The pounds 6million chef

I Work For ...; SARB BASRAN WORKS FOR ROGER ROBAR, NATIONAL LOTTERY WINNER AND RESTAURATEUR
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The Independent Culture
My first point of contact with Roger was through his food. I was working in the US in marketing and management but whenever I came back to London I would visit my friends in Crouch End, and we would go for a meal at the Boozy Rouge restaurant where Roger was chef. The restaurant was like one of those seedy downtown San Diego bars - plastic tablecloths and rocky chairs, but the cooking was cordon bleu standard and very much cooked with love. And Roger was so hospitable that experiencing a meal here was like finding a lily growing in a dirty pond.

One morning I noticed a newspaper cutting in the window of the restaurant reading "Chef wins six million pounds in the Lottery", and the next thing I knew Roger had bought the place from his boss and turned it into a smart seafood restaurant called Roger's. He re-employed all his old staff at double their original salary and then he approached me. Initially, I thought he would only need me for a few months to help with setting up the restaurant, but I ended up staying on as his general PA.

My job is so varied that it includes anything from accompanying Roger to the fish or vegetable market at dawn, doing the accounts, arranging transport or a visit from the electrician, to telling people about a new fragrance that has just arrived in Roger's perfume shop. I also try to ensure that Roger has the chance to get the most out of London, which he loves, so I book him into plays and shows whenever possible.

I work hard from nine until the restaurant closes, Monday through to Saturday, but I am determined that Roger should have an organised business. Roger is a very hands-on boss and prefers to show you how to do something himself rather than give instructions, and I need to be in tip-top condition in order to keep up with him. He gets up at four in the morning after working a night shift at the restaurant, which is very demanding, yet he remains on the go seven days a week.

The reason Roger still works so hard has something to do with his personal relationship with Crouch End. At 23, he was the youngest chef to became a master chef and he has cooked all over the world, including for French and American presidents, but the people who really gave him love and appreciation were in his local community. He wants to give something back to them, which is one of the reasons he is setting up a catering college.

At times I am protective of him, because people tend to crowd around him believing his luck to be infectious. I also deal with all the letters he receives which ask him for money. Initially he gave a lot of help to those he felt most needed it, including struggling single mothers, but people were ungrateful and just wanted more and more from him. For someone like Roger to win so much money and to remain in Crouch End takes one hell of a lot of strength, because the phenomenal jealousy that some friends obviously feel can cause them to be really horrible to him. But it just makes him try harder than ever to give something back to the young and the elderly. He always takes the time to carry out the things he says he's going to do - maybe one day he will become an MP.

He still does the Lottery twice a week, using his special system, and I am sure he will win again. He encourages me to join in but I don't think I would want to be a multimillionaire, having seen the amount of stress it can cause. Besides, I've had a thoroughly enjoyable life: I've worked in the US in really well-paid jobs, travelling in limos, flying around the world, going to openings at clubs and restaurants. But working for Roger is the icing on the cake. I can't believe I am being paid to do a job that I so thoroughly enjoy, working for a spiritual boss who cares about the details of life. Through him I've discovered that the purpose in life is to give back as much as you take, something people often forget. If only people understood that, rather than thinking, "Oh yes, attractive woman works for rich boss".

Interview by Katie Sampson

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