Restaurant chef/ director James Viles is the mind behind the realisation of Biota Dining. Produce and technique driven – his food
has an intimate affiliation with nature bringing many of its elements into both the gastronomic experience as well has the complete
and overall dining adventure.
James had the privilege of working both domestically and internationally, and awarded a coveted Chefs Hat at the young age of
23, (which saw him one of the youngest chefs ever). He has since been heavily involved in the opening of several highly acclaimed
restaurants and hotels throughout the Middle East and Australia, working alongside such chefs as 2 star Michilin Chef Hans Haas
of Tantris (Munich), Spoon by Alain Ducasse (Hong Kong). World renowned restaurant designers such as Superpotato (Tokyo) Spin
design (Korea) and BDC (Indonesia) have been an instrumental platform in Biota’s birth. He draws inspiration from elements of everyday life, which get put to practice not only in his food but the overall concept being Biota.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Energetic. Creative. Fun.
What is your life motto? Work hard young, play hard old.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I started my career in the kitchen when I was about 14. I don’t think we ever become successful, I think we aim to be and strive to be, I think… and this is my opinion, success is measured in all different measures, in all different forms. Successful I think can be anything. To me, I am to be successful every single day.
How much time and effort did you dedicate?
I start at 8am and finish midnight six days a week and I haven’t stopped. I thought one day when I get my own business, I might stop (work less hours), but its even worse now. (laughs) I don’t look at the hours, I look at the time it takes me to achieve what I need to achieve.
What are the challenges in your line of work? It’s very difficult. It’s a very competitive field. It’s got a lot of opinionated…its like art I guess. It’s like going to an art gallery. Sometimes in high end restaurants it can very subjective and everybody can have an opinion and that’s the hardest part – trying to roll with those opinions and trying to grow with the opinions as well. I say food is like music; we don’t all enjoy the same music. Especially when it’s a high end restaurant.
What feedback taught you an extremely valuable lesson? I would say, not listening to my gut. That’s one thing; I sometimes listen to my brain and not my gut feeling. I tend to listen to that (gut) more now than ever before.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? Do a lot of research before you open any business. Have a very clear and dynamic business plan in place and don’t skew off that for anyone or anything. Make sure that business plan is secure and strong and make sure you are true to your word. I spent one year researching how many cars go by on the street that my restaurant is on, one year doing data analysis on local districts – how many times people eat out. I did a lot of research on how many people in the Southern highlands live in Sydney, which is 60% and a lot of product development beforehand.
In your mind, is formal training essential? Yeah I do. I think that if I didn’t do that I’d be flying blind. I mean we have to grow everyday, we have to do product development, we have to look at our competitors and something new and refreshing for people and it’s an ongoing thing. Training is the basis.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? I have a couple of mentors, one of the biggest ones for me is Mark Caro, a chef in France that is probably not so much for his food but more so his philosophy. He’s very true to what he does and is very understated as well. He’s very well-known in Europe but his philosophy is similar to our own.
I think in any industry, your passion is about what you are doing, you should find others that are too, whether they be famous or not. You’ll always learn from others that are passionate if not more passionate than you are, who strive and push you to your limits. All of these people have courage and I hope one day that’s me as well, because I’ve had that. It’s a big chain reaction in a way.
What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? Depending on what industry. Nowadays its harder, but know what you want and truly know what you want because as humans we don’t have a lot of time, it might seem like it but we don’t. The sooner you get in there and do it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, the better and really go deep and think outside the box. Don’t just do it because others do it. Be your own person, do your own thing and be strong about your beliefs.
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? I’m very self driven, I like to push myself…There are days when I feel I need a pick up and I look back to what I’ve done and where I’ve been and know it’s not an easy thing to do, I was very lucky and very fortunate. Then I look at that and think of how many chefs are in this world, or even this country that are at the age of 30 and just don’t know exactly where they want to be. I’m just very fortunate and lucky – and lots of hard work. It’s what keeps me going.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Yeah I do, I believe that it is very much so, but I also believe it’s about having a very humble and honest approach to what you do and giving back to the industry that you were brought up in and also, being true to what you do. Don’t bend the rules and roll over for people, be firm and true. Having the right loving support behind you is important too.