Interview: Daniel Crump & Margriet Vandezande-Crump, (Dec 2021)

Posted on: December 3rd, 2021 by Simon Carter

Married couple Daniel Crump and Margriet Vandezande-Crump have rapidly developed a strong industry reputation as modern restaurateurs combined with a customer led devotion to front of house.  Here the couple speak to Simon Carter of fine dining guide about their lives and professional journeys to the present day and beyond.

Daniel Crump grew up with his mum and sister in the Torbay area.  At the age of fourteen, Daniel took a part time job as a kitchen porter, washing dishes at Orestone Manor.  This would quickly inspire the young would-be restaurateur to open his own café in the family garage.  Assisted in this venture by his father figure grandfather, he acquired the necessary second hand furniture and equipment to make Dan’s Café. “I was selling hot chocolates and cappuccinos to local school kids at three tables in a quiet cul de sac garage,” explains Daniel.  After getting involved in a charitable campaign through the local Herald Express, the café  was placed in the public eye. Unfortunately, this led the council to take a closer look and close it down as it held none of the appropriate licenses or certificates to run as a hospitality business.  There was some backlash however, with parents of the local kids who frequented the café protesting the council decision, which stirred up further interest in the local press.  “Sadly, the café was never to return,” reflects Daniel.

In his final two years at secondary school, Daniel was invited to spend one day a week on work experience.  He jumped at the chance and continued his association with Orestone Manor.  Every Friday he carefully shadowed the restaurant manager, making notes on the role.  Daniel also experienced The Elephant in Torquay (which today has a Michelin Star under Simon Hulstone), as well as time invested at The Imperial Hotel. After leaving school he worked at various hotels, restaurants and pubs in Devon and then around the country before going to London.  A real eye opener came when working the opening of Petrus, followed by a year in front of house at Roussillon in Pimlico.

Margriet Vandezande-Crump initially studied hospitality management in Bruges, a course which included an introduction to wine.  Margriet developed her love of wine through family, who were often holidaying around Europe from their home in Belgium.  They visited interesting regions from Champagne to Cognac.  She then joined the Yachts of Seabourn where she and Daniel would meet.  Daniel had reached 21 when he turned to The Yachts of Seabourn. “A £360m yacht with 200 staff for 400 guests, you had to complete a month’s academy and pass all the tests before you were even allowed in the dining room,” explains Daniel.   At the end of their second year’s contract with the company, the couple decided that they would move to London.  Daniel confesses to have always been a Gordon Ramsay enthusiast, “for me it was the pure dedication and passion to succeed at something, if you want to achieve the heights at anything you have to live and breathe your subject relentlessly.”  In 2012, Daniel was offered a trial at his idol’s ‘home’ Gordon Ramsay RHR. At the age of 24 he was proud to be made head waiter of the restaurant.  “I felt completely at home there, everyone knew they had to really care or they simply wouldn’t survive,” he explains. In terms of a career long mentor,  “I have looked up to Jean-Claude Breton since day one at Gordon Ramsay, he was my boss and mentor, but we are still in regular contact and while he’s still ‘the boss,’ I like to call him a friend,” says Daniel.

While Daniel had joined Gordon Ramsay, Margriet took a role at restaurant Trinity in Clapham, working for chef Adam Byatt.  Over the next two and a half years she was promoted to assistant restaurant manager, while being sponsored to complete Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2. Margriet found Simon Bezuidenhout, then manager at Trinity, an inspiration in her career development as he was able to manage the blend of personalities that worked at the restaurant.  This allowed him to achieve the best out of each individual as well as maximise team performance every day. “We gelled so well, the old team still meet up frequently and we are good friends to this day,” explains Margriet, “Simon also helped me improve, I learnt so many aspects, from enhancing wine knowledge through to calculating gross profit.” She was then approached to work at Petrus for a year, where Margriet completed her WSET Level 3.

The Oxford Blue at Old Windsor was their next adventure.  Chef Steven Ellis had been approached while at Gordon Ramsay RHR to open his own restaurant, who in turn asked Daniel and Margriet to run the front of house.  Across the next four years, as well as excelling at front of house, the couple learned much of the skills required to be successful restaurateurs. At the same time, Margriet had completed the Introduction to The Court of Master Sommeliers.

