Having heard about The Deli Project on twitter, we spoke to Rihards Jukna, co-founder of Earlsfield's newest addition to the high street, to find out more about the people behind the business...
Rihards, welcome to Earsfield Talks. Please tell us a bit about yourself:
I’ll start at the beginning- my first home was in the eastern region of Latvia called Latgale. My parents separated and my mother was a loving and dedicated single parent, working hard with my grandmother to give me as much as they could. However, for the most part, our family often struggled financially.
As I got older, I moved to capital to achieve my college degree in Information Technology. I worked in IT for a short while after my graduation but the office environment was not for me - I preferred to spend my time in restaurants and bars!
Hospitality is close to my heart. I always enjoyed great food, drinks and hygge atmosphere. I am even thankful to the recession as it pushed me to change occupation and find the right career path for me.
Having worked in various bars and restaurants across Latvia, I knew I could build a strong rapport with customers, who often went on to become genuine friends. However, I was also clumsy which my colleagues found frustrating! Eventually I got better and better with my duties and I knew two things- that I was eager to learn more and that I wanted to learn from the best! I enrolled in training courses from leading coffee makers and wine experts in Latvia, and also spent a lot of time shadowing professional chefs at the top of their game. I moved to London to perfect my skills and refine my knowledge. The city offered me immense opportunities so I decided to settle here.
A few years ago, I met Saverio Vicari who is also my business partner and co-founder of The Deli Project. From day one, we worked together well and noticed that we have similar vision of how a great restaurant or bar should operate. During hard times at work, we support each other completely which has meant we can overcome challenging situations. It was the success of our partnership that gave us the idea about running our own small business.
When will The Deli Project open and what can we expect?
Hygge atmosphere, friendliness as well as food and drinks which are made from high quality ingredients. We believe that people are the most important part of the hospitality industry. You will often see us behind the counter working with our staff and customers
For the food, we will start with healthy salads, delicious sandwiches, the finest coffees and an interesting selection of other drinks. Saverio will bring some small Italian notes, I will bring some unique products from eastern Europe, so our guests can experience a good combination of both cultures.
Why did you choose Earlsfield to set up your business?
People in the area are fantastic! We already have seen high interest and support from the local community about our project. Lots of young families as well as single professionals are moving into the area, which is a good sign and we believe Earsfield is great place to live and develop businesses. There are some excellent cafés on Garrat lane, and we would like to create healthy competition that will give customers more choice to enjoy. Ultimately, we also hope our investment will encourage other businesses to come to the area in the future.
How do you pick your suppliers?
For us consistency is as important as high quality. Years of experience in the industry helps us to choose our suppliers. We have worked with some excellent food and beverage companies that deliver consistently great ingredients. Most of them provide food and drinks for five star hotels and the finest restaurants. We have worked hard to convince them to cooperate with us.
What do you think your biggest challenges will be?
We know the hospitality business is not easy. Young, smart and talented people want to become movie stars, police officers, singers etc. To find right staff and to retain them in the business will be difficult considering current situation in the labour market.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
It is very difficult question. I cannot say that there is something that I really do not like to do in the business. As I mentioned earlier I did not like my office job. Long hours of doing paperwork is not for me! I prefer to interact with people.
Who or what has inspired you?
I had a business project during my studies in University of West London that pushed me a lot. Also, movies: “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise and “Chef” with Jon Favreau are two of my favourites
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do things that you are really passionate about, and don’t worry about the rest.
For more updates follow The Deli Project facebook page