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This month we’ve been part of an intimate food pairing event in Edinburgh, using locally sourced, seasonal produce to create five courses inspired by Elephant Gin, complemented by cocktails using African botanicals.
The event was a collaboration with Miran Chauhan, who this year left prestigious Bon Vivant bar to start up his own venture focusing on sustainable and foraged cocktails, and Aurora – a neighbourhood cafe focusing on natural and sustainably sourced cuisine that since the opening 6 months ago has been showered with awards (Edinburgh Eating and Drinking Awards 2018, “Best Newcomer” at Edinburgh Restaurant Awards).
We asked Miran and Kamil (Aurora’s owner and head chef) a few questions about their experiences, thoughts on sustainability trends and advice for those thinking about setting up your own business – hoping you’ll get inspiration and a kick of courage to pursue your own hospitality dream.
Miran Chauhan – Scotland Brand Ambassador for Elephant Gin recently left his Bar Manager position at prestigious Bon Vivant to pursue a solo career. He is now a Bar Consultant and Collaborator with Buck and Birch and has future plans for variety of other projects.
How long have you been thinking about setting up your own venture? You would be hard pressed to find someone within the hospitality industry who hasn’t thought about having their own venture. I think when you meet the right people who become the biggest influences in your career, they give you the drive and confidence to start believing that you can do it. For me, I really wanted to do it alone and consult for a while to get out of my comfort zone and hopefully share some of the experiences I have with other people.
What finally motivated you to do it? I just literally woke up one day and thought, you know what, let’s just do it and see what happens! I’ve always been taught that there’s no reward without a degree of risk.
What makes you business different? I get to work with some amazing people. The guys at Buck and Birch in particular. We get to have pop ups around Scotland literally showcasing all the foraging techniques and findings in multi-course menus. Normally two nights in a month, sometimes more depending on the availability of ingredients and the season. Whilst this doesn’t sound like much, the work that goes into it is pretty intense at times.
What was your biggest challenge up to date? I think just being out of my comfort zone of the bar setting. Adapting everything I’ve learned to different scenarios, places and people. Even just changing my routine. Getting up at 06:30 everyday is not easy!
Best part of having your own business? Being your own boss.
Worst part of having your own business? Being your own boss! – making sure you do the work, there is no one else to lean on.
How do you think sustainability focus will affect hospitality business in the future? We can’t get away from the fact that it is on trend. There are some cracking bars and restaurants out there who are doing amazing things around sustainability and zero waste. However, I think having a mindset where there should always be practises in place that concern sustainability is a must. Whether it is in everyday procedures, utilising local independent suppliers or waste management. Sustainability is a global movement, being localised is great, but maybe we as an industry become closer on a world platform we find solutions that help and look after our environment on a larger scale.
What advice would you give to a someone who’s thinking of setting up their own hospitality business? Make sure you have the right people supporting you. People you trust and can guarantee they will be there when you get stuck. It’s not an easy thing to do, and there will be slip ups and frustrations along the way. Be confident in your own ability and also take all the advice you can from the people who are specialised in their field.
Kamil Witek is a head chef and owner of Aurora, a small neighbourhood cafe opened in November 2017 in Leith, Edinburgh. Before setting up his own place, he was a head chef at multi-award bistro Salt Cafe and a sous-chef at equally acclaimed The Apartment.
How long have you been thinking about setting up your own venture? I’ve been looking for a right place for almost three years, but when I finally found one everything happened very quickly.
What finally motivated you to do it? Freedom. Freedom of making every decisions, freedom of creation. And an idea that you’re the boss for yourself.
What makes you business different? We’re extremely focused on all the small details that make huge differences. We’re trying to be honest with ourselves and with our customers. There is no shortcuts. Everything we do is real, carefully selected and prepared with respect to products, suppliers and our vision.
What was your biggest challenge up to date? We are based in not the most fashionable part of town, and it took us a while to gain trust and recognition for what we do and where we do it.
Best part of having your own business? The fact that every day is different and sets new challenges. You can’t be bored as a business owner.\
Worst part of having your own business? It’s a difficult question, because so far Aurora gave me much more than I was expecting. When your able to connect your passion with your work there is nothing to dislike. And really long hours, lack of social life and the fact that you can’t stop even for a second can’t beat you.
How do you think sustainability focus will affect hospitality business in the future? We all should start from looking at ourselves and think what we can do to make a real change. One of the most important things in a kitchen for me is the “zero waste” idea. Sometimes it’s not easy, we need to battle our habits and put in an effort to be better but at the end it’s worth it. And because we are a really small place with a really small team we’re trying to support places, suppliers, coffee roasters who believe in the same idea.
What advice would you give to a someone who’s thinking of setting up their own hospitality business? For me the most important thing in hospitality industry are people. Without them, without someone who you can trust you are not going to be able to succeed. You don’t need to try to know everything, but if you have right people in the right places everything will be much easier. And funnier.