We talk branding, logos and the creative journey – Kent Baddeley / Ten Twenty Four, Hawke’s Bay.
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The Ryan Marketing Show
Kent Baddeley – Ten Twenty Four Restaurant – EPISODE 3
Voice Over: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, fire.
Ryan Jennings: CEO, Founder, Artist, well, how do you refer to Ken Baddeley, the chef?
Kent Baddeley: Well, I don’t know. A lot of people refer to me in various ways from [bleep 0:00:29.7] to fucking fat prick. I don’t know–
RJ: I hear you– you mean, you refer to yourself as a cook.
KB: Well, I am a cook as a [? 0:00:40.2]
RJ: A cook. [crosstalk]
KB: It’s a verb.
RJ: What you do.
KB: Chef means chief. And I hate when people say, “Oh, my son’s chefing.” I say, “Wait, it’s chiefing.” I hate the word. It’s like Master Chef on television; it took me ten years to get accredited to be a Master Chef, but a TV show comes up and there’s amateurs that are now talking about the crown of a chicken breast. I mean, where do these guys get their training from? On the Australian show, they’re pulling out seven [? 0:01:14.6] from a restaurant dishes time after time without recipes. There must be coaching going on somewhere, because you see the first dishes they put up and they all get five and kicked out, and by the end of the show, they’re pulling out bloody [histon? 0:01:30.2] and stuff, you know?
RJ: I do think there’s some mentoring and coaching in the background.
KB: Of course there is. And there’ll be professional chefs in there. I mean, they finish, their cook, and then all of a sudden they’re standing around the kitchen spotless and they’re all standing there, you know? Who’s doing the dishes? Hey, who’s cleaning that shit up? But there’ll be a part of cooks in there.
RJ: So, for people watching that, it’s not what chefing or working in a kitchen is even about. Do you think it’s actually not reality TV; it’s actually– reality TV’s now non-reality TV?
KB: They kind of swing that way. I mean, if you look at some of these, they must cut in after they’ve done the cooking and then get those comments, and I don’t know when the comments are actually given – are the comments given before they cook or after they cook or– they’re certainly not done while they’re cooking, is it?
RJ: Yeah, and if you do it after, then the food’s got to be in a different state–
RJ: — during. I don’t know.
KB: Yeah, and when they taste, they must mean they’ve finished their cooking and then all of a sudden then they bring the dishes in, and those dishes must be stone cold.
RJ: Yeah. Then how do you taste it properly?
KB: Yeah. So, it’s the best of a best situation. It’s a great show; it’s big budget. Winner gets quarter of a million, a food column, and a [look? 0:02:46.8]. It’s just instant start in Australia.
RJ: Can’t fail.
RJ: Easier to do that than to actually do it the hard way, if that’s your goal. I should probably introduce this. So–
KB: It’s like– no, it’s not [? 0:03:01.1], you know? She’d never [? 0:03:02.5] chef in her life. Just a pretty nutritionist who got on Master Chef, and look at her now: heading up some corporate conglomerate, no risk. Hey, all yield.
RJ: All upside. All upside.
KB: I took Nadia to lunch one day; she comes to the kitchen and says, “Oh, this food is amazing – I’m going to steal some of these ideas.” Cook said, “Are you?” Is that what it’s for? Is that what it’s about? You stealing other cooks’ ideas and you’re actually telling the chef you’re stealing his ideas? Wow. I guess when you don’t have any of your own, Nadia. Hey, these are hard-worked ideas, they’re–
RJ: I can’t wait for this interview; this is going to be funny.
KB: Some of them have been evolved over a period of twenty years, some of these new things I’m pissing around. But, you know, only that marshmallow ravioli, I spent ten years trying to slice it in all sorts of way to make it razor thin, you know? Stroganoff – spent probably two, three hundred man-hours trying to get this silky, flat shape. And it’s stroganoff; give it away and I’d get back to it and then I’ll try it again and I struggle and I cannot get it, you know? And I turn around one day and I said to my pastry guy, I said, “[Manuel? 0:04:15.2], I want some marshmallow that’s going to come out just– I’m going to make some raviolis, you know?” And he said, “All right,” and he pulled out some– I turned around and he went to make [inaudible 0:04:27.8] and then he top on it and I said, “What are you doing?” He says, “Well, since it’s how you do your short crust, I’d have thought you’d do the same thing.” I said, “Carry on.” I said, “Jesus, you’ve done it.” Why didn’t I think– based on my practice, why didn’t I apply the same thing myself, you know what I mean? Just misses you, eh? Because that’s how we do all of our pastry – he just applied it the same way, even though it wasn’t a pastry, and bingo, there it was. And then we served it, and we obviously served it to the editor of Cuisine Magazine and then she posted it was the best dessert she’d had in 2013, so whatever, right? This last year, they sent a reviewer, he must’ve been a 145 years old, he said my food was “kind of modern,” and I thought to myself, this raises a huge issue; is it modern food that you’re rating restaurants on or are you rating them on good food? [Do you know what I mean? 0:05:24.1]
RJ: Shouldn’t the two be the same?
KB: You’d think so. And then does it– because modern means tiny little pieces? Is that what modern means, or does modern mean certain techniques we’re using, or– you know? How would she know? How do these reviewers know what goes on in the kitchen? They can’t keep coming in with their preconceived ideas what they think a good restaurant is.
