When he was turned away for being too young when he attempted to start his paper round age nine, it was clear Dean Wilson’s entrepreneurial spirit was ingrained in him from the beginning.
Now with three sites of his Greek Mediterranean restaurant Olive Tree Brasserie under his belt, a team of 60 and ambitions of a regional and even national expansion on the cards, the fire in this young businessman’s belly is raging stronger than ever.
Here, we catch up with Dean fresh off the boat from a culinary island hopping tour in his beloved Greece - the place that started it all...
Industrial lighting, dark grey walls, rustic boards and soul music are a far cry from your plate smashing, white and blue, postcard picture adorned walls of a traditional Greek Taverna - just the modern way Dean Wilson, founder of Olive Tree Brasserie intends it to be.
“I tried the traditional route when we started but I knew that to grow the business into a place people would want to come and eat, hang out, drink and enjoy, it needed to become more slick, more modern, more ‘us’.”
That was ten years ago back in his picturesque hometown of St Annes on the Flyde Coast - where the original Olive Tree Brasserie was born out of a passion for Greek food and extensive travels around the famous islands.
“It wasn’t just about making the place look good I wanted to challenge the cliche’s that come with Greek cuisine. I knew I needed and wanted to do it justice and that’s where my real journey with Olive Tree Brasserie began.”
With the help of a Greek chef, Dean took it upon himself to capture what was good about the up and coming Greek foodie scene. Venturing out to the collection of small islands in the Med as well as the mainland around four times a year, Dean has always returned, inspired to create a new twist on a traditional dish or dishes that are completely unique. He, unlike many restauranteurs creates and develops every dish from scratch, selecting the very finest authentic ingredients from each island he visits - something of a fresh approach to owning and managing a business, whilst developing it too.
“Travelling to the place where you create recipes from is essential in my eyes - it makes for such a different menu and it’s something I’ve been really proud I’ve kept doing over the years. A good example is travelling to Aegina - one of the best places in the world to source pistachios.
"There, because the produce is so good - they make all kinds of things out of them; praline, liqueur, biscuits and we even put on a pistachio mojito special on after tasting one over there.
"The beauty of the Greek islands is that you can literally get a boat for 20 minutes to the next island and there won’t be a pistachio in sight and you find new ingredients and new recipes - it really is such an exciting place to be for a foodie.”
Dean’s modern approach has allowed him to adapt the menu to create a wholly vegan menu and a gluten-free menu too, which has been welcomed by long-standing regulars now more in touch with the plant-based and allergy-free food, so regularly seen on menus in 2017.
“Dining has adapted so much even in the last year - the last three and certainly the last ten since we started and although we have adapted to suit that, we’ve always kept the Olive Tree Brasserie ethos the same - it’s not only a great place to eat but to drink, relax and enjoy too,” added Dean.
Each restaurant has a dedicated bar team and strives to create some of the best cocktails around - already winning industry reputation for it’s selection of unusual drinks and extensive Greek wine selection.
Live musicians regularly entertain guests at the stunning Chester venue on the historic Watergate Row, making it a great pit stop for those wanting to sample the latest name on the ‘fizz’ scene Debina and the hottest new drink on every mixologists lips - Mastiha - a liqueur created from tree resin from the Mastic tree, native to the Mediterranean region.
Fresh from celebrating the first birthday of the Chester site with a four course meze menu at the sold out event, Dean now has ambitions to spread the word about his new take on Greek cuisine to the rest of the North West and beyond.
“We set the business up during the recession and have built success no matter what the market has been doing which is certainly encouraging,” said Dean. “But we know that with the food scene in the North raging in 2017, there is a gap in the market to introduce something contemporary when it comes to Greek cuisine.”
“We don’t want any more cliches, we just want to display the great food this amazing country has to offer in a stylish and fun setting. We’re so proud of how successful Olive Tree Brasserie has been in Chester in the past year and we certainly want to continue that success both here and elsewhere.”