I had the pleasure of meeting Gary Usher earlier this week at a Costa Coffee rooftop terrace across the road from one of his restaurants, Hispi, in Didsbury, Manchester.
Over recent years we have covered the ‘Midas’ touch Usher applies to his businesses extensively. Starting with Sticky Walnut, his first restaurant in Hoole, Chester opened in 2011. Burnt Truffle in Heswall on the Wirral followed as did Hispi. His latest success was the recent record breaking £200,000 Kickstarter campaign that enables a fourth 100 cover restaurant in the Ropewalks area of Liverpool city centre to be opened, called Wreckfish.
Usher’s Kickstarter campaign received support from Michael O’Hare, Tom Kerridge, Simon Rimmer, several other Michelin star chefs and at least 1,455 other backers, remarkable.
If you follow him and/or any of his restaurants on Twitter you will see that this is a channel where he and they enjoy almost cult status, brand Usher.
We met following my watching a video documentary that we published where Usher questions the cost of entrepreneurship. VIDEO DOCUMENTARY – Gary Usher, raw and uninhibited, questions the true ‘fucking’ cost of entrepreneurship. It does what is says on the tin and is candid, Usher punctuates almost all of his sentences with fuck, fucked or fucking, if you are in any way sensitive to swearing don’t watch it. If you are a chef that aspires to being a restaurateur we strongly recommend that you do.
After I watched the video I was intrigued to know more so we met and talked.
We sat down, he has a talent for making you straightaway feel comfortable, he is open, candid and quite charming, but when you look in his eyes there’s a depth that’s difficult to fathom.
It is apparent immediately that Gary Usher knows exactly what he wants, success. “Success and nothing else.” He possesses a drive that I have seldom if ever come across, success is an absolute. He couldn’t or wouldn’t define what success meant specifically and I suspect that is because his ambitions know no boundaries.
His warmth for the team that work with him is almost as strong as the drive he exudes, he reminisces about moments that define team for him, and he has many. His commitment to the team is fuelled by the commitment they demonstrate, a compounding effect in motion.
When we got onto the subject of his latest Kickstarter campaign the cult element of his following emerges again. Three people he has never met and were not connected to each other pledged £20,000 via email and they were all prepared to re mortgage the funds. He didn’t need to accept any of them but was literally lost for words in appreciation of the gestures.
He also half way through the campaign received a phone call from a regular but infrequent Sticky diner.
The diner asked Gary if he was “free for lunch tomorrow” at Sticky, he was and sat down the next day with the diner his wife and daughter. Over lunch the diner asked how Kickstarter was progressing, at that point it was exactly half way through with £100,000 pledged and £100,000 to still be pledged. The diner then explained that he and his wife very much ‘liked’ what Gary was doing and there and then offered the outstanding £100,000 required. Gary left the table and cried with emotion. Like the three potential mortgagees the offer did not need to be accepted, but was very gratefully received.
There were several other remarkable aspects to the conversation, I left knowing that we would be reporting on many more extraordinary aspects of the Gary Usher story as it will undoubtedly unfold.
I am also pleased to announce that Gary Usher will be chairing a roundtable at H&C EXPO in July 2018. The roundtable will be for students and discuss what it takes to succeed as a restaurateur. There will be twenty seats available at the table that day, suggest applications are made early. More details to follow soon.
My thanks to Gary for his time, we will do it again soon hopefully and an excuse to eat at Sticky walnut, Burnt Truffle and Wreckfish when open. I had lunch at Hispi after the interview, the food was almost as enjoyable as the conversation.
Denis Sheehan, Publisher, Hospitality and catering News