RJ: Anyone coming in, which I’ve done myself, it’s always a snapshot, and then all you can do is compare multiple snapshots, not the evolution between–
KB: Yeah, or– but you’re never going to get the realization of why people are doing that. You never get the why, do you? You just get the result. And no one ever asks the why.
RJ: We’re going to ask that today.
KB: You know, the why is no fucking clue. That was there, you know? I don’t know. You know me – I’ve never been satisfied in my life.
RJ: Do you think that’s part of the magic?
KB: That’s what Jill says. “You’ve never changed; you’ve always been like this,” and she says, “You can have national awards coming out your ass, you’re top restaurant in 2000 and all the lot, you’re still going– fucking unhappy over cake in the next [day? 0:06:31.5],” you know? So, I keep pushing. And every [? 0:06:35.8] seemed to do not much at all; I’ve seen some photographs in some recent restaurants throughout town and the food just looks awful, and yet these places are the ones everybody’s clambering after. Is this on?
KB: So, I wont mention anybody’s names.
RJ: This is on. I should introduce you to Kent. This is Kent Baddeley: founder, CEO, and cook of Ten Twenty Four and many restaurants prior to this. This is The Ryan Marketing Show.
KB: Wow, welcome.
RJ: This is episode three–
KB: Good lord.
RJ: — of one hundred CEO interviews.
KB: So, at this point, I’m a little bit disturbed I wasn’t one.
RJ: Already. Already there’s frustration. I had to start somewhere, so I started with Damien Smith who’s number one; he’s a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Also–
KB: I was only kidding, Ryan. I saw your posts on Twitter.
RJ: Just outside of Pakowhaishire in Hastings.
KB: Okay. The greater region of the stings; our beloved home.
KB: The forgotten land.
RJ: And so one of the things I want to get across, or talk to you about on this interview, is the theme that may run across all of your restaurants, perhaps through your life, around taking an idea that you have through to something that people are queuing round the block, talking about, that it creates this massive group of, almost disciples, but it starts with your idea. How–
KB: Sometimes. I’m now in my fifth take at a restaurant industry, and to stay contemporary and stay young and to stay modern and stay at the edge of New Zealand cuisine, which is my beloved dream – that’s what it all started with – it’s hard [? 0:08:28.4], and yet some of these people patches occur and [inaudible 0:08:33.1] Sol, where I budgeted $25-grand a week for Sol in Wellington, and opening night we did just under $60k and we looked at each other and went, “Oh, we got that wrong,” and this place, we started doing like a quarter of a million dollars a week, getting twenty thousand people through, you know? Ridiculous numbers. And this was upstairs in the Oaks and there’s two escalators going up – we had to stop the escalators because there was too many people queuing, and they queued out and down the street, down to almost Cuba Street.
RJ: Down Wellington, wow.
KB: And they were waiting. And I said to the bouncers, just let the pretty girls in. Even if they’re with boys, don’t let the boys in until 6:30. And the guys, “What about–” well, you can’t come in if– “Well, I can’t come in, so we’ll go.” She goes, “No, we’re going in.” And all the suits [were at the bar? 0:09:26.0], paid and it was a great formula that we just had. The thing, Ryan, is the picture: there’s always a theme to everything I open, there’s always an expectation of what we’re going to do, and we build this picture. We build the masthead first, so we’ll come up with a logo, and that builds the masthead. Then we said what fits this logo? And we draw up exhaustive lists of things to support it, right down to the spice profiles, the meat profiles, the cooking profiles, the color profiles, everything gets worked on so that it’s sort of like a master sheet, and then we build that to the décor, we build that to the staff, and we build that too, but the staffing is the last one. We vet people to fit that big picture.
RJ: Do you believe there’s actually a lot of weight in what goes into a logo?
KB: To me, I think branding is actually vital. Here, we used a bull, and it was basically a signal to tell the locals that, yeah, we might have beef on the menu, so it’s not all esoteric. So, we were pretty much in the molecular gastronomy groove by the time we opened this place, so some of it’s built in here, although we wanted not to use it here. But some of those things are just fun and we’ve adopted some of them, so the [? 0:10:49.4] with the– it’s little things like that, you know? So, I’ve got a wedding group coming in and tell them there’s nowhere to be seen, so– can you just turn that off for a second, please? [Audio jump 0:11:03.8] And then I’ll– he’ll show you around and then I’ll catch up with you, eh? Thanks. Tom– hold on a second. [background noise 0:11:13.2]
RJ: Everything and a phone, yeah.
KB: Yeah. One day you’ll sit in the car and I can talk– in the Apple car and have my speech.
RJ: You can have a restaurant in cars – driverless car restaurants.
KB: We’ve been thinking about it.
RJ: Like a drive train.
KB: Or we can deliver it to your house; you just pick it up and set the GPS and get it home.
RJ: You can actually have the restaurant in the car.
KB: Bus. Driverless bus, yeah.
RJ: Pick you up, drive around.
KB: Go to a nice spot.
KB: Yeah. But would be in the car, that set [? 0:11:52.2] Anyway, let’s get back to the big picture power of branding. So, that’s a typographer, you know. The [? 0:12:00.5] extended was the last wood type that came out of the [inaudible 0:12:05.3] – that’s the Ten Twenty Four core logo. So, it was a wood type and we felt it was our– set this building well. The reason we’re in this building was it’s failed as a restaurant three times, and the last time the chef committed suicide. Now, when I heard that, I thought there must be some way we can bring some karma back to the building, because I don’t like that stigma sitting on buildings that just sit here dead because of that. So, I thought, well, with all of that following what you say, it might be enough. We always knew that the site’s completely problematical in terms of distances and how Hawke’s Bay people operate and travel. We do capture some out this way, but there are other restaurants that service those people as well, so that’s always going to be a tricky one.
