How I Got Here: Piers Milburn

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Piers Milburn owner of Pythouse Kitchen Garden restaurant in Wiltshire on his career in hospitality

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The owner of Pythouse Kitchen Garden in Wiltshire, who also co-founded non-alcoholic drinks brand Sprigster, on the influence of his restaurateur parents, being inventive in the kitchen, and stopping no-shows.

Why did you choose hospitality?​​
I didn’t really choose hospitality because it was a big part of my life from a very young age, whether it was dinner parties at home or helping out in my parent’s restaurants. In my family, we showed each other love by cooking good food and sitting down together to eat. After a stint as a graphic designer, the desire to open a restaurant became too strong to ignore. 

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?​​
Things take time. Do things carefully and properly and you will see them flourish sooner.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants?
Noma for its invention, The Black Swan at Oldstead for its ingredients, and The Grosvenor Arms in Hindon for conveniently serving the best pub grub in the South West right opposite our house.

What motivates you?​​
My family circle and the garden. Both motivate me to get things done as efficiently as possible so that I can spend more time relaxing in them.

What keeps you up at night?​​
A snoring pug called Prune who, in her old age, is now allowed to sleep in our bedroom.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?​​
My father. He inherited a bakery in Sunderland in the early 60’s. By the early 90’s he ran restaurants all over the country. When we took on Pythouse Kitchen Garden seven years ago, my father was a big influence, helping me to get my ideas straightened out and to be commercially minded.

Which do you prefer: coffee or tea?​​
Tea first thing in the morning, moving swiftly on to a cup of coffee. They are both essential! Desert island choice would be tea, though.

How do you let off steam?​​
I get inventive in the kitchen. It is the one place that allows me to switch off. For some reason, all worries disappear when I cook and I tend to sing and dance around the kitchen. I don't do this anywhere else.

What's your typical Sunday?​​
Bit of a lie-in, followed by tea, then coffee. A post-breakfast kick about in the garden with my two boys. Friends or pub for Sunday lunch and an afternoon snooze in front of a classic film.

What are you currently reading?​​
Entangled Life​ by Merlin Sheldrake. It’s an incredible book about fungi and the role it plays in our lives. 

What was your dream job growing up?​​
One day at school we were asked what we wanted to be when we were older. My hand shot up and I said I wanted to make cheese. Others were going to be doctors and writers. I was teased for some time after that, but I still love the idea of making cheese.

What's been your best business decision?
Taking on Pythouse Kitchen Garden in 2016. It is a wonderfully abundant patch that keeps on giving and evolving. It has taught us all so much about the discipline of self-sufficiency and regeneration. It is also the birthplace of Sprigster Drinks. I am very grateful for the garden, and honoured to be its guardian. 

And the worst?​​
Allowing someone else to influence a decision and not trusting my own instincts.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?​​
Have a game plan. Know what it is you want to do, work out how you’re going to do it and then remain 100% focussed on doing it, whilst finding the perfect balance between work and family time.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?​​
It's so hard to choose just one thing. Something we could all do with is fewer cancellations and no-shows. There could be industry-wide protocol which made a reservation a more formal contract that the guest was less inclined to break.

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