The biggest and most important institution and cultural activity on earth are restaurants.
It’s funny, the way life takes so many twists and turns.
As John Lennon famously sang: “life is something that happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. that’s certainly true of my own life: who would have thought that at age 78 I would now be embarking on a new path, one which, somehow, the last 60 years have been preparing me for.
In 1960, at age 19, I left apartheid South Africa for England, where I worked as a dishwasher in kitchens in Earls Court
until at age 24 I thought I had found a career as a letting agent for flats.
This eventually led to property management, buying and converting and restoring houses. Although I continued to do this for 50 years, the lure of kitchens and restaurants kept drawing me back. I built my first restaurant –“The Pot”– in Earls Court in 1969, and then opened “Toffs” in Barnes in 1976, followed by “The Abingdon” in Kensington in 1998, and, lastly, “Cuatro” in Cadaqués, Spain, in 2004. Since 1980 I shared my time between London and Cadaqués where I intermittently worked for the local community as a director of its Culture Centre.
Not for a moment during those years was I aware that the main thread running through my life was in fact restaurants. All of which were one-off, independent establishments run by myself and my four daughters. So of course they were, therefore, “family run restaurants”.
Then one day, two years ago, on a visit to London, I was sitting in The Abingdon with some of our regulars when we got around to talking about the review systems used by booking agents and how unreliable and misleading they were. Someone said: “Wouldn’t it be nice if restaurant owners and chefs and their regulars did the recommending?” It would certainly be much more trustworthy, especially if inspectors visited and gave their approval.
Well, as The Abingdon was a family run restaurant, we asked our regulars for recommendations of other family run restaurants and the response was amazing. It turned out that people not only loved family run restaurants, but they also preferred them to chains and groups. The reasons they gave are still valid for us today. It appears they see family run restaurants (frr) as part of the fabric of a community, each with its own personality; and given the state of our planet, the fact that the family run restaurants recommended to us tended to focus on local, seasonal and organic produce was a major plus. So, the penny dropped. The seed was sown. Now, two years later, we are ready to get under way. The company Family Run Restaurants S.L. and familyrunrestaurants.com were created to promote and protect the brand through its on line booking site and through the sales of the 1st guide book called 290 AUTHENTIC FAMILY RUN RESTAURANTS. CATALUNYA.
We have created The Worldwide Association of Family Run Restaurants (wafrr), a non-profit organization whose regional managers aim to assist with the expansion of organic farming and to encourage the maximum use in all our member restaurants of local, seasonal produce. It is worth bearing in mind that between 30 % to 35 % of global warming is caused through industrial agriculture and the mostly unnecessary transportation of food across the planet. Eating locally grown organic food alone would slow down and could even stop further global warming.
So here I am, fully committed and raring to go. The rest of this book will explain –I hope in a simple way– how humanity got to its present crossroads and what we believe are the answers to our current predicament. Lastly, given my love of Catalonia and Spain, it was decided to launch the movement and the online business in this beautiful, diverse and culturally aware nation.