RJ: So, knowing all of that adversity with the site, you still went ahead with–
KB: Yeah, because I like the site and I wanted to put the karma on it, and here it’s going to — a fabulous light inside the building, and particularly at lunch, the light is actually really, really important to this operation, I think, and I think it makes our food look– I don’t like the food when it’s outside; I think the light inside that room is just perfect. And where I’m standing, every window I look out, I see things growing and can’t hear the traffic noises back on the road, and it’s quite a grand sort of Adobe-style, sort of Dutch– Cape Dutch meets Mexico, kind of style. The building itself is only about fifteen years old. It’s made by [Mackisey’s 0:13:42.1] for the client. So, that’s why we’re in here. We always knew it was going to be tricky, and it has been; it’s been really tricky. And then my food comes and goes; before we were doing country dining, is it big food, is it this food, is it that food? We wanted to start off as a one-dish thing and people would have three or four, but I think we’re a bit fresh in the market in terms of that concept. Now it’s becoming more widespread; sharing plates and people understanding you have two or three of them – don’t expect to have a meal for fifteen dollars, and that’s where the fun is. I always had a vision of people having six or seven dishes on their tables and really experiencing the flavors and what we get up to on a daily basis. So, we’ve had to evolve the business around profitability and staying ahead of the game, so for the first time of my life I’ve actually listened to the financial sort of messages, and we’ve turned it around, so we’re really happy with that. I had a good profit last year, and so we’ve got two more years in the site and then we go through the process again, which I embrace.
RJ: And going back to those first few weeks before open and then after open, how do you decide what you’re going to say or do to get those first ten customers, first hundred, first thousand?
KB: Well, I’ve got a stable of very regular and faithful clients that will follow me no matter where I go and whatever I do.
RJ: You can come over. Business can’t stop for an interview.
KB: No, it can’t.
RJ: Especially if it’s getting people paid.
KB: Particular growers. Make sure the total goes in here as well.
RJ: Signing a check, here. Gotta make sure you got your fruit and veggie turn up.
KB: Yeah, you do. I get the guy to grow stuff for me, so it seems rude if I don’t buy it.
RJ: So, you’ve got a group of people that will follow Kent Baddeley as the cook, regardless of whether you’re at Ten Twenty Four or anywhere else for the food.
KB: And that number seems to always be fairly static, because I’m of an age now where I’ve lost a lot of my really good clients, because if I opened, when I was twenty-seven, Petit Lyon, so a lot of the guys were forty-odd, so they’ve fallen off. And we’ve even come here, and the Wellingtonian audience is still pretty wide, and people come up a lot. A lot of people actually drive up for lunch and drive home again. It’s just staggering how much we get from outside the region – it’s just absolutely staggering, Ryan; it’s crazy. I had a guy from a culinary school in Oregon recently, and he’d come with another chap that I recognized, and I said, “Oh, haven’t seen you in a while.” He said, “Well, I live in the U.S., Kent, and you haven’t seen me since you were at Bradshaw; that’s the last time I was in town and I tracked you down – I can see online where you are, and we’ve gotta come here.”
RJ: That was the winery in Havelock North in the 2000s?
KB: Yeah. The owner there asked if we could help him, because I drove past there for five years on my way to other restaurants and the car park was always empty. The problem was actually the owner. No matter what we did, he just changed all the decision and…
RJ: So, he is different. You’re the owner and the chef.
KB: Yeah, I’ve got Vito this time around, so the decisions we make we live with, and that makes me happier. Although, my management style in all my businesses is the flat line management tree; there’s no pyramid. The boss, I respond to him and he response to me, and I was– book report – none of that. Even in the hotels that I’ve run, it’s this flat line, and all the roles are defined; everybody’s on the roll, and the discussion they have is if you drop something, the pyramid is facing down, which means everybody’s going to fall off the edge and go down with you. So, your idea is not to worry about anything else that happens or whoever else is doing what – you focus 100% on what you’re doing and make sure you do it to the very best of your ability, and then everybody else will do the same thing, and therefore we’ll survive. So, it’s an interesting economic change in the way people look at things, but recently I was asked to lecture a bunch of economic students in terms of startup businesses and stuff and for an accountancy sort of group from university, and I’d done it here just before [? 0:18:14.2], and the only way I can see you is in my restaurant; I’m not traveling anywhere. So, they sat round and thought, “Well, this is a little bit weird. The guy who’s gonna talk comes out wearing chef’s clothes and saying, still got a half [? 0:18:27.4] service, but I can give you this stuff.” And I explained some of these things, and from the lecturers down to the students, at the end of it, said, “I’ve learned more from you in that half an hour about what we’re trying to achieve than I have in the last two years at university,” because this is real – this is real money – my money. This is real life; this is not corporate fat. It’s a very honest way of looking at it.
RJ: I think the universities have got a challenge in that everything’s moving so quickly, like some of the channels–
KB: It has. The last five years, unbelievable.
RJ: And would you say you use those to your advantage by being very early on some of those platforms?
