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Hospitality Industry

(Restaurant, Cafe, Bar, Club and Hotel)

about kurt zdesar

Born in Australia of an Austrian father I moved to the UK at fourteen years old. 

From a young age I worked to learn the hospitality industry from the ground up. Aged sixteen, I began working for fast food giant McDonald’s. Although, a junior position, my eighteen months there were an incredible lesson in efficient management, work ethic and organisation.

Subsequent jobs at Perfect Pizza and then Kentucky Fried Chicken, I progressed rapidly to become the youngest manager at the KFC franchise (Southern Fast Foods) aged 18.

By 1992, I was managing an Italian restaurant at the five-star Britannia Hotel, Canary Wharf. Here I was able to grow and demonstrate my entrepreneurial flair. I focused my strategies based on experience and generate such dramatic increase in business for the restaurant that I was asked to run the hotel room service division of 440 rooms; something I will always remain proud of.

Moving on, approached by Nobu, I established their first European restaurant in London, which received a Michelin star within 10 months of opening; the UK’s first Michelin star for Asian cuisine. Nobu London was voted ‘Restaurant of the Year’ in 2003 and 2004 by the world renowned Restaurant Magazine and remains Nobu’s most profitable restaurant per sq. ft. in the world.

Playing a pivotal role in establishing Nobu as one of the world’s most successful restaurant groups, and, as Director of Operations Nobu Europe, I oversaw 7 successful restaurant openings with 2 restaurants receiving and maintaining Michelin star recognition. Further, I went on to successfully established Nobu outside catering in London, applying the concept to high profile events and generating an additional £1.5m in revenue per year.

Following Nobu, I was proud to go on work with the world renowned Alan Yau and established London’s 2nd restaurant to receive a Michelin star, Hakkasan.

Passionate about the restaurant industry, I launched my brainchild Ping Pong as a highly successful global brand, with a growing revenue from zero to £15m per annum within 2 years and achieving ‘Emerging Concept of the Year’ in 2007. Ping Pong was further recognised as one of the United Kingdom’s fastest growing companies and continues to be one of London’s most successful Asian restaurants.

Moving forward, selling my stake in Ping Pong, I continue as a restaurant consultant and concept developer.

The knowledge and experience I have gained over the years have given me unique insight. In recent years I built 3 further fine dining restaurants: Mews of Mayfair (London), Les Bains Douches (Paris), Block 338 (Bahrain).

Currently, I have the world renowned Chotto Matte located in Soho a 6000sqf restaurant and par serving Nikkei cuisine (Peruvian/Japanese); as well as Black Roe the first live Poke Bar & Grill concept in London. I am excited to announce the launch of my new concept Fucina, an Italian restaurant that will set the new benchmark of how we experience Italian food in London.

With a wealth of knowledge and experience, if you have any questions regarding: concept creation, assembling, leading and motivating high performing management and creative teams; designing and implementing cost rationalisation initiatives to drive profitability; introducing retail sales methodologies to hospitality service delivery, delivering fine dining quality food at low cost; and managing high profile media and PR campaigns prior to new restaurant launches to mention just a few, please do contact me below.

restaurants

Fucina

Chef Stefano and Kurt have scoured the length and breadth of Italy and the UK to source the very best organic produce to create innovative yet wholesome dishes. Working with the best of what is in season and only using produce at peak condition, the food at Fucina will be as nourishing as it is delicous. Although the menu is derived from traditional recipes inspired by Stefano’s childhood, Fucina will represent a new wave of Italian cooking in London, elevating simple ingredients to umami-rich creations.

Fucina will also serve handmade pasta, rolled just before service and stone-baked pizza from a wood- fired oven, both made from stone ground, wholemeal flour that’s naturally fermented. Downstairs, the restaurant will feature a wood-fired pit for roasting suckling pig, lamb and boar as well as large joints of meat, depending on the season.

The private dining room is accessed downstairs via a staircase that wraps around the seven-metre-high walk-in wine room where diners will be able to select wines from the predominantly Italian wine list. The floor to ceiling glass wall between the private dining room and kitchen provides guests with a chef’s table experience observing the drama of the open kitchen and also the wood-fired pit.

