Chef Pip Lacey Talks To Hospitality Ireland About The Road To Success

By Emily Hourican
Chef Pip Lacey Talks To Hospitality Ireland About The Road To Success

Pip Lacey’s route to becoming a chef may not have been the most traditional, but it has been effective. After working in the kitchen at the three-Michelinstarred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Lacey became head chef of Angela Hartnett’s Michelin-starred Italian restaurant, Murano. In 2018, Lacey and Gordy McIntyre opened the acclaimed Hicce, in Central London. She talks to Hospitality Ireland about the road to success.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in March of 2022.

Pip, you’ve worked with amazing people, including Angela Hartnett. Tell us about your career so far.

The first ten years were like a roller coaster. Actually, it still is a roller coaster! It’s the most predictably unpredictable job – many highs and a few lows. I’ve met some incredible people, and some of those have become my very best friends. I’ve been on amazing journeys, both mentally and physically, and I’ve been to some amazing places in the UK and abroad – some with Angela, and other places with great chefs that I have met. The world of food can bring so many experiences, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I think it says it all: opening a restaurant with a best friend, and still being best friends to this day.

Where does your interest in food come from?

I love to eat! I’ve always liked trying new flavours from a young age, and I’m up for eating literally anything at least once. My love for food comes from family and friends, life, travel, and then bringing it all together. Most conversations I have are centred around food, like sitting at the dinner table with family and discussing what to have for the next meal before we’ve finished!

What is your food ethos?

It needs to taste good, look good, and not break the bank. However, there are exceptions of excellence, which I believe are worth paying for.


Tell us about entering the Great British Menu.

The first time, I was like an excited puppy. It was amazing to get the chance to do it. I was nervous, but it was like Christmas Day nerves. I wasn’t really thinking of it as a competition, but more an amazing opportunity, and the chance to get to meet new people and to cook with incredible chefs. It wasn’t until I didn’t win that it then became a competition for me, and so I pushed to go on again – this time to win. The second time – although it was still fun – I came back more seriously, practised hard and as much as possible, and reaped the rewards.

What is the ethos of Hicce?

Effectively, to come out, have a wicked time, with great food, music, service, and an all-round fun experience.

What is a ‘typical’ day for you?

I never stop working, even when on holiday. I’m always thinking of how to improve, taking inspiration from everything I’m doing, and putting that into new dishes on our menu. There’s little down time, but I love it. Each day, I’m ready to take on a few surprises, inspire the team to bring their A-game, have a great service, and have fun with everything we do.

Hicce restaurant.

Hicce restaurant Kings Cross dining space

How was the lockdown for you?

It was emotional and stressful, but it made us realise what’s important in life. Work-wise, it made us think outside the box, and so we created Hicce Mkt. We treated it like a typical day, and so we never stopped working! Gordy and I can’t sit still, so we made good out of it and created a second business.

What is your assessment of the restaurant industry now?

After lockdown, the industry has had a chance to reflect and make a huge movement in the right direction, to be better employers. The industry can be incredible, but it is tough. It wasn’t in a sustainable position before. For us, it’s about making it as enjoyable for our team as much as our guests. I think it will be a lot more attractive now for people to get involved, and possibly change careers, to be in hospitality. It needed to happen. We still have a long way to go, but at least it’s going. Along with Brexit, it was a kickstarter, but it has shown that we can’t live without bars, restaurants and clubs.

What are the major challenges right now?

Finding experienced workers and inspiring young people to join the industry. Food prices are considerably higher. The challenges haven’t really changed, they are just magnified. We need patience within the industry, including consumers, on issues like price changes, etc.

Do you think Covid has changed the industry permanently?

Ultimately, yes. I think it’s given us a chance to press the reset button.

What has been the most challenging part of your career?

Easily the first three months of becoming a chef. Crying in the fridge, thinking, what on Earth am I doing? The tiredness, waking up with clenched fists from holding knives – there was physical pain – but once that’s over, you hit a level, and then it’s so worth it. Also, the pressure of holding a Michelin star for Angela – that was challenging, but rewarding. It was a huge achievement.


What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

Opening Hicce! Becoming head chef for Angela was also an incredible career highlight.

How do you switch off – hobbies, etc.?

I love watching films. My favourites range from Mrs Doubtfire to Star Wars. When I get the chance, I love to exercise and play sports, and I’ll wind down by playing FIFA on the PlayStation.

Any plans for the next six to nine months?

Absolutely, to expand. We want to take Hicce to the next level, so keep your eyes peeled.

Read More: Hospitality Ireland Spring 2022: Read The Latest Issue Online!