KB: Well, absolutely. I’ve always been– we embraced digitalization the minute it started and we opened up the first digital art studio in the country, because we felt that no one else was there. Jason and I are both typographers – we’d made a lot of fonts, which we’d posted on the net free, but it was under e-world in those days, so it’s an app for the Apple platform, which I think was much better than the www. We even had videophones in those days that were actually perfect. But it was Apple to Apple, so there was no problem, then one day it was just www. What happened? I don’t know. You know what I mean? This is what I love about this. And I was talking recently to someone who, “Isn’t it great the album in online?” And I said, “Yeah, it is, until the next thing comes along.” Then we’ll look back and go, “That was weird. We had computers and phones – we’re carrying all these appliances around and we’re just looking at them all the time,” you know? And people don’t realize that that’s what happens with the big thing happens. I left school before the calculator was invented, and I was running a sub branch of the National Bank as sub branch manager at age seventeen without a calculator. You know? And I said to the boss, “You see [? 0:20:16.3] – is it a punishment or a praise?” He says, “Kent, you’re just too good for us and you’re too young. We want you to go down there – you’ve got a staff of your own.” And I said, “Well, what do I do?” He said, “Open at ten, you shut it at three, come back to the main branch,” and I said, “Then what?” He says, “Well, if you’ve balanced, you go home.” I said, “You’re kidding.” So, I said to my ledger writers – you know, the old-fashioned ledger guys with the long hand and, you know – I said, “Well, every transaction we’ve got to balance to the cent, okay?” So, at three o’clock, we’d just put the money into the taxi and go back to the main branch, put it in the vault, and we’re gone. The bank noticed everyday [? 0:20:49.6] going, “Oh, you’re up?” This way [? 0:20:51.7].
RJ: And there’s probably a lot of parallels with what you do at Ten Twenty Four: make sure the prep’s in, make sure the service runs well, and then–
KB: It’s a discipline. Yeah.
RJ: — 3pm comes – it’s done.
KB: Yeah, it’s a discipline. We went to Clearview to try and bring some international action to them in terms of offshore sales – probably 2003-4 or whatever, around that period – and by the time we left there, I was exporting to seventeen different countries with international reviews and put them into the top six wineries [chance? 0:21:26.8] of New Zealand, and [? 0:21:29.0] came in, it was 100,000 from Russia, and Tim said, “Well, what do we do?” And I said, “Well, this is what we’re going for, mate. Give them your credit card number – try the card. If it doesn’t bounce, send some wine.” Pretty simple. I had this global magazine that said we were the best food in the world, and it was published for Indian billionaires, which apparently they have 150 of them, so…
RJ: Come in, Tom.
KB: Sorry, Tom.
Tom: They’re loving the space and everything; they’re just ready for you whenever you are.
KB: Yeah, sure. Be out in fifteen minutes. Make them coffee – give them some love. Give them some love. So, that’s interesting too, but I ran my hotels exactly the same way.
RJ: What hotels did you run? What was the…?
KB: I had my first hotel as GM in Durban in 1975 – 4,000 staff.
RJ: That’s a big number.
KB: The last time I ran a hotel in New Zealand, it was GM of New Zealand’s largest hotel in South Pacific in Auckland.
RJ: And what were some of the challenges in those types of businesses?
KB: Well, the challenges in those days, well, A, it’s pre-digital, so that was a challenge, but people were writing letters to make bookings. It’s an interesting concept; it’s hard for people to get their heads around.
RJ: They’d write a letter saying table for six on this date?
KB: Yeah, or rooms – the hotel rooms, yeah. So, it was crazy times, but it was all done; we never dropped a single ball. The guy that was outgoing was forced to retire from Dagmire’s. He was a brilliant guy, just elder states with the hospitality in New Zealand, but he’s got to go; he’s sixty and– you know. So, I’m sixty now, right? And he’s a Dutchman, he’s great. The hotel had 88% occupancy.
RJ: That’s a profitable number.
KB: That’s huge in anyone’s books, and in those days, Friday, Saturday nights were shocking in Auckland; the inner city was just empty, as it is in lots of major cities around the world. The weekend trade is hard. At least you got a big tourism number or a greater town, but small town New Zealand – Wellington, Auckland – was still very colonial in a sense. People were going to the outer suburbs in those days to the beaches and whatnot. It’s changed now that urbanization’s and– things to satisfy them and keep them in town too. Do you know what I mean?
KB: So, that’s– and telecommuting’s– got another version of that too, so how do we satisfy those guys? How do we reach the telecommuters, you know? How do we get telecommuters to get a [new dining? 0:24:00.4]. And it’s harder, so they’ll stay within a very small demographic around where their house is at the village or whatever and pop, they’ll have a coffee, or whatnot. They’ve got plenty of time to make themselves lunch because they’re at home. Some of them are looking after kids or simply retired, or– and there’s a big part of the population going that way, and so the traditional restaurant trade has been marked dramatically with the digitalization; things have changed. As I say to my staff, we’re competing with people going to the movies. We’re competing with going to take the dog for a walk. We’re competing for other forms of entertainment, so we’ve got to create entertainment. Even if it is just a plate of food, how do we entertain with it and how do we get around it? I’ve struggled for maturity in front of house here, that actually get that and bring the show to the table, you know? And I think that’s what marked Petit Lyon was the abject showmanship of the front of house staff. I hired a ballet dancer who was [? 0:25:03.9] principle dancer for the New Zealand ballet, and his knees were gone, and he’d been taking pot to kill the pain and he got busted in New York, so they threw him out unceremoniously, which I always thought was really hard, because these guys’ legs, they get stuffed, you know? Anyway, he came to me and asked for a job; I said that’d be perfect. So, there was one table that we could have– there was sort of two archways in this restaurant – it was a very, very romantic place – and we could just have the ability of appearing at the table without people understand where we came from. It’s like, they look up and there you are. So, I said to him, “Teach me some pirouettes or some ballet moves where we get up on our toes, and we’ll just come in in the side, the two of us,” and did the head the side and the plates to the front sort of thing. And we’re doing shit like this, and this place is out of control and we’re loving it, you know? So, that’s the element of fun, and in 2000 we were rewarded with being the top restaurant in Australasia out of 80-and-a-half-thousand restaurants inspected for the Australasian Good Wine and Food Guide.
