Interview with Mr. Kirk Hughes of La Vue and Flavours Restaurant
At 8am on a beautiful Saturday morning, My Anguilla Experience headed to back street South Hill to have a chat with the dynamic and successful Kirk Hughes, owner and manager of La Vue Inn and Flavours Restaurant. Prior to entering the reception area I paused for a minute to simply enjoy the view at La Vue. I felt at peace and slightly envied those who are able to enjoy this view every day.
I was excited to speak with Kirk Hughes, a vibrant and talented entrepreneur, about the road which led him and his wife Joy Hughes to the ownership and management of a boutique hotel and restaurant in Anguilla. Kirk is very easy going and we spoke for over an hour. Read on for Part 1 of this interesting interview and I assure you will be inspired!
MAE: Did you always want to work within hospitality?
Kirk: As a child everyone has a vision. My vision was not necessarily to be in the hospitality industry but I always had an idea of what my future would look like. Like most persons, I knew that I wanted a job, a family and I wanted to be able to afford a vacation. With those things in mind I worked towards whatever opportunity availed itself and hospitality is the area I gravitated towards.
I started working in the Industry as a young boy. My first job was with Maurice Connor of Easy Corner Villas. While working with Maurice I became familiar with a number of people in the industry and this started my passion for the hospitality industry.
I moved from there to Cap Juluca where I worked at Pimms Restaurant in purchasing management. It was these types of experiences which led me to where I am today.
MAE: About how many years have you worked in the hospitality industry?
Kirk: I was attending school and working part time with Maurice Connor on weekends so I started in the industry as a very young boy.
MAE: Were you encouraged by Anguillians in the Industry or did you benefit from Anguillian mentorship?
Kirk: Maurice was a pioneer of tourism in Anguilla and eventually became Minister of Tourism. Clive Carty was the General Manager at Mariners. I used to like to go to Mariners and see an Anguillian managing a hotel of that caliber. Both men were very successful and I admired them as Anguillians. The both inspired me.
MAE: Have you seen an increase in Anguillian ownership of Hospitality enterprises?
Kirk: Yes I have. Unfortunately more Anguillians do not own hotels or restaurants because it is an expensive market to enter. Most Anguillins may choose to invest in other types of businesses because hospitality is also very risky. You can build something in your mind which is a great product but you have to attract people who will also feel the same way about what you have built. This is where the risk is because people think differently.
I don’t take full credit for anything I have done. My wife and I and others around me looked at what was needed and we came up with the concept for La Vue and Flavours Restaurant.
Kirk Hughes of La Vue and Flavours Restaurant on Success
Recently a gentleman told me he admired me and that I was a great success but I look at other people and think they have achieved so much as well. This gentleman doesn’t know how many mistakes I’ve made it and how costly it has been to get here so when he looks at me and says I am successful, he doesn’t know that I might be hurting. I honestly believe though that if you make a mistake and it is a costly mistake it is a learning experience because you won’t make that mistake again.
MAE: What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Kirk: Many of the challenges still exist. They don’t dissipate. The greatest challenges are making the businesses and the business ideas a success, making it happen. The challenge is making a product which has a demand, making it sell itself.
MAE: What have been the highlights of your career?
Kirk: I think am a people’s person. I enjoy seeing people become successful and progress and meet their needs. These things are the driving force behind everything that we do here at La Vue and Flavours. That is why I said it is not just me who have made La Vue and Flavours successful but everyone around me. It is a team effort. You do not need three or four professionals in a team of ten persons. Everyone on the team can use their skills and talents to pull together and make it happen, make it a success.
MAE: Have you kept the same staff over the years?
Kirk: We opened La Vue in 2009 and all the staff is still with us.
As you know Flavours was closed for a while so when we reopened it all of the staff was new except for Shane Hughes, our executive chef. We know it is important to provide a platform of opportunities for young motivated Anguillians like me to work and gain a vast amount of hands on experience which they can take to other parts of the industry.
This is because most other parts of the industry such as the large hotels require workers to have a certain amount of experience in certain positions before they can be hired in management. Obtaining this required experience is difficult for many Anguillians so there are more foreign workers in the managerial part of the industry in Anguilla.
