From a childhood dream of becoming a waiter, Eric Ferreres has been working in hospitality since he was just 16-years-old. Over the past 37 years, his experience has taken him from a castle in Switzerland to The Ivy during its 90s heyday – an experience which marked the beginning of his time with The Wolseley Hospitality Group. Now, at 53, after more than a decade at The Wolseley, he is Floor Manager at Soutine in St John’s Wood. We spoke to him to find out more about his role, and what it’s like to work in such a diverse team…
Tell us a little about yourself – and how did you get into hospitality?
My family had a café where I am from in Carcassonne in France, so I was always in that world – my dream was to become a waiter! And at the age of 16 I went to catering school to make this dream a reality.
After catering school, I worked at a hotel locally for two years, before going to the army, then in a castle in Switzerland near Geneva, which was magical. After a couple of years I made the move to London where my first job was with Pierre Koffmann, but I wasn’t learning any English as we were all French! So I made the move to The Ivy in 1994, which is where I met Chris and Jeremy and I quickly realised that this was the place to be.
Apart from my time on the QE2 boat and a brief stint in Barcelona, I have been working for The Wolseley Hospitality Group ever since (The Wolseley, Colbert, and Soutine).
How long have you been working in hospitality – what keeps you in the industry?
Approximately 37 years now, it’s the people that keep me doing this job – and no day is ever the same.
What first drew you to working for The Wolseley Hospitality Group?
I had heard of the Ivy and it sounded a really well run restaurant, I also worked at J. Sheekey for a while too. The training was very specific and we had so much to learn, but that’s why they were – and still are – the best people to work for in the industry.
What do you like most about working in a diverse team?
The team here at Soutine is really diverse – not just that we come from different backgrounds, but also such a variety of ages. I really enjoy this aspect as we learn from each other and it all contributes to making what we do here special. We are all different and that’s what makes the world go round, plus it’s fun to learn about different cultures.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Soutine?
I would have to say the team who I work with – we are like a family, we help each other out and have fun – and also the St Johns Wood clientele; we have wonderful customers…
When you’re not at Soutine, where can we find you?
You can often find me on a yoga mat… both for my own practice and also teaching at various studios around south London. I love yoga, and it provides balance to the intensity of hospitality and it certainly keeps me calm; since starting yoga I have a much better quality of life!
And during lockdown, this beautiful company, gave me the opportunity to teach weekly yoga classes for the C&K family on Zoom – it was a really nice opportunity to share the benefits of having a yoga practice with my colleagues.
What’s been your career highlight in hospitality so far?
I was lucky that I managed to work on board the QE2 cruise ship in the 1990s. I got to meet some wonderful people and see some amazing places all over the world.
In fact that’s where I met Jason Tesoriere who is General Manager at Colbert, as he was also on board at the same time. Such a coincidence – and we’ve continued to work together over the years… this brings me to my next highlight, which has to be opening The Wolseley back in 2003. I loved it so much, I kept coming back over the years (for about 14 years)!
When you’re not at Soutine, where are your favourite spots to eat and drink in London?
I live in south London, me and my friends tend to eat at each other’s houses as we all like to cook, but a few places we enjoy going to are The Bull in Streatham and also recently Bordelaise in Tooting Market.
And finally, what advice would you give to those who are 50+ and wanting to work in hospitality / return to the industry?
My advice is to go for it – take a chance and do it! It can be as tough as any job, but it’s rewarding and you will make friends for life. This is a very welcoming industry for people of any age… and there are so many fantastic opportunities to grow, to learn and to be happy.
If you would like to join our team, take a look at our current vacancies.