Cutting Edge Kitchens – Take a Bao!

It’s easy to look at the world of restaurants and imagine that the only cutting edges are in fine dining. Though the world’s great chefs and kitchens are constantly reinterpreting what taste and flavour mean they are not the only ones.

A whole host of different restaurants have opened in London over the last few years but one new restaurant group is deserving of a closer look. We’re talking about Bao.

Why Bao? The format is simple: Taiwanese street food steamed buns with a variety of fillings. From the the initial small opening in Soho, Bao has grown into a group with further sites, an online offering and now its own all-day cafe.

We’re excited about this because of the opportunity it presents to learn some very interesting, modern, skills that can help any chef increase their knowledge and their career opportunities.

On the face of it using Bao as a stepping stone to another job or opportunity might not seem obvious. However, look more closely at the business model and it is clear that there are important lessons to learn about the way the business has been conceived.

Bao is about buns. These are easy to produce and have taken their inspiration from Taiwan where they are freely available in street markets. This is the backdrop to the business. Where the owners have been clever is to build an offering around this in a clever way. Bao is fast, simple, clean and easy to understand. These are great business lessons for any chef.

So, if there is only one thing that you learn from a business like Bao it is to conceive your offering in a simple way. There is much to learn from businesses like these that can then be transferred to fine dining.

The late Andrew Fairlie once did a spell, deliberately, at Walt Disney. He went there for one reason and one reason only – to learn about business. Whilst he was there he learnt about profit and loss, running a business, motivating and keeping staff and how to construct a menu from a business perspective. This grounding in business enabled him to return to fine dining and establish a business that became the highest awarded restaurant in Scotland which he kept for the remainder of his life. The business is still going under the guidance of his long-term head chef Stevie MacLaughlin and Restaurant Manager Dale Dewsbury.

So, if you want to have your own restaurant one day follow the same advice – isolate a business that you admire that makes money and go and work there. The food is not the only thing that makes a restaurant. Beyond that is the business. Bao is an interesting concept that keeps things very simple but in an exciting way.