Almost everything at Fucina will be created in-house including bread, pastries, pasta, charcuterie and gelato. These will be available to buy in the restaurant’s neighbouring panetteria on Paddington Street, opening to the public in November, along with cold-pressed juices, freshly ground coffee, and Italian grocery items to create meals at home. The panetteria, headed up by ex-Princi head baker Massimiliano Porta will have its own standing coffee bar and will serve fresh salads and sandwiches filled with meats from the restaurant’s fire pit, all available for takeaway.

Designed by Andy Martin Architecture, the light-filled restaurant will feature an undulating red brick- lined ceiling, to emulate the inside of a pizza oven. On one side of the restaurant the red brick runs down the length of the wall and onto the ground merging with a bespoke marble terrazzo floor. Once inside, Fucina will provide a haven for guests with the street obscured by handmade green glass and steel screens. The restaurant is centred around a large marble bar which at one end will serve classic Italian cocktails; and at the other end a cichetti bar where Fucina’s chefs will add the final touch to dishes sent up from the lower ground kitchen.

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Black Roe

Black Roe in the heart of Mayfair, brings the finest Pacific Rim cuisine.

Black Roe’s crowning glory is Poke Bar at the front of the restaurant, where an expert chef serves up raw fish with a Pacific slant alongside other fresh seafood and oysters. Centre stage takes Poke, a Hawaiian marinated raw fish dish with fresh, exotic flavours.
The Grill serves sustainable meats cooked on a Kiawe wood grill. Cocktails and a wide selection of wines by the glass are also served at the relaxed bar.
Downstairs feature is a large chef’s table for up to 20 guests that leads into the centre of the open kitchen and is lined by tanks filled with the freshest live seafood.

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Chotto Matte

Chotto Matte has opened its doors in September 2013, during London Fashion Week and is bringing the energy of underground Tokyo to the streets of Soho. Located on the corner of Bateman and Frith, Chotto Matte will bring together the best of Japanese and Peruvian cultures serving up affordable Nikkei cuisine, killer cocktails, and live music.Spread over 3 floors, Chotto Matte will comprise of 6 distinct areas. The ground floor will include an expansive cocktail lounge featuring a curved bar cut from lava stone from which skilled mixologists will shake up Nikkei inspired Pisco, Sochu, and Sake cocktails. When the sun shines, retractable glass walls will expose the lounge to the street allowing guests to spill into Soho and take in the sights and sounds of the bustling neighbourhood.

 Adjacent to the bar will be a raised dining area complete with 55‐cover a‐la‐carte restaurant and fixed‐price raw bar whereby master sushi chef – previously chef to the Emperor of Japan – will serve an ever‐evolving menu of sushi and raw specialties.A spiral, burnt‐timber staircase will lead guests to the upper level which will boast an open Robata grill, sushi bar, and 100‐cover dining room. The exposed Robata grill will accommodate up to 10 guests and serve smoky Japanese BBQ such as hotpots, Wagyu beef, and seasonal grilled vegetables straight from grill to plate.In both the upper and lower level dining rooms, an evolving a‐la‐carte menu is designed to encourage a relaxed, sharing environment with dishes including Avocado Tempura with smoked purple potato; BBQ Pork Belly nashi pear salsa; Grilled Baby Chicken with spicy pomegranate salsa; BBQ specialties from the Robata Grill, and a selection of fresh, sustainably sourced sushi.

The menu will also boast a tasting menu of seven courses for just £40.The interiors are designed to evoke a sense of modern day Tokyo offering guests a multi‐layered experience that blurs the boundaries between modern and traditional aesthetics. Andy Martin’s striking design will fuse both natural materials such as lava stone and burntcedar with art inspired by Tokyo’s contemporary urban culture. Ahead of the September launch Houxo Que, a Tokyo based painter and graffiti artist (previous work pictured above left), will be in residence working on large‐scale bespoke graphics that will adorn select walls within the restaurant.

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Nobu Moon Boot

Originally opened in 2010 to wide acclaim, Moon Boot Lounge is a privately owned, exclusive cocktail bar and lounge with interiors that pay homage to the Moon Boot heritage. After the Moon Boot lounge opened in Villars, the number of stores selling the Moon Boot went from one to seven outlets. The lounge is a brand extension to Moon Boot.