RJ: So, do you think– the food is an important part, but the everything that goes around it is as important?
KB: To me, in the model that I discuss with the staff and everything else, food should be no more than 15% of the equation.
RJ: And what makes up the other 85?
KB: It’s complicated. There’s a lot to it. But I’ve been following this U.S. guide saying the number one reason’s the dining and restaurants, and it’s been coming out– and it’s through the Zagat’s, I think – it’s been coming out for like 20 years – and I caught wind of this thing about fifteen years ago and I read it, and every year religiously looking at this thing. Do you know what number one written food was always fifteen – thirteen to fifteen on the list of reasons–
RJ: Thirteen to fifteen? The food?
KB: But most of them are the reasons to dine at that restaurant.
RJ: It’s almost like the hygiene factor, rather than the main event.
KB: Do you know what number one was consistently? This is America.
RJ: The welcome.
KB: Good-looking wait staff.
KB: And then it gets into ambience, liveliness, and– everyone likes an up room, don’t they? But we don’t have– we can’t emulate the American models, because the American models have [formal? 0:27:24.4] people outside the door of the restaurant. And if you look at, say, New York and where these lists are coming from, traditionally there’s about two million tourists in town, as well. So, you imagine if you had at least, say, even 500,000 travelers discretionally in your heart of your city, they’re going to find your restaurant. And I often give the model to Jeremy at Pacifica and Mint, and those restaurants – there’s a lot of [rotels? 0:27:48.4] at the other end of them; they’ve got to walk past that restaurant every night, when we have no walk-up trade here at all.
RJ: So, how do people find out about it? How do they find out about Ten Twenty Four?
KB: I don’t know how they find out about it, to be honest. Our Facebook page seems to go to a void, and I don’t know what’s happened to Facebook, but some of our posts get seen by fourteen people, and yet it says we’ve got a post reach of four-and-a-half thousand. So, I don’t really truly understand how that’s working these days, but I don’t think– I think it’s being segmented into– you know.
RJ: Were they working better at a previous point in time?
KB: Yeah, they were. They were. Until the paid boosting came along – that’s when I think it’s changed. If you boost yourself, then they sort of give you a real mean thing until you boost again. Meanwhile, a boost’s now worth trillions of [? 0:28:40.8], so it’s worked well for them.
RJ: So, you had a good channel to get the message out, the rules have changed, and–
KB: We’re pretty savvy; we use local marketing tools like the Tweet to Eat – we were first on board without asking questions. We want to support people who are upwardly mobile. The [? 0:28:58.5] is so rang me today, “[? 0:29:00.0] these subscriptions – I want to get a discount to people here at Ten Twenty Four,” and I thought, what a strange mix, but they thought, you know, food’s cool. It’s funny – we worry all the time about– because we might be slightly quiet or such a small business that we’re worried that we’re not competing with the big names and the big hypes. We can’t seem to get that same sort of gravitas with it, you know? But my clients aren’t interested in that crap; they want to come where they know it is they’ve got this– they feel they’ve got some sort of custodianship over me. Half of them I’ve never met, you know? And I see comments online when they’ve written – I don’t know these people, but they have this consideration that they know me because they’ve been in my dining room endlessly.
RJ: I think some of your marketing – and there’s three in particular that stand out – it’s genius and madness at the same time. One was a full-page print ad just saying, “Thank you,” one Christmas.
KB: Yeah. We did that for three years, but we couldn’t do the– we couldn’t get the date for the cocktail party this year for the newspaper that has a cocktail party here, and they cheek past us, or they give you a contra. So, we spent the contra by saying– one page, “Thank you, Hawke’s Bay,” which we loved.
RJ: That was one, because there was no call to action – it was just a thank you.
KB: But I’m not sure if anybody actually saw it. Who reads the paper anymore, you know?
RJ: A second one was just taking the a photo of the dishes as they came out in the past, and this consistent, “Here’s what we’re up to,” and every time there’s a different dish, there’s a different photo coming out.
KB: And then about six months after that, we’re looking at other establishments using exactly the same places, going to the same potters, and started to use our styles and the flowers, and even to the same sort of layouts, and in lots of cases, exactly the same dishes being used, which you know how frustrated I got.
RJ: So, that competition then spurs you along to change yet again so you’re not in that group.
KB: Absolutely, and it’s just not show and tell so much.
RJ: Well, the third one no one’s copied you yet, and that’s spray-painting your opening hours on the front of the place.
KB: Well, Petit Lyon was– all the signage was done like that, even internally. Internally I had spray cans in our top room, which was $500 or $1,000 a chair, I put some black drapes right around the room, and got a gold spray can and just put all these big hearts saying “love.” You know, it was all done with gold spray cans. Okay, we had cowhide floors that’d been saddle-stitched together and these Italian lambskin chairs and some earlier range of Reidel, and it was a very glamorous and shiny room, but the walls were just black drapes with gold spray cans all over them with our logo on them.
