Magnus Reid — C.R.E.A.M
Magnus began cooking at the age of 16 in the cafes of Perth, Australia. Initially as a weekend job to support training as a tattoo artist, cooking swiftly became the focus upon Magnus’ move to London.
After working his way up the ‘brigade’ at The Bathhouse (formerly) on Bishopsgate, Magnus, along with friend Daniel Morgan, began to create ‘pop-up’ food events. The pair soon became renowned for an array of creative events, characterised by innovative approaches to the guest experience.
Meanwhile, Magnus continued to gain experience, ‘staging’ at some of London’s most respected restaurants including the iconic St. John before taking charge of the kitchen at The Hackney Pearl. Following this he proceeded to open the Rooftop Café in London Bridge to much critical acclaim.
Magnus made the transition from restaurants to the world of coffee, opening Shoreditch’s Tuckshop and then C.R.E.A.M where he is currently the owner operator. While running C.R.E.A.M (a collaborative venture with creative agency Protein) Magnus is still making time for various food events here and around Europe.
So why the move into cafés?
I feel like, cooking for reviews and to please the experts can alienate you from everyone else. Appealing to everyone attracts a mix of people which is more interesting than just serving food experts, hence the move into cafes. Cafes can be inclusive and I’d rather set up a place that caters to a community. With us, there’s a big focus on accessibility. You have to accept that everyone has different values.
Tell us about C.R.E.A.M?
We’re open from 8am – 4pm weekdays and 10am – 5pm weekends.
We offer seasonally led food and coffee with an emphasis on responsible sourcing and shit. Our approach is about low intervention and consistency.
If you get a good carrot, use that carrot and let it be a good carrot.
We always try to maintain a creative element in everything that we do. We want the guest experience to be accessible, innovative and fun.
What’s the approach to coffee?
Our emphasis is on sourcing something different, varied and maintaining a coffee offering which doesn’t take itself too seriously. We work with suppliers who understand this and understand the value in relationships and not just the commercial side of things.
How has your background in restaurants influenced your perspective on running a café?
In restaurants there is typically less for the customer to 'do.’ The less a guest has to do, the greater the hospitality. Take for example being poured water at the table as opposed to having to get it yourself. That’s something we employ at C.R.E.A.M. Our guests should be able to sit down and be 100% hosted by us.
What role does food play in supporting a coffee offering or in fact a café in a broader sense?
Assuming you’re doing everything to the same standard, food broadens who feels welcome and who can find what they’re looking for. Seriously, who doesn’t go out for eggs? It’s about offering a convenience that appeals to everybody by diversifying your offering.
Food also brings people back. Everybody remembers the shittest meals they’ve had and the best ones too. They also remember where they can go to get something high quality and convenient on their lunch break.
In your experience, do you find that guests in cafes have similar or different expectations to those in restaurants? How, so?
Different. Generally convenience is number one for guests in cafes. They are definitely more sensitive to wait times.
They are also more sensitive to price. Mate, our croissants cost less than Tesco. We could serve the same dish at Rooftop but only charge half as much here, or we’d have to double the serving size. This means we have less flexibility with margins. We can’t just make a dish ten times to experiment with how we plate up.
People who go to cafes are more interested in the ‘whole package.’ They care about other aspects than just the product….like aesthetics. People are more inclined to visit a restaurant based on the reputation for the food. Unless you’re Alan Yau, you’ll still go to a dirty restaurant if the food is good.
Would you say that those values are the same as people who work in service/specialised industries or that they vary? If so, how?
People who specialise in the industry understand more of the inherent value of products and are more accepting of things like wait times etc.
It’s such a small percentage though, it’s not worth catering to. For every ‘coffee guy,’ there are at least 5 normal guests.
Are there values, which are more commonly held by consumers that you consciously appeal to then?
Politeness, niceties and being treated well. In other words, hospitality. You don’t need to know anything about food or coffee to appreciate hospitality. It’s a luxury to eat out and drink nice coffee. People want to be treated like they’re special when they’re indulging in that.
As a business owner and chef, how do you satisfy those values while maintaining time to work on your business or your other projects?
I set myself six months for my businesses to operate so that if I couldn’t be there tomorrow, they’d run just as well. I’m focused on training and passing on the responsibility to staff. I find that it engages and empowers staff when they have the responsibility to make decisions.
It all comes down to training though….and having a good business partner.
Lots of café owners struggle with being ‘trapped’ in the kitchen, not being able to justify hiring a chef, but not being able to rely on staff to prepare complicated dishes etc. You obviously overcame this problem at Tuckshop and now Cream. How so?
Training, training, training. Don’t train people to do what you do. Train them to do what they do, to the level that you do it.
Staff can think for themselves. When I say ‘training’ I mean training staff to understand what I want, what it should ‘feel’ like and what kind of aesthetic the plates need to align with. Beyond that, they are more than capable of making decisions and putting their spin on things.
What role does menu writing play in that?
Having a food offering or menu, which focuses on the quality of the ingredients and low intervention (less complicated technique) plays a big part. If you source ingredients that are good enough to make good dishes on their own then you can:
- Be assured that given the same quality of products, another member of staff can create a dish of the same standard.
- Satisfy people’s need for convenience. The less process/intervention required to create a dish, the faster it can be on a table.
When we get in some really good meat, 70% of the time we’ll serve it raw. It’s about being conscious of making things easier for us, more convenient for guests and at the same time, creating interesting dishes.
There should be consistency in the menu writing. Consistent menus are a reference or guide for staff to create their own dishes. If there is no consistency in the food that you serve, then there’s no reference point for what to do when you’re not there.
Presentation is key, but it goes back to consistency and simplicity in the menu.
A t-shirt is a t-shirt is a t-shirt. When you try something funky with it, it is hit or miss. The best way to plate simple ingredients is simply.
You also need to be transparent with what you serve. What’s on the menu is what’s on the plate. Nothing sucks more than flooding people with information. If someone wants to know all of the processes, they’ll ask. Otherwise, you’re just burdening them with information.
You exist to serve the public, not yourself.
What’s next for Cream or yourself?
We’re thinking about expanding C.R.E.A.M. We’d do something different each time but maybe go for like, 5,6,7 or 8 sites. I’m still doing pop ups and food related events. I’m about to leave for Berlin actually to do a food and natural wine event with Michelburger.
We’ve just put in a bid for a restaurant space in Shoreditch. We want to create a boozy restaurant. Maybe we’ll do coffee. Maybe we’ll get a Nespresso machine.