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Alex Polizzi

Published on 15th February 2018
Photo: TwoFour / Colin Hutton

I’d hate to be another crusading twit. I try very hard not to pontificate about anything, because I think people, quite rightly, would say, “Why the hell should I listen to Alex Polizzi about anything?” – apart from the one thing that I really know about, which is the business that I’m in. I avoid politicising anything, partly because I don’t want to be rent-a-quote, and partly because I really protect my personal life. The more that you are out there saying x, y and z about a million things, then the wider a target you present to people.

I try not to be gloomy. If you think about Korea and Trump and the death of books, you wouldn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.

I’ve realised that we live in a society where the specialists survive and thrive. I’ve just done a restaurant show (Restaurant Rescue), and it’s something that Oliver [Peyton] and I have really encouraged people to do... In the restaurant business, there are now places that just do pasta, or just do pizza – the great soaring enterprises with 10-page menus have gone under.

My husband and I own a bakery, and I find the whole anti-wheat, anti-bread thing boring. In fact, I find clean eating so boring. It’s a ridiculous First World obsession. Obviously, there are a few people who have terrible intolerances and allergies; that I understand. But we demonise food to such a degree, the idea of proportionality has gone out the window. I try to eat more healthily – more fruit and vegetables and not drinking alcohol as much as I’d like to, but I think most people understand that you don’t eat a burger for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One a week, however, ain’t going to kill you.

I loved working in hospitality – it’s really fun, if you’re the kind of person who likes the chance to have your finger in lots of different pies. But I spent 14 years of my life working every Christmas, every Friday night, and in Hong Kong I worked
six days a week. When I ran Hotel Endsleigh, I often worked seven days a week. Every high day and holiday – when everyone else is celebrating, you are working. So I love the flexibility that TV presenting gives me. I’m away three days of every week – and more than that if I’m doing a travel show – but I can take lots of time off at Christmas, at Easter, and in the summer holidays. I came from a working mother, and it’s really important that the children see that what I do is valuable and contributes to the family.

Hire our Heroes [a TV show aimed at getting former soldiers back into civilian work] was one of the times when I’ve come up against my own inadequacies, very painfully. We had very mixed results. One of the things that really upset me was that, in the whole of the UK, there’s only one dedicated treatment centre for alcohol and drug addiction for the ex- military. When the wounded come back, they get patched up and chucked out. I needed four times as long to make the programme, but the realities of life collided with the exigencies of TV. Of course, it’s good to learn to see things in a different way, and it was much more rewarding than doing the things that I do so easily and naturally. Hopefully, five people benefited, but I don’t know that it’s made any difference. Then you suddenly think – you’ve got 20,000 people leaving the armed forces over the next few years, how are we going to deal with them? Who’s going to help them?

I think I kind of have spidey senses about who is going to make it or not on shows like The Hotel Inspector, partly because the hospitality industry tends to develop those skills due to your immense exposure to so many strangers every single day. But realistically, the balance sheet can tell me whether they can survive more than their personalities. You’ve got to appreciate the narrative behind the balance sheet – what it tells you about the business, where they’re succeeding and failing, and where they need to concentrate.

I feel like it’s a big responsibility, what I do. One of the reasons that The Hotel Inspector has endured is because people find it fascinating, the complete lack of self awareness in some of my clients. I try not to be brutal, I don’t purposefully wound anybody, but at the same time, we’ve got so little time together and if I’m going to make a change, I’ve got to be quite straightforward. I don’t have time to pussyfoot around. That’s the balance that I have to manage.

I’m always fighting with my husband – he would love us to move out of London. I understand that there are lots of negative things about it. I’ve lived in Cornwall and Devon, and it was easy to drown myself in work there, but I don’t ride, I don’t own a dog. My countryside pursuit level is kind of nil. I don’t spend much time at Endsleigh, because I’ve sold my footage down there, and Mum [Olga Polizzi] goes and looks over the place. I’m a bit more involved at Hotel Tresanton in Cornwall, partly because we have a little cottage down there – so we spend all summer and Easter there.

I’m desperate for the environment. I’m desperate about the plastic in the sea; mercury in the ocean. Those are things that make me weep. I was brought up in fruitful Mediterranean Italy – in a land of plenty. You go to the Med now and there are no fish. You don’t have to read the statistics about the astonishing amount of plastic that we throw away, because all you have to do is go to the supermarket and extrapolate. I think it’s astonishing how great an impact the plastic bag tax has had. It just shows that you can change people’s habits quickly – if there’s a determination to do it.

Alex Polizzi’s shows, Peyton and Polizzi’s Restaurant Rescue and The Hotel Inspector, air on Channel 5.