RJ: And does that speak to a kind of a theme where you have this high-end quality and try and then downplay it with something equal opposite, like a spray paint can, to give it some–
KB: Well, I think it’s art. It’s juxtaposition. The thing is, the people say– here’s a lot of edible flowers – I hate the term edible flower. I mean, what does that actually mean? No, I’m going to put plastic flowers on them, you fucking dicks. Each one of those flowers offers me a profile flavor, so maybe that’s the same thing as the drape to the– if you put five Reidel Sommelier glasses on one setting of a table with gorgeous crockery with Italian chairs with lambskin on them, that’s a very impressive setup. The lighting was so perfect in there, they wouldn’t see the fabric on the wall either, but the big glints of gold, you know? And this is a room where in the visitor’s book I’d got, “I owe Prince Andrew a favor by telling you about this place.” We were in Lord Lichfield’s Book of the World’s Best for about fifteen years straight, and that’s what brought all the international clients to us. That’s kind of where we got the royal palace thing involved with the Queen sending houseguests down overnight, and shit like this. I turned the Queen down twice. She wanted to bring Janet Frame here, and she thought it would be a perfect fit for Janet Frame and me cooking, and I thought that was really– I was impressed that she knew that, but we were under contracted by Carlton and United and Fosters to do the [coming up? 0:33:30.2] games for the two weeks in Auckland. We had a food stand at every single event and 200 VIPs staying at all the top suites of the town, we took over the Port Authority building as our kitchen, we hired all the tour ships in New Zealand, and we had sea flight and all these sort of things, and were just having [? 0:33:49.4] of these guys. We even did the pitch for the [northern? 0:33:53.0] Olympics with the Australian Olympics Committee in the Port Authority building, so I couldn’t do it. They got miffed with me.
RJ: And when you were doing those things, because those sound like you’re at the top of your game, top of the mark – what did your competitors think or do with–
KB: We didn’t have any competitors, you know? And then we were on television, I’m on the Good Morning show, showing people how to set tables, how to eat properly, which cutlery to use, any tiny, little comment they wanted, I’m on the bloody television. We had people doing TV shows in our restaurant, like Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge and– we were hot, and everything we were doing was just turning to gold. And it got down to sort of about, I don’t know, ’98, ’99 and I said to [TV? 0:34:42.5], “Well, look, it’s great. Every time I come up to do these things, things are getting burnt in the kitchens. Our story’s been told a million times, and I’m not really the guy to be telling your viewers about what tea to drink for breakfast. I’ve got my signature food, which I’m trying to cook in my restaurant, and that’s my life, and that’s what you need to be sitting at the table to try and understand me.” So, I said, “There’s a [? 0:35:10.8] guy down the road that’s dying for some media attention – why don’t you go and see him?” “Name?” “L. Brown.”
RJ: So, pre-digital TV, how’d that get–
KB: We were in all the magazines and we were in everything, we really were, and we won everything, and we got all the awards, and it was crazy. And it was two broke-ass guys trying to– I remember being in the fish shop with about $1.50 in coins trying to buy fish for that night. We’re young, married guys, we had a mortgage, we had a business loan, and then we had this product where there was no menu, it was degustation. I didn’t even know what the hell degustation was, and we used to call it dinner, so we said, we gotta come up with a better name than that, so we pulled out the French-English dictionary, said, what’s taste? Degust. There we are – degustation. That’s what we’re going to call it. Now, I’ve told the story to [? 0:36:03.8], he goes, “Bullshit, Kent. I’ll tell you what, you try and find an earlier reference than 1979 and I’ll give you five bucks.”
RJ: So, you’re saying right now, 1979 was the start of the degustation and it started in New Zealand and was coined by Kent Baddeley.
KB: And then when people come down, like [? 0:36:19.5] Thompson came in and all these guys started coming around the world, came, “Oh, we love that – we’re going to steal it. We love the idea of all the different plates. Oh, this is cool how you’re using oils like this. It’s cool how you got dust on the outside of your plate. This is all cool – we’re going to steal this stuff.” I said to the guys who used to be the Royal Worcester and all those bone China, all the top guys in Wellington that used to import all this stuff, and said, “These plates are just not satisfactory to me. You must have something bigger.” [? 0:36:47.3], we go to Europe all the time, he got four years, I believe, every time we go these places we’ll ask them. So, the German, French, Italian, and English companies [involved? 0:36:59.0] – all the top crockery in the world, in other words – Villeroy & Boch, and so on, and they said, “We’ve got this crazy chef in New Zealand who wants bigger plates.” These guys are trying to tell me about [? 0:37:09.9] or the carving plates – I said, “No, no, I want round plates,” and they said, “Well, they’ll make some for you.” So, he started getting like twelve of all these plates coming in and they’re thirty-one centimeters to my design. Thirty-one. Twenty-four wasn’t cutting it for me. We wanted bigger plates and less on them.