After a period of careful search, they acquired the freehold of The Greyhound in Beaconsfield. From April to November 2019 the site was completely refurbished, “we opened a month before Christmas, started brilliantly, then three months later the global pandemic struck, bringing with it the lockdowns,” shrugs Daniel.   Upon reflection, Margriet highlights that “social media played a vital role during this time, allowing us to remain present, active, visible and relevant.” To which Daniel adds, “The outreach has been incredible, we’re fortunate to be followed by thousands of people and keeping them updated with what we have been doing has been key.” The flip side is key, too and the couple take constructive customer feedback through digital media very seriously.  “All information that can be used to help us improve is eagerly taken on board,” says Daniel. During the initial opening of The Greyhound, Margriet became a certified sommelier with The Court of Master Sommeliers.

Coming out the other side of the pandemic has seen The Greyhound flourish, with an ever growing loyal customer base.  Daniel’s front of house philosophy is that each table represents a bubble, “and as you step into that bubble – say a table for four – it is your world and that you must leave that bubble in a happy and satisfied state,” he explains. Creating the comfort that makes the guests want to come back is a fundamental objective of service. Naturally, each guest is an individual and each will have their own feelings as to what makes them comfortable, “some may like to chat, some may not, it’s our job to figure out how best to manage each individual,” points out Daniel. 

In terms of staff management, the couple see the old adage of teaching skills to those with the right attitude.  “They are provided the tools to grow through responsibility in their key interests,” explains Margriet.  Team members will experience constructive criticism as well as praise and encouragement, “most importantly we will lead them, so that it becomes a confident second nature to everyone to be doing the right things,” outlines Daniel.  As a case in point, assistant manager Andrew, has been with them the entire journey. “As well as his passion for service, Andrew showed a real interest on the beverage side so we sponsored him through WSET Level 2, I now take him to wine tastings, he speaks to suppliers and makes the wine orders, he’s thriving as my right hand man,” explains Margriet. 

The couple have a strong focus on staff training, providing an hour and half of daily education.  In addition, there’s daily briefings based around feedback from the previous service as well as expectation setting of the services going forward.  All areas may be covered including providing practice on the fundamentals; like holding a chair, taking an order, crumbing a table, checking the rest rooms within a minute and a half and so on.  Margriet will include wine tasting and analysis, particularly of those wines that are matched with the tasting menu of the day, thus enabling accurate explanations of those decisions to guests.  The staff are given a form of exam monthly, which allows Daniel and Margriet to understand the status of staff knowledge.  “It might be fifty questions on wine, beer, cider, cheese, tea, coffee or service,” explains Daniel. “Then we’ll drill down to specifically cover Bordeaux or Burgundy or South West wines that feature on the list, or if it’s cheese, individual cheese knowledge,” he adds.  The restaurateur philosophy of the couple, which considers front of house and back office, finds that the two aspects of the business both require discipline along with the overarching concept of putting the guest experience first.

A significant component of that experience is the wine and trends in this area have expanded the possibilities to restaurants, Margriet explains, “the Beaconsfield customer base enjoy the classics – Bordeaux and Burgundy – but are not afraid to be a little adventurous.”  As an example, the tasting menu sees veal sweetbreads matched with a Sivi Pinot from Slovenia which has been thoroughly tasted and analysed with the team. In this way guests enjoy something they would not have chosen themselves. Guests are thirsty for knowledge transfer and this is enabled through including examples of organic, biodynamic, vegan, vegetarian or lower alcohol wines on the list.  All these things represent increasing relevancy in the top end restaurant world.  With respect to inspector led guides, like Michelin, the AA and The Good Food Guide, the couple see themselves as using all of them to help discern their dining out choices and so expect their guests to do likewise. “They’re a benchmark of quality and as such it’s a privilege for any restaurant to be included in these publications,” adds Daniel.

Looking to the future, the couple are launching The Greyhound Hospitality Programme (GHP) aimed at school students.  The idea came from Daniel’s experience at school and how much work experience helped him in his personal and professional development.  They will visit local schools and do a Q&A session with students on hospitality before choosing one or two to come and join them with a bespoke programme.  Should they have the right profile they will offer them something at The Greyhound or help place them in their hospitality careers, “either way maintaining contact,” says Daniel. Daniel Crump & Margriet Vandezande-Crump have made The Greyhound a warm, friendly and welcoming restaurant that takes every aspect of being a restaurant very seriously, above all it is utterly professional.  A shining industry example of best of breed in so many attributes.  fine dining guide will follow their progress with interest and long may that progress continue!