How I Got Here: Curtis Bell

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Curtis Bell founder of barbecue restaurant brand From The Ashes BBQ on his troubles with tronc

Related tags Street food From The Ashes BBQ Barbecue BBQ

The founder of barbecue restaurant brand From The Ashes BBQ on his troubles with tronc, loving food from a young age, and the importance of chefs concentrating on their craft.

Why did you get into restaurants?
I got into it at a very young age purely out of love for food, nothing more. I knew from about age 13 that I wanted to pursue it as a career, ever since cooking tech in school.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Your back and knees will stop working at 30.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants?
From the places I’ve eaten at this year, Manteca. It was excellent.

What motivates you on a daily basis?
Money.

What keeps you up at night?
Money.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Stuart Calder from the Gower Kitchen Back in Swansea. He was the first small business owner I worked for and opened my eyes to the real struggles of owning and managing a restaurant as an independent.

What time do you wake up?
10am.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee.

How often do you check your email?
Every hour, every day.

How do you let off steam?
I consume more units than the daily recommend amount for an elephant.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
I like to bring the tiles to the sofa.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Pizza in the Gozney.

Typical Sunday?
Work; hour commute home; pub; pint.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
Jump on a plane at 20 to go work in France.

Favourite holiday destination?
Morzine in the winter.

What are you currently reading?
Excel sheets.

What boxset are you currently watching?
House of The Dragon.

What was your dream job growing up?
Since 13, a cook.

What's been your best business decision?
The 'Del Piero' pork doughnut, our signature dish at FTA.

And the worst?
Opening a business.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Don’t try and be some flashy rock star Insta chef with all style and no substance. Put your head down, concentrate on the craft, and only focus on what you’re doing, and not what everyone else is doing.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
I would change how most big groups have adapted 'service charge' into their paying methods in the form of tronc. Restaurants should pay their staff well enough that what ever tips they earn, goes straight in their pockets. We felt this more than ever when we went into the furlough scheme, most service staff wages are made up of around 40% tronc which isn’t officially on paper as salary. Restaurants took this away then paid their staff 80% of their wages. But tronc is just a way a restaurant can offset their wages and put more profits in their own pockets. 

Bio

Born in Wales, Bell knew he want to be a chef from an early age and left school at 16 to work in kitchens in Swansea. Starting off as a commis chef at the Morgan’s Hotel in Swansea, he quickly progressed to chef de partie and moved to Penthouse restaurant in the city. He later spent time working as a private chef in Morzine, France, before returning to Swansea to take up the role of head chef at The Bay Bistro. He then moved to London, where he worked at Temper, and then Gordon Ramsay Bar and Grill in Mayfair. Following a short stint working as fryer chef for Coqfighter during the pandemic, he launched From The Ashes BBQ in 2021, which has ran numerous street food stalls and pop ups. Earlier this month it launched its latest residency at The Ram in Wandsworth. 

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