All working mums have it hard, but imagine running a busy pub whilst refurbishing a second, with two under threes to contend with. But East Kent and White Horse licensee Natalie Hennessy, who opened her own restaurant at the age of 23, takes it all in her stride.
As part of Shepherd Neame’s celebration of International Women’s Day, we caught up with busy Natalie to find out how she does it all.
Name: Natalie Hennessy
Home: Boughton under Blean, Faversham
Tell us about your career to date…
I trained at Thanet College, before moving to the Dorchester Hotel in London for five years, where I won Chef of the Year. I then moved to the then three Michelin starred restaurant, The Square, and from there I made the move to Australia, where I worked at a three Hat restaurant (the Australian equivalent of Michelin stars) called Rockpool in Sydney. I then went on to open my own restaurant at the age of 23, before selling it and moving to a chocolate company, where I opened 25 stores across Australia in five years. My husband, Andrew, and I married out in Australia and moved back to the UK to take on the Shepherd Neame pub, the East Kent in Whitstable. We also ran the Royal Naval Reserve in Whitstable for Shepherd Neame for six months, and we have also refurbished and reopened the White Horse in Boughton under Blean as a stylish pub with 14 rooms.
What attracted you to Shepherd Neame?
I’m from Whitstable and we interviewed for the East Kent, which is in the town, while we were still living in Australia, but thought it was a great opportunity to make the move back – and we haven’t looked back since! The pub has gone from strength to strength. Shepherd Neame have been really good to us and we have enjoyed working with them and we are now taking on another of their pubs, the White Horse, which is on a bigger scale as it also has accommodation. We want to give the customers something really special there.
What personal characteristics help you in your role?
I think determination to succeed is huge - if you want something hard enough you can get it. Problem solving is also key – you have to find solutions to get the job done.
What does a typical day for you involve?
I have stopped planning the day! I used to plan the day but it is just about survival nowadays. You are going into the unknown and you don’t know how the day is going to go. I am always doing the bits behind the scenes and seeing the progression with the latest project. I have the kids in the morning (Oliver and William, both under three), as I have family to help – but I have learned to manage my expectations and what I can actually do. I didn’t really have any time off when I had William). We have a family day on Sundays when we don’t do any work. We also have a family dog, Maggie, who is a bit of a star in the pub.
What is most rewarding about your role?
Being a mum is the biggest reward! But seeing the results of your hard labour at work is also very rewarding. Seeing it all come together, and seeing people’s faces when you show them is brilliant.
What do you consider your biggest professional success so far?
It has to be running the East Kent - it is really our baby. It didn’t do food before we took it on and now on a typical Saturday we do 250 covers and are fully booked on Fridays and Saturdays.
What are your hobbies and interests outside work?
I barely have time to wash my hair these days! To be honest my favourite thing to do now is sit down just the two of us at the end of the day with a glass of wine and talk to my husband about the chaos.
You can find the East Kent in Oxford Street, Whitstable, CT5 1DA, call 01227 770773, or to find out more visit https://theeastkentpub.com/ and the White Horse is in The Street, Boughton-under-Blean, Faversham, ME13 9AL, call 01227 752046, or visit https://thewhitehorseboughton.com/
To find out more about other roles with Shepherd Neame visit https://www.shepherdneame.co.uk/careers