With years of experience in the culinary industry both locally and abroad under his belt, Maltese entrepreneur and chef Adam Demanuele’s journey can be described – in his own words – as nothing short of a rollercoaster ride.
He has been enamoured with the industry since childhood days spent helping in a gelateria managed by his father, revealing that, “from a very early age I knew that one day, I wanted to be a chef.”
After attending ITS, he worked in several five-star hotels and restaurants in Malta, before going to the UK for an internship at the Hilton. When he returned, Adam started his career in the kitchen proper. “I met an Italian chef who took care of the Formula 1 BMW team and wanted to bring me on board to help. That was one of my greatest experiences, as I was exposed to truly luxurious service,” he recalls.
After that, he was offered the opportunity to take over La Dolce Vita restaurant, first gaining experience working in a restaurant in Italy for a year. He would spend four years running La Dolce Vita together with a Sicilian partner before it sadly ended badly, when his partner defrauded him and escaped the island.
Still, his personal life was on the up, and that year, Adam married his wife Romina, and started thinking about a change in lifestyle to prioritise family. He took up the fish shop and bakery concessions at More Supermarkets, yet despite coming up with an innovative concept, he would again be met with adversity when the supermarket chain went under, leaving him in debt.
Still, Adam would not give up. After receiving the PA permit for a Mosta shop which he had applied for a year before, he threw himself into his new venture. “Six weeks later, with a lot of help, I opened Adam’s Fish Shop. It was a rollercoaster ride, but the shop slowly became a success,” he smiles. Fast forward to four years ago when, despite this success, Adam still felt like there was a missing piece to the puzzle. “I wanted to return to the restaurant business,” he reveals.
From there, he found a spot for The Seafood Market Grill, which, he laughs, “was arguably in one of the worst locations, known for being the red-light district of Malta, but I believed in the regeneration of Gzira, and felt it would work.” And despite another set-back when COVID-19 hit just two months after opening, work it did. “With a lot of persistence and sacrifice, I continued to believe it would work, and I thank God for that, as today we are doing very well,” he notes, happily.
This brings us squarely to the present, and Adam has his sights set on taking his business ever further. “After establishing Adam’s Fish Shop for a number of years, I wanted to really branch out into different markets,” he explains, highlighting the fact that Adam’s is today the fish supplier of choice within the local superyacht industry, for example.
One of the reasons behind this, Adam maintains, is that since chefs on these vessels only have access to a small kitchen, having the opportunity to have fish ready prepared by a chef makes a huge difference. “Since we began offering this service to the industry, it picked up immediately – we speak the same language, so if a superyacht chef asks me to have calamari cut at 1cm widths, for example, I know he wants them for fritto,” he smiles, showcasing the knowhow the industry values.
“We really established our line of production in this regard, and the industry took notice. Chefs recommended us, and today, we supply fish to 98 per cent of the superyachts that visit the island,” Adam continues.
Moving forward, he’s got his sights set on growing the business further within the events sector, starting out with a few events in 2023. “This year we are planning to go all out on this sector – not just with fish, but offering a full catering service,” he reveals.
Ultimately, however, Adam has his sights set beyond our shores. “I’m currently also reading for a master’s in business administration, as I want to understand the aspects of my business which I don’t have experience in. I want to grow the business further in a responsible manner. If all goes well, I will finish next year, and the plan is to take The Seafood Market concept international.”
“We have potential investors which are interested in helping me take my vision for the business international,” he continues, adding, “at this stage, we are evaluating the industry and working to establish which countries would be best to expand into. Hopefully, in 2024 or 2025, my dream to franchise the restaurant internationally will come true.”
Delving into his leadership style, Adam shares his belief that a good business leader doesn’t act like a boss, but more like a team member. “Being part of the team, even as a leader, means you are hands on and can really understand what your staff needs, as well as implement your vision in their minds. I can have a vision, but if my team is not on board, it is pointless,” he maintains.
Speaking of the difficulties inherent in running his business, Adam affirms that one of the primary challenges he faces is people copying ideas and concepts. “You must constantly change and innovate, employing chefs with different visions and the motivation to pull them off. You must do what you can to keep yourself one step ahead of your competition,” he says.
Concluding our chat with a final piece of advice for aspiring leaders, the chef advises: always believe in yourself. “In the past, when I let others’ opinions influence my decisions, it didn’t end well, so nowadays, I listen to my gut. Do your workings, and if they make sense, go ahead. If you believe in your vision, it will work. The line is never straight but if you keep on hammering, you will reach your destination.”
This interview forms part of the Digital 50 Business Leaders project. These high-profile interviews are exclusively featured online at MaltaCEOs.mt, highlighting 50 distinguished conversations with business leaders, CEOs, and emerging entrepreneurial talents. Through these discussions, we aim to showcase the remarkable journeys, achievements, and successes of Malta’s business leaders.
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