Chef & Business Owner
London, United Kingdom
@forzawin / @forzawine
Leiths Three Term Diploma in Food and Wine
Michael Lavery is co-owner of restaurant Forza Win (Camberwell), wine bar Forza Wine (Peckham) and the soon-to-open Forza Wine at The National Theatre. Serving seasonal Italian food, Forza Win started out as a pop-up and supper club in 2012 before becoming a permanent restaurant in 2017. Prior to this business venture, Michael worked in restaurants for six years after graduating from Leiths, including roles at Terroirs, The River Cafe and running the Horseshoe Pub in Hampstead alongside another former Leiths student.
Life before Leiths
Michael spent 4 years in Sheffield studying engineering before securing a place on a graduate scheme, which he deferred for one year post-graduation. “I went to live in Canada for a year, fully expecting to come back a year later and get into the very boring sounding “building services engineering” industry. Whilst in Canada I got a job in a restaurant kitchen at a ski resort (just to make money and work in the evenings) and completely fell in love with it. When I came home I went straight to Leiths to retrain instead of going into engineering.”
Top things you learnt at Leiths?
“1. The importance of organising yourself before cooking, getting ready to cook before you cook!
2. Knowledge of anything and everything I’d be likely to encounter in a professional kitchen; attending Leiths meant that every time I learned something at work, it wasn’t new to me, I was given at least a familiarity with everything I encountered.
3. The hidden complexity of what’s happening in the pan/oven/bowl. That super detailed thought opens up doors to find better ways of doing things, especially at such quantities and the in spaces afforded in restaurant kitchens. Something as simple as what benefits from early seasoning and what doesn’t, that can make a big difference in a busy setting.”
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
“It was definitely when Jay Rayner reviewed Forza Win in the Observer. Bash & I had to wait 3 agonising, nerve wracking weeks between him eating and the article being published. When it was published it made all the hard work worth it; he entirely understood what we were attempting and put that message out to so many people so perfectly that we’re forever grateful. That night we weren’t open for dinner, but so many people came to the restaurant having read the paper that morning that we ended up inviting them in, making tomato spaghetti and sharing wine with complete strangers. It was GREAT.”
How does the food industry look for today’s graduates?
“I think the food industry has improved massively since I started and will continue to do so. Pay is better than before, hours are better than before (in my experience) but more importantly the public’s perception of the food industry is changing. As more people see that it is a viable option for achieving a good work life balance, as more customers see the value in restaurants and are willing to spend more on eating out, things will continue to improve. It’s a long slow road but it seems like it’s happening!”