'I would encourage anyone to push themselves out of their comfort zone'

The Staff Canteen

‘Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life’. That proverb has become a reality for Sara Giuntoli, Restaurant Manager at Birmingham’s revered and Michelin-starred institution, Simpsons Restaurant.

Written by: 
Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe

For two decades, Sara has lived out her passion. “I started in hospitality when I was 14, and it’s always been my dream job.” And with it comes a humble and noble aim: “I was inspired to work with people and to make them happy.”

The value of mentors

Mentorship has always been pivotal in Sara’s call to culinary service. Seeing others do what she craved lit a spark that led her to pursue fine food and hospitality. There was one mentor in particular who stood out, though, in the early days of her career. “Notably, my teacher who also started working in hospitality at an early age and was a great mentor to me and my peers during our first years at catering college in Italy,” Sara shares.

From humble beginnings in Italy to becoming one of the most respected front-of-house (FOH) professionals in the UK. A mere seven years after moving from her homeland, Sara has clocked up many pinch-me moments.

Simpsons Restaurant Birmingham


Reaching the pinnacle of culinary excellence

Her top achievement, though? “I would have to say working at Simpsons with Andreas Antona and Luke Tipping and seeing their trust in me grow as my career at the restaurant has progressed.”

Celebrating its 30th birthday, Simpsons Restaurant sits at the heart of Birmingham’s fine cuisine scene. “Working at a Michelin-starred restaurant that many consider a Birmingham institution is a proud moment for me,” Sara shares.

Greek-Cypriot, British chef and restaurateur Andreas Antona owns Simpsons and has been hailed as “the godfather of modern Birmingham food”. He is considered a founding father of Birmingham’s foodie revolution, receiving a Michelin star and the Chefs’ Chef of the Year by the Craft Guild of Chefs before the new Millennium.

In the same year, 1999, long-time colleague Luke Tipping took home the first-ever Midlands Chef of the Year award. As well as remaining a chef at his beloved culinary home, Simpsons, Luke is also a professor of culinary arts, receiving a professorship from University College Birmingham.

“Andreas and Luke have helped me so much over the past few years, and I know they always have my back.”

My advice to others aspiring for a career in fine food and dining is…

For anyone else who dreams of working in the hospitality sphere, Sara is supportive, genuine and honest. “There is no doubt that it’s often challenging, hard work with lots of compromises, but it is a great career where you learn a lot and meet a lot of people.”

It won’t always be simple, either. Sacrifices and hard choices are often part of the job. But with it, the opportunity to travel the world. “When I decided to leave Italy, I left all my family and friends behind, but after seven years in the UK, I’m very happy.”

The lessons learned, experiences etched, and realisations relished span far beyond those that’ll benefit you professionally in the restaurant. “Leaving your family helps you to grow up and is a huge learning curve.”

“After my experience, I would encourage anyone to push themselves out of their comfort zone,” Sara shares. These encouraging words relate to mindset, performance, and the psychology of reaching the pinnacle of what you do and fulfilling your potential. “It hasn’t been easy, but it helps you to develop personally and professionally.”

In doing so, you learn not only what an incredible asset you are to hospitality, your team, your customers and the business itself. But also your abilities, talents, and perseverance when you commit to yourself and to making your dream come true.

For Sara, it wasn’t only the skills of service and learning a whole new industry she mastered but a new language too. “I didn’t speak any English when I left Italy but now spend my working day speaking the language, so it’s an amazing way to develop new skills.” A testament to pushing doors, both literally and figuratively.

Filling the staffing gap

Today, hospitality faces a vast staffing shortage. “Finding staff is one of the biggest challenges facing the sector right now.” Training new staff members while balancing an overflowing workload in a kitchen environment is tough and a testament to the manager’s desire to have supportive teams with strong morale that deliver the highest quality service.

“Lately, we’re seeing more staff leave us, and while we’ve recruited some talented people, all new staff need to be trained to our level, which adds pressure when you already have a lot to do,” Sarah relays.

Sara’s role is to train new team members and ensure they are familiar with the Simpsons’ experience, from the minute they are welcomed through the doors to collecting their coats. “Good service is always a team effort. Everyone needs to be on top of their game to ensure everything goes smoothly and all guests are happy.”

Whether it’s your first or 100th service, communication within the team and respect for service, quality and guest satisfaction are paramount. “We have lots of long-standing guests who expect the same standard of quality of food and service, so it’s key that everyone on the floor is aware of these expectations and what we need to deliver as a team.”

Simpsons epitomises quality and fine service

For 30 years, Simpsons Restaurant has delighted guests, sitting at the heart of Birmingham’s culinary experience. With 60 covers a service, Michelin-starred Simpsons is revered for having dishes that evolve with the seasons, made from high-quality ingredients sourced from its longstanding and award-winning suppliers.

What makes Simpsons Restaurant stand out from others? It’s not simple to achieve, but simple to answer: “Its 30th-year history, longevity, its impact on the Birmingham food scene and the fact that it keeps evolving to remain one of the most popular restaurants in the city after all these years”, Sara enthuses.

Six full-time and seven part-time front-of-house staff complete nine weekly shifts, including Wednesday to Saturday lunch and dinner and Sunday lunches. Lunch operations occur between 12 -2 pm, five days a week. Dinner is served between 7-9 pm on Wednesday and Thursday and at the extended hours of 7pm - 9.30 pm on Friday and Saturday.

Simpson’s goal of every service is simple: “To ensure all our guests are happy and have such a great experience, they can’t wait to dine with us again,” Sara says. A humble and noble one that reflects the restaurant manager’s own measures of success.

Sara has shared the recipes for Miso Roasted Celeriac Green Beans, Quinoa, Parsley Salad and Panettone Pudding Cranberry Compote, Vanilla Ice Cream from Simpsons Restaurant in her member profile on The Staff Canteen.

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th November 2023

'I would encourage anyone to push themselves out of their comfort zone'