DES McDonald, the man behind the new Refectory Kitchen & Terrace restaurant at The Royal York hotel honed his culinary skills and built up his knowledge by cooking in 5-star hotels including The Ritz and the Sheraton Park Tower in Knightsbridge.

In 1992 he got his big break with Caprice Holdings working as head chef at the legendary Ivy Restaurant. After a very successful 20 years with the Caprice Group, in which Mr McDonald moved from kitchen to boardroom working for the last 12 years in a managing director and Group group chief role.

While also running the Soho House Group and the Birley Group, Mr McDonald decided to set up his own restaurant business. In May 2013 he opened his first solo venture, the critically acclaimed Fish & Chip Shop on Upper Street, N1. Following its success, in February 2014 he launched Holborn Dining Room, a classic British brasserie at London's five star hotel, Rosewood London. Next came a new barbeque restaurant concept: Q Grill Chalk Farm.

Mr McDonald also had the opportunity to launch On the Roof with Q, a pop-up roof top restaurant at Selfridges that summer. This year saw Mr McDonald rebrand his restaurants on Upper Street & Liverpool Street to Vintage Salt, following the success of his third Selfridges rooftop pop-up of the same name. He also recently opened his fourth Selfridges rooftop pop-up, Forest Restaurant & Cabin Bar which has a ‘foraging and foresting to fork’ menu concept.

In addition to The Refectory Kitchen & Terrace and Chapter House bar and games room at the Royal York, Mr McDonald recently opened The Printing Press and Burr & Co in Edinburgh. Restaurant launches planned for next year include Rofuto in Birmingham, Hope & Field in London and additional Vintage Salt restaurants.

What job would you like to have other than your own and why?

"I love travel and exploration, seeing new cultures etc so maybe an airline pilot. Although I do love my job and always have so maybe I’d just get my pilots license."

Greatest achievement?

"I guess my greatest achievement was in 2000. I became managing director of Caprice Holdings. The move from executive chef of The Ivy J Sheekey and Le Caprice to managing director of seven restaurants including Daphnes was a big challenge. I relish a challenge and didn't look back from that point, even managing to become chief executive of three restaurant groups including Soho House."

What makes you most angry?

"Lack of self-discipline really gets my goat. Restaurants are fast paced and against the clock daily, I expect high levels of professionalism from my teams. Each day has a new set of challenges, self-discipline will ensure a team that works consistently to support each other without a weak link."

Biggest mistake?

"I generally don't make big ones. We all make errors of judgement but the key factor for me is how to admit when you get it wrong and work hard to get it right and learn from mistakes."

What do you need to make life complete?

"Simple things in life make it complete. Sunshine, good food and wine, as well as friends and a game of golf. Good health and a sense of humour."

Why do you make a difference?

"I make a difference because I'm tenacious, focused, creative and very self-motivated. I have 35 years’ experience so have a very level head and am good at strategy. As well as very humble."


"Sleep when you’re dead."