Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

The Interview: Will Smith, Co-owner, Arbutus, London

Published:  23 July, 2008

Will was born in Birmingham and studied geography at Kingston University, in London. After working at a hotel to earn money prior to university, he took a diploma in hotel management at Manchester Polytechnic, sponsored by the hotel company Swallow Group. He began his career with Swallow in 1991, before moving to Cameron House in Scotland in 1994, and the following year to the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. In 1998, he decided on a change of direction, switching to restaurants, and moving to London. He began work at L'Odeon, the Regent Street restaurant under chef Bruno Loubet, where he met current partner Anthony Demetre. They left together for Putney Bridge in 1999, a purpose-built restaurant in southwest London. Demetre earned a star there, keeping it until the restaurant shut in 2005. Arbutus opened in May this year.

I actually started at the Swallow Group but

I quickly realised that sitting in the back office wasn't for me, and one episode showed that particularly. I was sent to a Swallow hotel in Carlisle in the early days - they wanted me to take on the assistant manager role. When I came back my boss said, Right, when do you start'? But I told him that I was going to turn it down, I didn't like the hotel or Carlisle. He went ballistic - I was in my twenties and should be prepared to go wherever in order to further my career; I should organise my working life now so that I could build a family later, he believed. But I didn't want to float around helping with check-ins and monitoring the laundry department - doing not very much, in fact. Working on the floor takes over your life, but you can't beat it.