KB: Because it gives more space. The canvas was bigger. In those days, we did everything at the table. So, I’d walk up, put a plate down, and we designed the tables, the banquettes, to come further forward so I could do this at the front of the table. We only had four banquettes, and there’s only two of us. So, they come out, and we figured there was upstairs in an old mining cottage, it was twenty-six feet long and thirty-feet wide, and if I come back and stamped, it means I’m really– I’ve just carved that. Ian would come up with other [? 0:37:55.3] and have sauces and garnishes on them, he’d pick up the stuff that I’d just carved and take that downstairs, and I’d be doing that and I’d be going [nonverbal sound 0:38:02.8] – that means I’m just about finished, come up with the next plate, and I’d then pass that plate to the guy, the next plate would come up, and we’d do different dishes to each person. That’s why we can only do one booking on the half hour. It was very– it was silly, but by god, we did it brilliantly, and it was an amazing experience. I’m sure the food was all stone cold – I don’t know. We’re making sauvignons without boiling water and shit like this, and it was all looking very impressive – we were dressed to the nines, and it was fun. We were really having a ball, and we were changing things. We knew we were kicking down barriers; we knew people were talking about us and they were liking what we were doing.
RJ: So, you were coining new names for new experiences and giving people an experience that they’d never had before, and then changing everything around the food experience.
KB: Without marketing– we didn’t have any money, but I used to do quite a lot of work with the Dominion Post when I was at St George Hotel as Assistant General Manager, and we did a lot of work with the papers, and I knew the boss of the paper really well, so I rang him, said, “We just want a full page – must be an extra page or you have something. We want a full page ad – we got no money at all; we’re giving some dinners.” And, “Yeah, Kent, I’m sure we can sort something out for you.” So he says, “Yep, we’ve got a full page coming up.” So, I got a photographer, and Ian and I, we had this black and white thing going on, because I started getting too dirty in my white jackets upstairs, so I got my mother to dye them black. You know how they go up like this – we had them coming down; I had– the inside lapel is silk, so I started wearing a white shirt with a black bow tie and [? 0:39:35.8] my shift jacket down, which gets silk lapels, and [? 0:39:38.6] my hair back, and that was the [? 0:39:41.0] in this absolutely– pristine whites and pristine blacks. It was a black and white thing – waiter, cook, whatever. So, there’s this photograph – Ian in his tall hat and he’s in the whites, I’m in the black, and had Petit Lyon on our lapels, and that was it; just a photo of us two guys with Petit Lyon. No phone numbers, no addresses, nothing.
RJ: Just creating that curiosity in people’s minds.
KB: What the hell?
RJ: Making them think.
KB: And when we go to the digital market, there was computers we had in our design studio – I remember just doing these sort of almost hypnotic things, and I’d [find? 0:40:23.3] oh, this is cool – what are you going to do with this? This is awesome art. So, I rang him up, said, “We’re going to do another full-page ad,” and the guy’s, “I’ll give you two, Kent, believe it or not.” All right. So, we had this double-page thing. [? 0:40:34.6] and really tiny, like six point type down at the bottom. We’re not sure what this is all about, but we noticed he’s looking at it really hard for about four minutes, your eyes go really weird, but we remain Kent and Ian at Petit Lyon down at the bottom. And by that time, our advertising was marketing into licensed restaurant and dream makers.
KB: So, we were in Bob Jones’ boardroom, we were in Michael Fay’s boardroom, we’re looking after the houses of our [? 0:41:04.6], we’re looking after all their gigs, we had a ten-year contract with Fosters& Carlton United, we’re looking after the diplomatic set, plus we’re doing four tables a night in our little restaurant.
RJ: So, from humble beginnings to get to that level, for those emerging or budding or aspiring chefs that are listening to this and are just about to take that first step, or want to start their first restaurant, what–
KB: Ryan, I’ve been writing these ideas since I was ten. My mother says this is all I’ve ever talked about. I came in a [hunt? 0:41:35.3] country kitchen, I got into trouble, I’m the only person that saw that business the way I talk about it; no one else in that business sees it the way I was talking about it, but that’s what I got from it, and I had the sense of hotel and the sense of kitchens, and these chefs and cooks, and I just loved the whole atmosphere and the vibe of it. Then all of a sudden, stuff leaves. You look at the past and go, “Wow, there’s magic happening here,” you know? People stirring big pots and steam and fires are blazing in those sort of kitchens, then all of a sudden, this pretty as hell little thing just ends up on a plate, that’s like, wow, you know? And you taste it and go, “Holy shit, that’s delicious. Why don’t we eat food like this?” Well, we don’t have ten people at home doing it for us, Kent. But I thought, “Oh, shit.” I don’t know.
RJ: So, the process itself just blew you away and you got addicted to it from that point?
KB: So, I started designing restaurants right down to the menus and restaurants and what kind of restaurants, and I think every one of them– Mum’s got all these diaries from even like intermediate, and I gotta tell you that I’ve actually opened two or three of them and led a life, and I’ve been very successful. Sol was one of them; this big Mexican restaurant was actually one of them. The recipes and the dishes have not changed from when I was about ten or eleven years of age, and we had no digitalization, we had no–
RJ: You hadn’t even learned the craft yet.
KB: That’s right. But we ate out a lot.
RJ: So, do you think part of your talent is actually– you’ve built the concept of a restaurant, it’s just bringing that to life and getting the audience to then understand, “Hey, this is what we’re trying to do here”?
KB: Often the masthead, or my own personal masthead, is an invented or remembered past. That’s been my life’s work to find this New Zealand cuisine, and we can invent it, but it has to sum up and be evocative of our memories. And I think if you look at a lot of the– into context of what you’ve eaten here, you’d probably realize some of that is true. I mean, even the little [? 0:43:35.1] on the side of the plate with the fish dish you had recently, it’s made out of bean curd, but you get the– whereas a little flax basket wouldn’t be edible, you know? So, that’s the concept – the spilling out of that with the seaweed coming out of it, the caviar on the top, and– you know.