We are proud of success stories like that of Rexford Romney who started at the previous Flavours Restaurant with us and worked as Executive Chef for 3 years. Flavours Restaurant was rated very highly among restaurants on the island at that time. Rexford then received an opportunity to be the executive Chef at Altamer Resort. It was such a pleasure to see Rexford progress in the industry. Flavours gave Rexford a platform from which to advance.
Shane Hughes is currently the Executive Chef at Flavours and Curlee Gumbs is manager of the restaurant. Our front office staff continues to get front office experience and front office management training and Joy and I remain in the background.
MAE: Do you empower your staff to make decisions?
Kirk: Yes we do. This is why I said that what you think is success comes at the cost of mistakes. I empower my staff and allow them to make mistakes at my cost. In other parts of the Industry you are penalized for mistakes. I create an opportunity for them to learn from their mistakes. We work and grow together. It is not a matter of ‘I am the General Manager and this is what I want.’ Our attitude is ‘we got to do this together and it works.’
MAE: What is a typical day at work for Kirk Hughes?
It is busy. We are too small to afford the luxury to appoint managers of departments. For example we are too small to have a House Keeping Director, a Front Office Management director or a Food and Beverage Director. On a typical day, I have the job of all the directors. I also refer to our team culture where everyone shares in the responsibility of being a Director. For example, it is nothing too difficult to see Shane washing dishes or clearing tables if it is a busy night. You may also see Curlee walking with a garbage bag to the garbage bin. We know we are small and as a team member we have to fill in where necessary.
MAE: Have you made any mistakes with hiring?
Kirk: No, we have not made any mistakes with hiring because I don’t think anyone that I hire is less capable than I am. We just have to work together to improve. We work openly together as a team to bring all members of the team to the appropriate level. We let new employees know when they fall short of expectations but also let them know that this is ok because we all have been there too.
We believe that firing someone after two weeks and calling them a disappointment kills their spirit and makes them a lesser person than when they came in so we do not do that. It is a challenge to work with some one who has an attitude or who has reasons for not wanting to do something but we understand it might take some time for them to develop to the appropriate level.
We never point fingers and we let new staff know that their mistake is our mistake. We also let them know that when they do well, we are proud. The philosophy is this way because La Vue and Flavours are our own. My risk becomes our risk when it comes to the team.
MAE: How important is it for you to give back to the community?
It is part of our nature to give back. We do it often and we don’t mandate that we are written about or the donation marketed because I believe it takes away from what you are giving and why you are giving.
MAE: What advice would you give to young persons or persons looking for a career in hospitality?
Kirk: My advice would be to do what you like doing. Don’t be a doctor for a salary or because of someone else’s expectations. Follow your passion. If plants are your passion go into landscaping. Whatever you have a passion for, do it and it will give you the opportunity to be compensated well.
There are many opportunities in Anguilla but we are still limited. For example, for students who love to dance, they cannot consider a career in ice skating at this time.
However we still do need to think outside of the box. Cycling for example can be a professional job instead of a hobby. Many people travel from overseas to do yoga meditations in Anguilla and perhaps Anguillians can become involved in this segment of the industry.
The opening of the Anguilla Tennis Academy was a great achievement as it opened an opportunity for us to create professional tennis players.
We also need to place more emphasis on entrepreneurship. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money to create a business but you do need a lot of passion.
MAE: Any final thoughts and comments
Kirk: I hope I said something to inspire you Shellecia and others reading this blog. Remember success is not always measured by what you may have accomplished but more so by what you have overcome.
Someone may seem so happy living in a one room house and you may wonder why. Perhaps that person lived with family previously and this is a measure of success for them.
I am not afraid to ask for help so therefore I do not take sole credit for what I do. There are many persons in various fields across Anguilla who I can call on for advice and mentorship. I do not pretend to be elite with what I do. My advice is do not be afraid to ask for help and to surround yourself with persons who can help you to do more and become more.
Do not miss part 2 of this informative and englightening interview with Mr. Kirk Hughes of La Vue and Flavours Restaurant.