Moon Boot is a lifestyle not just a product, it’s an era! The Moon Boot Lounge was built as a tribute to the iconic après-ski apparel, and was developed in collaboration with Tecnica to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Moon Boot. The The Moon Boot Lounge with a laid-back ambience and a friendly approach to sophisticated drinks is situated right in the heart of the village. By day it is an intimate bar renowned for luxury and award-winning cocktails. By night it transforms into “the place to be” packed full of party loving, Moon Boot wearing, snowboarding, shot drinking people forging new Moon Boot memories that they will cherish and share, keeping the Moon Boot brand alive today and for years to come.

As well as providing a unique experience, each Moon Boot Lounge offers an exclusive Moon Boot design, only available from that particular lounge. The design of each Lounge Collection boot is used throughout the interior, making the boot a real reminder of good times at the Moon Boot Lounge.The Moon Boot Lounge name, reputation and standards are important factors in maintaining its international and loyal following amongst its already well established client base. In order to ensure that all Moon Boot Lounge operations maintain my high standards, regular inspections are conducted by means of mystery shopper visits and by organized sessions by my senior team members for product knowledge testing.

Enormous care has been devoted to the creation of this unique lounge which caters to a wide variety of tastes and allows the guests to rediscover the excitement of diverse ingredients and flavours. Cocktails are based on different styles, but served in a modern idiom. The cocktail menu is a selection rather than an exhaustive list of what is available. As always, the Bartender will provide whatever your guests want, whether it is on the menu or not. The emphasis, as ever, is on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. The Moon Boot Lounge is well known for its laid-back ambience and a friendly approach to sophisticated drinks and is becoming a well known establishment for après-ski ambiance.

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Aroma Cafe

Aroma is a well established shisha café situated on the edge of Seef Mall, Bahrain’s second largest mall. Aroma has been blessed with 8 years of continued success, serving over 10,000 people per month. But after 8 years, it was time for a renovation.Kurt seized this opportunity to turn it from a shisha café to the best example of an Arabic café in the Gulf.

Introducing open shawama stations, a juice bar, Arabic cooking, live Arabic music, VIP rooms and a styling and design unlike any other, created by Jonathan Amar the man behind Les Comptoir Dana in Marrakesh – the most popular shisha café in Morocco – Aroma is set to become the destination café in Bahrain.Kurt says “Aroma is a real step away from my past experiences, however, it is also my most exciting project to date as an Australian in an Arabian country, building an Arabic concept for the first time!”

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338

The building where Block 338 resides has been owned by Mesk Holdings for several years, but it had long been abandoned by the board members. As the new CEO of Mesk Holdings, Kurt saw the potential in the prime location and seized the opportunity to take advantage of the spectacular outside space unmatched in any of the restaurants in Bahrain.

For a small country, Baharin has a diverse selection of restaurants, but what Kurt felt was lacking was a space of sophistication; yet relaxing; a home away from home with great quality food and high quality beverages.In the very heart of the Bahrain dining district in Adlyia, after only a few months of operation, Block 338 is already achieving international acclaim.

Kurt says “My first restaurant in Bahrain came with many unforeseen challenges due to their different operational methods compared to the UK. Transforming a restaurant that had been derelict for over 2 years inside 5 months was a really challenge, and only possible with the great support I found here”

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Ping Pong

Ping Pong Ltd is a high quality restaurant group specialising in Chinese Dim Sum. With restaurants in Europe, Middle East, North & South America, Ping Pong is a globally recognised brand. Kurt established the Ping Pong restaurant chain from start up with the original vision of delivering high quality Asian cuisine to central London for £15 per head.As the founder and owner, Kurt not only developed the concept, he formulated the business models as well as entry-to-market strategy, he also secured the investment required to make the concept a reality.It was during his time at Nobu that Kurt first began to appreciate the huge appeal and practical potential of dim sum.

For a Nobu Christmas party one year, he brought in dim sum from a restaurant in Chinatown as an appetising but convenient food that all the staff could enjoy after the restaurant had closed for the night. Used to the lengthy preparation that Nobu’s intricate cuisine entailed, he watched with admiration as an assortment of pre-made dim sum was taken out of trays and quickly steamed in special baskets. Within twenty minutes of closing, the restaurant’s staff were sitting down to enjoy a delicious but surprisingly inexpensive feast.If that night first sparked off the germ of the idea that would eventually evolve into Ping Pong, Nobu’s rapidly expanding business provided Kurt with plenty of examples of the huge opportunities that lay in the kind of rationalisation and efficient logistics that are now cornerstones of the Ping Pong business.”Stylish and sexy, this place serves dim sum all day at equally attractive prices. There’s no booking, just join the queue and feast away” Feast LondonIn June 2004, at a time when Nobu London was enjoying record profitability, Kurt resigned in order to develop his own idea for a group of restaurants that would pioneer modern dim sum – an idea that has now become reality as Ping Pong.

