Friday 16 December 2016

Interview with Stephen, La Boca, Glasgow

Photo Credit: La Boca

If you follow my blog and my social media accounts you will know that I'm a fan of La Boca on Hope Street. I personally think that the tapas here are the best I've had in Glasgow. As well as loving the food, what I really liked about the place was the fact that the quality of the food used is of utmost importance and that it is a family run business. There is always a member of the family in the restaurant, so you have that personal touch at all times. The last time I was there Stephen (who owns the restaurant) very kindly sat down and spoke to me about the ethos of the restaurant and it was clear to see how passionate he was about the place. So I thought to myself, this is the passion that I want to write about for my blog. I decided to approach Stephen to see if he was willing to do an interview with me and thankfully he was.

I arrived into La Boca on a cold afternoon (jeez this is beginning to become a theme to all my posts - maybe I need to get over the fact that whether it’s summer or winter it’s generally cold here) and sat in a window seat shooting the breeze with Stephen. You would swear we were old friends, we sat down and just had a general chat about things, he is so easy to talk to and generally once you get me talking about food I just can't stop. I was beginning to think I was the worst interviewer ever as we were an hour in and Stephen probably knew more about me than I did about him. So I turned the spotlight on him - I didn't do the normal Q&A type session I just asked Stephen to tell me how he got here running an amazing authentic Spanish Tapa's restaurant in Glasgow. Whilst I knew some of Stephen's background he certainly was well able to shock me with some of jobs he had previously, he has such an interesting story.

Photo Credit: La Boca

Stephen started working in a retail group when he was still in school, it was a part time Saturday job. He subsequently became assistant manager in Lanton Leisure in Paisley. Lanton Leisure had snooker tables, a health centre, dance studio, a bar, lounge and a restaurant. At the age of 20 he started to work for Allied Brewery (now called Allied Demecq). Stephen was the youngest pub manager in Scotland at the time. However, whilst he may have been the manager he wasn’t able to have the licence in his name as he was under 21, so the area manager had to hold the licence. Whilst Stephen was working there he had plenty of drink reps calling in, he was doing crazy hours every week and saw these people in their suits and lovely company cars so he thought that this was something he would like to do. He heard that Grant Met Brewing were advertising for sales people so he applied and was successful. Stephen climbed the ranks here and became a National Account Manager looking after the Co-Op chain. This job however required that he had be to down in London quite regularly so when Guinness came knocking looking for someone to take over and run trade in Scotland Stephen gladly accepted the job.

Stephen then spent 10 years with Guinness in various roles and various secondments. From there Stephen went to Scottish Brewers. Unfortunately he wasn't in this job long before some health issues made him rethink life. He decided that he didn't want any regrets in life, he had always wanted to own and run his own pub so he knuckled down for 2 years and then left Scottish Brewers to set up Avalon in Paisley. From what I've heard about Avalon it had become the go to pub for people. After building up the pub Stephen was in a position to go and buy another pub, so Platform 1 opened two years after Avalon. Then, with the way the economy was going back in 2007 Stephen thought it was a good time to get out of the market and sold the pubs to a national chain.

Photo Credit: La Boca

From my first visit I knew that Stephen had lived in Spain for a number of years and I must admit at this point I was wondering how he had fitted so much into his life and maybe I didn't pick him up properly about living in Spain. But no I was right, so after Stephen sold the pubs he headed to Spain. I did have to ask, why Spain? Stephen said in 2003 he was in Seville on holidays and really loved it, he had thought at that point that before the end of the decade he would be living in Spain. So in 2007 that’s exactly what happened. He went out to Spain with no plan or no idea of what he would like to do. So he set himself up as a consultant/agent to assist businesses grow and to assist people who wanted to buy a place out there. The timing wasn't great, as within 6 months the economy had crashed and things disappeared very quickly. At this point Stephen had to decided whether or not to stay in Spain - he decided to stay and needed to find himself a job.

At this point Stephen told me that he loved the radio, as a kid he remembers listening to the radio with his mother and always had an aspiration to be on the radio. I didn't see this coming but it turns out that Stephen had his own radio show on a Saturday for an hour every week. It was a sports show to update expats on all the results from the UK. So I hear you ask, how did this come about ... Stephen said he just brass necked it. He wrote to three major radio stations with his idea for the show and one came back to him and gave him the opportunity to do it. Through some inept business skills Stephen managed to make a decent amount of money from his one hour slot and managed to make a name for himself at the same time. Stephen used his contacts in the UK to build up a great correspondent team including ex Scotland football players, ex arsenal players, Formula 1 drivers and cricketers to name but a few. So onto the next twist in the story - Stephen subsequently became the CEO of the radio station. He had done such a good job with his own program and managed to increase revenue so much that he had been noticed. Under Stephen’s watchful eye the station just kept on growing and it was expanded to Gibraltar, Mallorca and along the coast up to Valencia. This position afforded Stephen many opportunities most notably meeting famous celebrities (as in Eva Longoria) and eating out in a lot of high-end establishments. 
Photo Credit: La Boca
So after a few years in Spain due to family circumstances Stephen moved back to good ole Scotland. Stephen was trying to get a job for a while, with not much luck and then the concept of La Boca came about. He felt it made sense to bring proper authentic Spanish tapas to the Glasgow food scene. Stephen sources the products for La Boca as much as possible from Spain and has the biggest draft selection of Spanish beer in Scotland. All the food in La Boca is of the highest quality and is made fresh every day. They always endeavour to have someone on the floor who can speak Spanish and the chef’s are Spanish too. I think all Stephen needs to work on now is getting some of the amazing Spanish weather over here.

Anyway pop in have some food and see for yourself what La Boca is all about. While you’re there you might get to speak to Stephen or his daughter Ally (who Stephen says is the actual boss) and see first hand their passion for La Boca.

Photo Credit: La Boca

Finally, I would just like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to Stephen for allowing me to interview him. I love getting to see the passion of the people behind the food Glasgow food scene. 

Further Information:-
Address: 189 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 2UL
Telephone: 0141 237 7575
Website: click here
Facebook: click here
Twitter: click here

Photo Credit: La Boca

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Thanks a mil for reading. 

Emma mai xx 

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