Algarve resident launches tell-all book on his 30-year career in the hospitality industry
A British man living in the Algarve has released a “brutally honest” book about his 30 years of experience working in the hospitality industry in Switzerland and the UK, from serving A-list celebrities nearly every night to the struggles and successes of running his own B&B.
‘Confessions of a Waiter’ is the debut novel by David Woodward, 53, who moved to the Algarve with his mother two years ago.
Part of the proceeds of the book’s sales will go to help Tiny Shelter, an animal association based in Albufeira where David has been volunteering and from which he adopted his new Pitbull companion, Freddie.
Acting as a memoir as well as an in-depth look into the world of high-class hotels and restaurants, the book documents his journey from a novice waiter in Switzerland to head waiter at the renowned Bluebird restaurant on the King’s Road in London before managing his own successful B&B on the Isle of Wight.
“It’s brutally honest and in some parts almost shocking. The book documents all the good and bad about my life and deals with a lot of issues in the (hospitality) industry, from alcohol and drugs to issues like service charges in the UK and websites like TripAdvisor, which can be great but also highly detrimental,” David told the Resident.
His career in the industry started in Switzerland, where he worked at several five-star hotels, put himself through hotel school and did all his training.
After several years working in the country, David decided to return to the UK where he eventually took on the job of head waiter at Bluebird, working alongside John Torode, the Australian-British celebrity chef known as the host of Masterchef who at the time was the restaurant’s head chef, and Fred Sirieix, the French mâitre d’hôtel now famous for appearing on Channel 4’s First Dates and BBC Two’s Million Pound Menu who at the time was head chef alongside David.
“When it opened, we were serving A-list celebrities every night. It was a bit surreal because you’d have Dustin Hoffman sitting at one table and Michael Douglas at another,” David told us.
Despite the absolutely hectic pace at which they worked, at one point serving around 40,000 meals a week, David remembers it with fondness and describes the team as the “best I ever worked with”.
He then went on to manage several high-end boutique hotels and restaurants in the Cotswolds before moving to the Isle of Wight to open his own bed and breakfast business, called Keates Cottage, in 2014.
“I took a historic rundown building and did the entire refurbishment with my mum. It was literally falling to pieces and hadn’t had any investment for about 50 years,” David told us.
Working alongside his former partner, David was able to turn the B&B into one of the most popular on the island and achieve an average score of over 9.5 on TripAdvisor for seven years.
But success did not come easy. Early on, the B&B’s restaurant was barely attracting any customers.
The road to success was not an easy one, however. While the B&B was welcoming guests, its restaurant was barely attracting two clients per night.
“I was literally giving out canapés on the street begging people to come in,” he told us.
Their fortune changed when David decided to feature the business on popular Channel 4 programme ‘Four in the Bed’, which sees four B&B owners going to each other’s business and judging what it’s worth and whether they’d go back.
“People told me about the risks of appearing on TV, as it is all heavily edited and you never know what they’re going to show. Luckily, we did really well, and the show ultimately made us.”
Welcoming celebrities like comedian Jimmy Carr and singer and TV present Jane McDonald also helped establish Keates Cottage as an Isle of Wight staple.
But when David and his partner separated, leaving him to run the business with the help of his mother and one other employee, he started to consider a change. This was also when the idea of writing a book documenting his life until now started to creep into his mind. The Covid-19 pandemic provided the final spark, prompting him to take advantage of the free time that he had not had during his adult life so far to start writing the book.
“I took this rundown building, turned it into a success and decided to move on. I ticked the box and was satisfied,” he told us, adding that he and his mum fell in love with Portugal after visiting the country in 2019.
They decided to move over two years later to the Algarve, where David completed his book.
Teachers had always told David that he wrote well, but he never had found the time to do it.
“I struggled at first, but when I approached it as if I was telling the reader a story, it all just came to me. I loved writing it,” he told us.
David Woodward is donating part of the sales from his book to Albufeira-based animal association Tiny Shelter, where he volunteers and adopted his dog.
‘Confessions of a Waiter’ is available on Amazon and can also be ordered directly from the author, with the standard price for the paperback edition being £12.99.