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As hotel director at The Vineyard, Anthony Cox enjoys regaling foodies and wine enthusiasts, but in another life he might have entertained a rather different audience.
My career stems from times spent washing up pots and pans during work experience at school and a Saturday job where I was given the chance to cook a little. However, whenI decided that the
kitchen was a little bit too hot for me, I went to college, studied for a BTEC National Diploma and fell in love with
the front-of-house element. Nowadays, I just take charge of the stove at home on a Sunday. I knock up a mean roast.
My first real job was as a trainee manager at a private members’ club in Portsmouth. Having left education with no money, the opportunity of a live-in job was a real draw. I did everything there. It gave me a really solid grounding in all the elements involved in managing a venue.
Working at the Vineyard is a round-the-clock, seven-day operation, so it varies a lot from day to day, but some things are always the same. Every morning I enter through the front doors and at 10 o’clock we have our daily meeting to plan the day ahead. After that, things really just ebb and flow.
In my spare time I enjoy entertaining people at home and getting out and about with the family. I try to get down to the coast when I can as I really miss being by the sea.
My favourite time of year has to be spring. There’s just so much fresh produce, making it a great time to cook.
The biggest challenge I have ever faced was probably my first job as a general manager. It was at a lovely, listed hotel in Bath and I learnt a massive amount during my time there. I am proud to say that when I left the job, the hotel was a much better place than when I walked in.
The best advice that I ever received came from Andrew McKenzie, the managing director of the Vineyard Group. He said, ‘Being a hotelier isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle’, and nowadays I believe that very strongly. If you approach the business from that perspective, it can be extremely rewarding.
In another life I would have loved to have been the lead guitarist in a heavy metal band. I go to work every day in a suit and tie, but actually, I wouldn’t mind the grungy, hard rock lifestyle. It would have been great to have been someone like Steve Vai or Joe Bonamassa, and to have been in a band like Black Country Communion.
One of my favourite chefs at the moment is Tom Aikens – I recently enjoyed a fantastic lunch at his Chelsea restaurant. I am also a big fan of Lee Streeton, who runs the Hix Mayfair kitchen. He is just super-passionate about cooking, and when you sit down to talk with him about food, you realise just how excited he is about the work that he does.
My motto is ‘treat people as you want to be treated’. It is an ethos I believe in, and one that is not just vital to my business, but one that stands you in good stead in all walks of life. V&E
The Vineyard, Newbury, Berkshire, RG20 8JU; tel: 01635 898369
This article was first printed in Square Meal Venues & Events. spring 2013.