March 08, 2023
April Jackson is the owner of Wood & Water, a modern British restaurant in Brixton with a Jamaican soul.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Many people ask me what I’m most proud about in my career thus far. Whilst I definitely get those good feelings when people come back, and they are repeat customers, or they love a dish that you’ve made, I don’t think that I’ve hit the heights yet where I can really define what my most proud moment is, but I do hope that it’s on its way.
Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman?
I don’t feel that I’ve had major barriers in my career for being a woman. I have had situations that are perhaps more challenging. For example, there have been times when people simply don’t believe that I own my own business, or that I must have partners or investors because there is no way that a woman, especially a black woman, could have a business by themselves. But I do think that it’s really other people’s problem. You know, I’ve had chefs who perhaps don’t want to work for me, because they don’t want to take instructions from a woman. I’ve had people look to my male colleagues, for them to make the decision when in fact, it’s my call. There’s many interesting things that have happened. But I do think that being able to sit at the top of my own little pyramid has afforded me the advantage of really overcoming scenarios that perhaps would be barriers for other people if I was working within a structure where I needed other people to kind of help me make really important decisions.
How do you think we can reach equity in the hospitality industry?
To be honest, whenever I think of equity or equality, I do think of race before I think of being a woman, and unfortunately, I don’t think that you’ll ever really achieve equity. But I do think that having more women as employers or you know, top level management will only help bring everyone up with us and also just give a different perspective. And to really have a seat at the table and see things in a way that perhaps might have gone unseen had we not been there.
How would you like to see the hospitality industry improve?
There are many things that I would love to see improve in the hospitality industry. First and foremost, I think that in society, it would be great for the industry to be more respected and seen as a profession and not just something that we do whilst we kind of figure out our lives. I think that if customers respected the industry, it would also help people working in the industry to respect themselves more and also see it as something that is aspirational. I love working in hospitality and a lot of times I think sometimes people don’t see it as a job, you know, see it as we are just having fun. And whilst it is very enjoyable, it’s definitely hard work. Another thing I’d love to see change is really, there seems to be a laziness amongst journalism, it’s the same restaurants we see in the same top place. It would be great if people looked beyond perhaps their immediate groups and looked further to see what people were doing, because there’s a lot of independent businesses doing amazing things that we never get to really hear about because we’re always seeing the same people we talked about in the media. Ultimately, it’s not just about publicity, it’s not a popularity contest. But when you get a great write up or you get a great review, it does bring business, and let’s be honest, we all need to be making that money right now.
What is the most important message/piece of advice you want to give to someone?
I opened my first restaurant, Three Little Birds with zero experience. I had never worked in a restaurant, I just came from the perspective of a consumer and what I wanted to see. If I was giving a piece of advice to someone, it would be to work in the business that you want to do, even if it’s not hospitality, but get that hands-on experience and make sure it’s really what you want to do. If you still decide that it is, you’re going to have doubts, you’re going to have those questions in your mind of “are you really the right person to do it?”, “can you do it?” “how will you do it?” And then if you get to that point where it’s what you really want to do, I would then say, give yourself no other option. If you don’t give yourself a Plan B or Plan C, you will surprise yourself and you will make magic happen.
If you could have dinner with 3 inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be?
If I could have dinner with three inspirational women, the first would definitely be Maya Angelou. I named my first twin after her. She’s an incredible author, her words, she just seems to always be filled with so much wisdom and I would love the opportunity to sit at the table with her. The second would be Josephine Baker, I feel like as an entertainer, in the time that she was, she just broke down incredible barriers for black women. And also she was a spy, which I think means that she would have amazing stories to tell. And last but not least, I would love to have dinner with Monica Galetti. Of course, as another chef, a woman owning her own restaurant, I actually met her at Taste of London and she seemed fabulous and it would be lovely to have just some more touch time with her.