Talking to Adam White, Restaurateur

The Man That Brought Brunch To London

A Life Well Lived

As part of our journey to Re-Define Wealth we are exploring what “A Life Well Lived” means: interviewing artists, entrepreneurs, explorers, and change-makers as they share some of their stories and ask “what is my life well lived?”.  Here, Adam White shares with us what it means to him.

“Everywhere you look it tells you to live a balanced life at the moment. We’re learning the value of that.”

You would be forgiven for not instantly recognising Adam – he would much rather be fastidiously building London’s latest eatery than talking about himself – but we know him as a pioneer of the London Brunch Revolution, co-founding such institutions as The Riding House Café, and Bermondsey’s Village East and The Garrison. So as far as Brunch in London goes, he’s practically royalty.

From a comfy seat in the corner of his buzzing restaurant, The Rail House Café in Victoria, Adam talks to us about what made him want to get into such a competitive industry in the first place, his thoughts on success and what it means to him to maintain a balanced and well-lived life.

On Work

“I came over to England after studying industrial design, to maybe design something exciting like cars, or worst case washing machines or irons, but I think my rejection letters got to about two inches thick. I was running a pub at the time and I refitted it without actually telling the corporation that owned it. It went quite well and I thought you know what, I’m really loving this … so I gave up the education .. I was doing in my spare time trying to work on my career, and [from then on] everything changed.”

“I think if you are going to embark on having your own business, you have to be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices, it’s a lot of work, a lot of time. It’s a rollercoaster and you have to be pretty much obsessed with what you’re doing to get to the other side, when life starts to return to a bit of normality. But when you run your own business I would say whatever you’re doing, there is always a small part of you that’s working.”

On Success

“What does success look like? I think if you’re happy in the shower, then you’ve been pretty successful. Not really more I can say, I worked at that for a long time!”

“I think if you’re happy in the shower, then you’ve been pretty successful”

“If I wasn’t in the restaurant business I would be designing something I’m sure, or hosting something. I think the pleasure I get most out of this industry is when you walk in the front door and it’s really busy, and customers are having a great time – you know in the sound of their voice if they’re having a great time – the team are enjoying it, it’s an amazing feeling. Ten years later it doesn’t go away, the moment you walk in the front door you get that buzz.”

On Fulfilment

“If the team around me are happy and they are motivated, then you’re surrounded by happy motivated people, so that makes your life on a day to day basis a lot more enjoyable. Obviously a lot of that is my responsibility, but when you have the right people around you, they find that within themselves”

“Getting the right people on the bus has been my journey for the past few years and I’m very happy to be there now, so that’s very satisfying to me. It’s not always easy to be happy and motivated when the environment works against you a lot of the time, but when you have the right people on the bus, you can make your way through … I think I quoted ‘From Good to Great’ [by Jim Collins] then!”

On Living Well

“Everywhere you look it tells you to live a balanced life at the moment. We’re learning the value of that. If your career is successful then it’s a little easier to achieve that balance of course, but doing the right thing, being proud of yourself, that’s something I’ve always aimed for. Happiness is something I think we all are trying to achieve, and we have a little more rounded view of that these days, to perhaps the generation, or a couple of generations before us”.

“… as for living a better life, more of that balance we just spoke about…Outside of running a business, I’m a complete petrol head, I’ve been racing cars for about 7 years now, and I’m slightly obsessed with that! When you’re on the starting line and the adrenalin is pumping, it’s an incredible feeling”

On Life After Work

“If you’d of asked me about retirement ten years ago I would have said feet up, on the beach, cheesy cocktail in hand, but I certainly know myself better than that now, and I’ll always be working to some degree. I love it, I enjoy it, but I would like some more of the work life balance, more time with the family, more racing cars!”

On Home & Loved Ones

“I think a home is really looking forward to the people that are also calling it a home when you get there. I’ve been going from flat to flat every year for the last three or four years, you take the furniture there, you set it up, two days later it’s “home”. But yeah, the people in it [are what make it a home].”

“I think a home is really looking forward to the people that are also calling it a home when you get there”

“How would I spend my last week on earth? It would be a busy week!

I think I’d have to find the four seater equivalent of a Ferrari F40; in it would be my son and my girlfriend, we’d be going through the Alps, eating at some pretty fantastic restaurants. Yeah, that would make me happy”

“As for what I couldn’t live without, my son, he’s always got to come first”