Kurt not only identified and secured the premises but he assembled the creative team, recruited and trained the senior management, sourced the kitchen and font-of-house teams; and embedded brand strategy.As you’d expect from someone with Kurts insight into modern day dining this ancient Chinese tea house tradition was given a 21st Century makeover with his vision of dim sum restaurants.His dim sum menu incorporates popular dishes of old, as well as new varieties. The amount of creative input and attention to detail Kurt and his team invested into creating the dark modern, sexy interiors, all the restaurant aesthetics are truly breathtaking.Even with A list clientele including Danii Minouge, David Schwimmer and Kate Winslet, more importantly Ping Pong was intended to be a good deal more accessible than some of its illustrious peers –Kurt implemented a no reservation policy with a low average spent to match.

“Ping Pong is to Yauatcha what MiuMiu is to Prada” – Toby YoungThe Dim Sum menu was designed to be served quickly and be easy to eat, but it definitely isn’t fast food. Everything on the menu is hand made from fresh ingredients every day by specialist Dim Sum chefs. No machine could replicate their extraordinary skill.Kurt managed the cost base, and therefore the prices by manufacturing the food off-site. This not only reduced the fixed costs, but also the food costs and reduced the back / front-of-house ratio successfully thus increasing the number of customers per restaurant.The first restaurant opened within 9 months (2005) and was profitable within its first 4 months – an achievement rarely managed in the restaurant business.

Two further restaurants opened in 2005, 3 more in 2006 with 2 in 2007 bringing the total portfolio to 8 profitable restaurants within 18 months.Kurt says “A Ping Pong restaurant is a modern take on a very ancient Chinese tradition. Hundreds of years ago, merchants on the Silk Road would stop at tea houses en route to rest their weary feet, relax and drink tea with their fellow travellers and share Dim Sum – baskets and dishes of little sweet and savoury snacks, usually steamed, baked or fried. We’ve kept all the best bits of that ancient tradition, like meeting to relax and share appetizing food and fragrant tea. We just thought that after the first thousand years or so, it would be OK to add cocktails to the menu”.

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Les Bains Douches

Kurt achieved the impossible by integrating a fine dining restaurant into to a world renowned Parisian nightclub ‘Les Bains Douches’. The restaurant achieved a 4* rating in France’s leading Fourchette Food Guide.

After 30 years of phenomenal success, only mirrored by the likes of Studio 54 in New York, Les Bains Douches lifespan was coming to an end. In 2008, Kurt was commissioned by owner, Hubert Boukobza to resurrect the celebrity scene that was once commonplace. Shortly after the opening the restaurant, the name Les Bains was back at the forefront of the nightlife scene in Paris and the Princess of Morocco was a weekly patron, flying in especially to dine there. Hubert used this re birth of Les Bains as an opportunity to finally move on from Paris and after 3 decades, sold the restaurant and club at a premium.

Kurt says “working with a legend such as Hubert Boukobza was not the easiest of tasks due to his worldwide reputation and jet-set lifestyle. But this was not the first time I had worked with Hubert so there were no real surprises. Opening the restaurant in Les Bains, gave me an insight into the life style of what it was like living during the infamous era of the 80’s nightclub scene and I can now call Hubert a lifelong friend”

Kurt says “Working closely alongside industry leaders such as Nobu and Drew for 9 years, their knowledge and philosophies are now in my blood. During my time at Nobu, I travelled and met an amazing cast of people, a period of my life that will never be forgotten”

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Icha Icha

Icha Icha is a Japanese inspired restaurant, primarily focused on donburi which is a Japanese dish of a large bowl of white rice with several toppings. A popular fast food option as common in Japan as a sandwich is in the UK.

