Nicky Stephens and Duncan Ray

Nicky Stephens – Little Fish Market

Name: Nicky Stephens 

Occupation: General Manager of The Little Fish Market.

The Little Fish Market front shot

Please can you share a whistle-stop tour of your career?

I trained as a beauty therapist straight after school and then had a glorious 6 years working for Clarins as a Studio Therapist in Portsmouth. I became a UK National Therapist and then finally UK Treatment Training manager. From this, I developed a love for teaching others and went on to have a 13 year career in a college on the South Coast. 

Then it was time for a complete life change!  I left my beauty career and teaching behind to work in customer service, admin and accounts for The Roasting Party, a fabulous coffee roastery in Winchester. It was whilst I was working there that my partner Duncan Ray asked me to join him, not just as his partner in life, but in business too. So here I am! 

seafood dish served on white plate at the Little Fish Market - Nicky Stephens Interview

Describe your job in three words

Dynamic, challenging, FUN!

What has been your philosophy that has seen the successful development of your career?

Always strive for more, push yourself forward, be determined, believe in your own abilities, go the extra mile and get noticed. Work hard but also play hard! A work/life balance is key and, let’s face it, you’ve earned it!

Words of encouragement for women who aspire to reach a senior position in hospitality?

Don’t give employers the chance to forget you. Always be at the forefront of their mind for all the right reasons. Let your motivation and determination shine every day. If you want it, go out and get it! 

Favourite aspect of the job?

Being on the floor during service. As much as I enjoy doing all the back of house duties, and managing the business, I love nothing more than being around the customers during service and ensuring they have a truly wonderful evening. From the moment people enter the restaurant, you have the ability to make them feel special. There is no better feeling. 

egg specialty at the Little Fish Market  

What excites you most about your role? 

Brighton Wine tasting afternoons lol!

The toughest aspect of your job? 

Watching the customers enjoy eating all of the exquisite food on the tasting menu and wishing it was me!

Is there a moment in your career that stands out above the rest? 

On my first day working at Little Fish Market, I had to rush Duncan to A&E. I then had to do my first service alone with no experience and no idea of what the heck I was doing. Then I had to try to run the business while he recovered in hospital for two days… was certainly character building! 

What are you most proud of?

My ability to adapt to the challenges of running a business in an industry I knew nothing about whilst, at the same time, living and travelling between 2 counties and raising two children. 

What has been your biggest challenge?

Adjusting to the hours of hospitality. It’s hard! Nobody can prepare you for the 12-hour days, the long hours spent on your feet. I can run up and down the stairs at The Little Fish Market 50 times plus during service…Don’t get me wrong, I love our battleship (as we call her) but give me a restaurant that’s all on one level any day!

Who has inspired Nicky Stephens along the way?

It has to be my partner Duncan. His passion, knowledge and skill for what he does is ridiculous. I’d go as far as saying it’s infectious! I love watching him work, watching his mind tick and the creative ideas flow.

What advice would you offer for women looking to embark on a similar career?

Be prepared – this job takes sacrifice but also offers great reward. 

Do you have a go to or failsafe plate of comfort food?

You cannot beat my mum and dad’s Sunday roast dinner. It’s usually a joint effort so I need to give credit to them both. You get that gorgeous, warm, homely feeling with every mouthful, it sparks an instant feeling of comfort and one of being completely fulfilled. 

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