1987 born in Corby, Northamptonshire 
Studied English Language with Media at the University of Brighton
Companies worked for: Native and Avian Environmental

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