RJ: And that gives you a great canvas of you can invent and do things new, but it always has some historic meaning.
KB: That’s right. Then you’ve got rhubarb curly on the bottom and then soy roast the fish on top. And so it gives you this quasi global food, which I think New Zealand food should be, but it’s very right of its [sentiments? 0:44:10.8]. And if we’ve got to look at the Chinese market gardeners that are here, the Indians that [? 0:44:15.3] earlier, those foods have been fused to our stuff. We all had Chinese broccoli as a kid, you know? In those days, I know it seems terrible, but my mother said, “We’ll go out to the Chinkies and get some food,” and that’s how it was. They came back from the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and I was nine years of age, and they brought me nori and these kits to make sushi things with, and Dad to me, “Kent, they eat a lot of their fish raw.” It’s mind-blowing, you know? They gave me this little book, which I’ve still got, so I went down to the wharf and caught myself some fish and it was kahawai, and my grandfather, “That’s [? 0:44:56.2], no one eats that shit,” and I said, “No, no, I’m going to make some sushi.” You know, like, “What?” So, I’ve got this thing and I’m cutting this fish out to these little drawings and angled lines, cooked up some rice, and no idea what I was really doing, and people were going, “Holy shit, that’s delicious.” So, wasabi just changed my mind. I was nine years old and had a big gob of that stuff and went, “Oh, I’m liking this.” The thing about wasabi and the thing about horseradish and the thing about mustards, which a lot of people don’t realize – I mean, why is it on roast beef? Because it’ll actually make the beef taste more like beef. They have an ability to actually alter the flavors of what they’re on to be more of themselves. It’s interesting; it gets all the receptors in the palate changing in its whole direction. So, you see me sometimes using wasabi sauces or granules of things in curious ways that’ve been non-traditional use of caviar or wasabi, but it’s there to the same sort of– not so much [? 0:45:58.7], but it brings out the receptors in the palate to actually let the flavor of the core meat or juice come through your palate and get more flavor from that. And Ryan, this is just a discovery of being in a kitchen every day. I’m a guy that’s never going to rest – I’m going to try and find some new way to get there using old-fashioned skills. We’re not going to buy the Alto-Shaams or pre-set ovens, or– we’re not going to get in– I know everybody’s tooling up with Pacojets and Thermomixers, but it’s all going to end up tasting the same, isn’t it? Simon Wilson, editor of Metro, did a review for [Cure? 0:46:39.1] Magazine recently, and the comment that I thought was amazing was that the flavor didn’t stop when it came dessert, and he says, “I had three citrus sorbets, each one more realized then I think I’ve ever remembered.” So yes, we get the flavor into things more so than other people through this constant battle to find taste. I don’t want [? 0:47:03.2] – I want to get the citrus through. They should almost dimple your mouth out, you know? Basically he said the food is so good there, it’s beyond comprehension. It’s a hell of a comment to make, particularly for one guy– I don’t know if you’ve read Simon’s reviews in Metro – he’s a hard-ass. He doesn’t mince his words and he’s not there to make people happy – he’s vicious. So, I thought we got out real well.
RJ: So, you’ve got two years left on this place. What have– I mean, my personal view is that post on Facebook I think you sent out – that’s actually part of the marketing magic is let people know this isn’t going to be around for a hundred years, it’s–
KB: Well, it’s no secret; we didn’t go broke. Someone said, “Oh, what a shame,” and I said, “God, aren’t you listening?” I think I’ve got [? 0:47:46.6] that comments on every single comment I make, driving me absolutely insane, but said, “Oh, what a shame.” And I said, “Can’t you read?” We knew that going into it, and the new owners we thought might be a bit more malleable, but they’re not; they want to use it. And you can see what they’re doing on the property that we are stopping them from developing the site the way they want to be.
RJ: Will there be another restaurant after this, or will Ten Twenty Four–?
KB: He says he doesn’t want a restaurant. For me personally, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I’ll be cooking one way or another. I don’t necessarily want to own my own businesses; I’d rather work for a big organization that’s really cash rich. It’s more fun. More staff.
RJ: Okay, so if anyone’s listening that’s cash rich and wants to start a restaurant, come and talk to Kent Baddeley.
KB: Want me to lose all your money for you? Come and see me.
RJ: But have fun doing it.
KB: That’s right. In the nicest possible way.
RJ: Well, that’s the winery model, isn’t it? You put $10 million into a winery and you say you own a winery.
KB: Well, that’s a $50 million– it doesn’t stop. I mean, Grant spent 45 out at Sileni back in the day, and being the first on the model, it’s like, “Oh, you’re bloody rich, Auckland, just get me down here, but now that there’s [craggy? 0:48:53.5] Sileni, forget about Sileni and its elephant hill on these models, if they survive, and [? 0:48:58.2] unique small town part of New Zealand, but these three big internationally recognisable brands, and I think that’s awesome for our little town, and it’s certainly growing out tourism, as long as our tourism grew up enough to realise we’ve got a big region and all of us need care and love.
RJ: Well, thanks very much for your time today, Kent.
KB: It’s my pleasure.
RJ: This is Kent Baddeley – head chef, cook, founder and owner of Ten Twenty Four and many other restaurants, and this is the–
KB: Kent Baddeley Cuisine.
RJ: Kent Baddeley Cuisine.
KB: That’s it, mate.
RJ: On The Ryan Marketing Show. This is episode three of one hundred.