Neville Abraham seen here overseeing the new Simon Smith building, in his role as Chairman of the Development Committee

Neville (Born: 1937, Calcutta) says he was something of a nomad before he founded one of the UK's top quality restaurant chains, the Groupe Chez Gerard plc which he sold in 2003.

Abraham, who has an honours degree in economics, spent 10 years as a management consultant and eight years as a civil servant, during which time his passion for wine prompted him to establish a mail-order wine business the Amis du Vin Group. His various roles have included terms as Private Secretary to the Minister of State at the Board of Trade and Senior Principal responsible for corporate, financial and political planning. He enjoyed spells as the strong right arm to such political luminaries as Tony Crosland, Douglas Jay and Lord Heath. Currently Neville is a Trustee of a number of entrepreneurial businesses and charities, including Liberty Wines, Le Cafe Anglais, Draft House Holdings and Brighton College.

  1. When you were at BC what did you want to be when you grew up?
    I had absolutely no idea. I recall the careers' advisers at the school didn't inspire me! The result was that I had a rich and varied series of careers which I wouldn't have missed for anything!
  2. What are you now you've grown up?
    A guru in the small business undergrowth.
  3. What is your best memory of school?
    It has to be people: Geoff Lees imparting his love of Shakespeare and cricket; the thoughtful and talented musicianship of Michael Maxwell; Peter Gough, the incredible Renaissance man; and year after year, the TLC provided by Mrs Hockin, the matron at Bristol House.
  4. What was the best piece of advice you were given?
    "If you concentrate on the basics, the runs will come." - Very useful if you opened the batting for the 1st XI, as I did, but equally appropriate for novice entrepreneurs today.
  5. What do you do/did you do as a career?
    After 8 years in the senior Civil Service, followed by 6 in management consultancy, I got tired of advising other people and started a series of wine and food businesses, the most successful of which became Groupe Chez Gerard plc. By the time the company was sold in 2003 it employed about 1000 people.
  6. What does your job involve?
    These days I have several (part-time) jobs, mostly mentoring and coaching founders of businesses in the food and wine sector. Sometimes I have to deal with strong-minded, egotistical, stubborn MDs, not easy.
  7. What are the most challenging parts of your job?
    see above!
  8. What have you done that you are most proud of?
    i. Helping to transform London, in 25 years, from a culinary desert to one of the gastronomic capitals of the world.
    ii. Backing the Covent Garden Festival (Princess Diana was our patron!) and underwriting the London String Quartet Foundation before merging it with the Wigmore Hall.
    iii. Working today with an inspirational HM and his team to transform the campus at Brighton College, aided by some of the leading architects in the land.
  9. What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
    The completion of our new house in the Sussex countryside.
  10. What are the 3 objects you would take with you to a desert island?
    Beethoven's string quartets; a case of half-bottles of Vosne Romanee les Beaumonts 1999 from Domaine J. Grivot; and (should all hope be lost) 2 cyanide pills.
  11. How would you like to be remembered?
    As a practical, strategic thinker who preferred straight talking to beating about the bush and who wasn't afraid of making a mistake.

CHEZ GÉRARD – Top French restaurants, London >>

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