With this in mind, the target was a £10 average spend, the same as a sandwich combination, but being able to serve a healthy, hot, tasty meal option to.We had to create a high quality low cost but substantial lunch that could be prepared inside of 30 seconds upon ordering.

The result is a self combined meal with Asian taste, using raw produce of the highest quality, and the freshest ingredients we can get hold of.Originally aiming for 400 covers a day, Icha Icha is now serving a jaw dropping 800 customers a day with a payroll cost of only 5%!

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Nobu

After a year travelling, working in restaurants all around Europe, he was hired by the Nobu Group in late 1996 to implement its service and management methods in the restaurant it was about to launch in London. While working as assistant general manager at the newly opened restaurant, he went on to liaise closely with the founder Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, supervising the opening of all Nobu’s restaurants in Europe. Playing a key role in turning Nobu into the most prestigious and successful restaurant group in the world, he was appointed manager of Nobu London in 2000.Under his management, Nobu London received numerous accolades, including a Michelin star and – during successive years – the vote in the Zagat Guide as the city’s most popular restaurant. A major turning-point in his career, the job gave him the in-depth knowledge of the systems and organisation required to support world-class cuisine, but also afforded an atmosphere of independence that encouraged his talent for entrepreneurship and innovative thinking.

The 2003 Gulf War was an example of his often unorthodox but highly successful methods. When most restaurants were cutting back during the downturn in business, Kurt chose instead to remain loyal to his staff and the fundamentals of the restaurant. Increasing staffing levels, he concentrated on providing even better service than ever before. The average customer spend increased while food costs were reduced. The result was that from fewer diners the restaurant made even more revenue than before the war began.One of Kurt’s biggest challenges at Nobu London was coping with the phenomenal success of a restaurant that enjoyed as much fame as the stars who regularly dined there. While Boris Becker’s visit to the restaurant has gone into popular legend, personalities who have enjoyed quieter evenings there include practically every A-list name from show business, media or society. Its high profile diners ensured that Nobu would be constantly in the news, but made it often difficult to find a table, Kurt’s solution to open the ‘White Room’ – a candlelit area where diners could eat at communal tables without reservations – not only generated substantial extra revenue, but also provided an example of his fundamentally egalitarian approach.

Among his many initiatives at Nobu, the one that gave him the most personal satisfaction was organising a charity birthday party for the founder, which was sponsored by the jewellers Garrard and raised a quarter of a million pounds for the Save the Children Fund. On 12 March 2003, the restaurant was closed for 24 hours and transformed into a Japanese white forest, while Nobuyuki Matsuhisa cooked a nine-course meal for celebrity donors.Having managed Nobu London successfully including receiving a Michelin star, Kurt achieved promotion to Director of Nobu Europe with a remit to expand the brand throughout Europe and lead all new restaurant ventures.

When he opened Nobu branches in Paris and Milan, he reached the conclusion that the best way to compensate for the heavy new costs of extra regulation in Europe was to simplify the menu and implement the local purchase of ingredients. In 2003, he got the chance to try out these ideas when he concluded an agreement with a Mykonos hotelier to bring Nobu to the island for the summer. Devising a streamlined menu and using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible, he went on to run the restaurant with half the usual complement of staff. Although it had initially opened for only a trial period, Nobu in Mykonos did record business and was voted best restaurant in Greece.Created by world famous Japanese chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, Nobu Restaurants grew from one restaurant in New York to a global enterprise with 19 restaurants across 5 continents.

With signature dishes such as Black Cod in Miso, Nobu to this day continues to lead the way in new wave Japanese cooking.”Nobu is the world’s hippest restaurant chain.” VogueKurts key deliverables included: turnover, profit and costs; kitchen hygiene; restaurant cleanliness; customer experience and brand reputation as well as maintaining restaurant concept innovation.Under Kurts leadership,the European portfolio had a revenue stream of £40m per annum, 750 staff and his role had line management responsibility for the Restaurant General Managers, executive chefs and multisite accounts departments.In all European restaurants, Kurt was not only opening new restaurants, but he was overseeing restaurant management, negotiating strategic partner contracts and embedding Nobu’s brand concept.

Kurt says “Working closely alongside industry leaders such as Nobu and Drew for 9 years, their knowledge and philosophies are now in my blood. During my time at Nobu, I travelled and met an amazing cast of people, a period of my life that will never be forgotten”

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