Flash-grilled: Ali Nia

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with Ali Nia GM and partner at The Drunken Butler in Farringdon former Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

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Former Restaurant Gordon Ramsay GM Ali Nia was recently appointed as general manager and partner at The Drunken Butler in Farringdon.

What was your first job? 
I was a kitchen porter at small place called Havana in Wiesbaden, Germany. 

Why did you want to work in restaurants?
I love the interaction with the guests and see them leave the restaurant, knowing they are happy and have had a good time. 

If you weren’t in the industry, what would you do? 
Probably something in fashion, or something where I can be creative. 

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
Jean-Claude Breton - maitre d’ at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. He is the most humble and most consistent person I ever met in my life. 

Pet hate in the dining room?
If I’m honest, there’s no one thing that bothers me. I’m generally quite an upbeat person so have always wanted to find the positive in all situations. I think it’s always good to understand the motivation behind something - you’ll always be a lot happier that way.

What’s your best tip for keeping calm under pressure during a busy service?
Maintain your standards and stay organised. Being organised and sticking to your processes will always help you get through. 

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
I often get asked where I get my suits and ties from. I actually gave my tie to a guest once as his father commented on how much he liked it.  

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Get your head down, focus on developing every skill possible, and be patient - you’ll get to where you want to be.

If you could serve anyone, who would it be and why?
I’d love to serve somebody I worked with from earlier on in my career, just so they can see how I’ve developed over the years. It would make me proud to serve somebody like Mario Gamba who is the owner of one-starred Acquarello in Munich. 

What’s your earliest food memory?
Stealing bits of food from my grandma as she was preparing dinner for us. The smell of the food always made it hard to resist.

Favourite food and drink pairing? 
This changes daily but the one that springs to mind was a pasta dish in Acquarello. It was a tortelli stuffed with dried figs with a cassis reduction and sautéed foie gras. I served it with a Wisselbrunnen Riesling. It was incredible. 

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
I spend time with my family and my dog, usually somewhere in the wilderness.

What’s your favourite dish to cook at home?
I love to make a Persian dish called ‘Baghali Pollo Ba Mahicheh‘. It’s a fragrant dill and broad bean rice served with a lamb shank. It’s hearty, smells great and looks beautiful. 

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
I like both of them, because it gives chefs the opportunity to develop themselves. I hope to see this for front-of-house as well one day.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten in a restaurant?
It was a small street food stand in Tulum. The flavour of the food was out of this world and the hospitality was excellent, even though they didn't speak one word of English.

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