How I got here

31 August 2004
How I got here

South Korean-born French national Jean-Yong Pittion is certainly well-travelled. The 28-year-old has worked in fine-dining restaurants in Lyons, Dublin, the French Riviera, Abu Dhabi and London.

"In France I worked in formal Michelin-starred restaurants at the beginning of my career, so it became important for me to travel and experience different visions," says Pittion. "In France you don't get to mix with many nationalities other than your own, so when I came to London it really was a different world." Early on, Pittion had an interest in cooking, which he maintains to this day, but found that his real talent lay with the public, and so he decided on a career in restaurant management. Industrial placements in several Lyons restaurants led to a job in September 1996 as chef de rang and commis sommelier at the two-Michelin-starred Dublin restaurant, Patrick Guilbaud. He returned to France in July 1997 to work at Le Vieux Four on the French Riviera as a restaurant manager. After working at several other Michelin-starred restaurants on the Riviera, Pittion arrived in London in November 2000 as head waiter and sommelier of Mju restaurant in the Millennium Hotel London Knightsbridge. This led to a 16-month placement at the Millennium hotel in Abu Dhabi, starting in December 2001, working as restaurant manager and head sommelier in the pre-opening team. "It was one of the best experiences I have had professionally," says Pittion of his time in Abu Dhabi. "If you are young and looking to succeed in this business, spending time out there is one of the best things you can do. You learn so much quicker." After his Middle East adventure he returned in April 2003 to the relative calm of Tom Aikens's eponymous restaurant in London, where he joined as assistant restaurant manager. In March Pittion joined Aquasia at the Conrad London hotel and took control of his "baby". Pittion tries to spend as much time as possible on the floor during service, and his efforts have paid off, as the restaurant is now fully booked on Saturday evenings with brisk trade for Sunday brunch. Pittion enjoys the customer contact of restaurant work and is passionate about the wine list he is currently putting together. Sometimes he can be a little too passionate, and his boss, the hotel's food and beverage manager, has to order him home to rest. With hindsight, Pittion says he spent too much time in France and fine-dining environments, but recommends that everyone should experience the best at some point during their career so they have a benchmark to work to. "The advantages of fine dining are that you receive the very best training and food knowledge, learning from people who are the very best in their field. Everyone should spend two to three years working within it." Career highlights September 1996 Begins career at Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin December 2001 Arrives at the Millennium hotel in Abu Dhabi as restaurant manager and head sommelier March 2004 Joins Aquasia as restaurant and bar manager
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