Money & Me: Dubai restaurateur sees bricks and mortar as best investment

Louis Abdilla is the general manager of the recently opened Tre by Roberto Rella, a restaurant and lounge at the Radisson Royal Hotel Dubai. The Briton, 56, has spent 41 years in the restaurant business working with leading culinary names such as the Roux brothers and Marco Pierre White. He moved to Dubai in 2009 to run Zuma Dubai.

Describe your financial journey so far.

My first job was working in a kitchen washing pots and pans at 15. This gave me the first step up the ladder where I trained in the kitchen preparing starters and eventually moved to the restaurant carrying food and empty plates. My early life lessons about money were very simple – always live within your means and if you want something desperately then save up for it. Nowadays everyone is living above their means and are always in the red. I worked in Malta until I was 18 and applied for a job in the UK which saw me through catering college for five years, finishing at City and Guilds. I then moved to the most important part of my career working with the likes of the Roux brothers, Michel and Albert Roux, where I started as assistant sommelier and worked my way up to general manager after 14 years with the company. They say that by the time you are a juvenile money has no real meaning; by the time you are in your late 20s it starts to sink in but there is never enough; by the time you reach your late 30s you start to put some money away for a rainy day; by the time you reach your mid-40s you have some security but also too many bills, and by the time you reach your mid-50s you need less money as you eat less, wear the same clothes and start to become boring. I have contradicted all these sayings and live life to the full.

Are you a spender or saver?

A bit of both really. I tend to live within my means and occasionally go mad, treating myself to an expensive suit or a nice pair of hand-made shoes. I keep abreast of my outgoings and hold back from things that I do not necessarily need. Going round the shops in the malls is very tempting, and if you do not have a strong willpower you get sucked in.

What is your philosophy towards money?

Money is there to be enjoyed – it’s no good just looking at it. If you have more than you need, share it with your loved ones or give some to charity. You cannot take it with you when you go, so you might as well enjoy it and have the pleasure to see others enjoy it with you.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

There have been one or two like buying a house in a non-affluent area where property does not really reflect the same rate of growth as other areas. One should learn from mistakes and move on – nothing good comes from crying over spilt milk.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

Put it towards a small apartment for my two boys to ensure some financial security for their future. They are 26 and 28 and live in the UK.

What has been your best investment?

My house in the UK, there is no better investment than bricks and mortar.

Do you plan for the future?

I tend not to plan too much. You hear of people who saved up all their lives so that one day they will do this and one day they will do that. Unfortunately, for most of them that one day never comes or it comes too late. I try to take one day at a time. I have no immediate plans to retire, but God willing I would like to think 10 years from now. It’ll probably be in Cyprus or Thailand.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Good food, nice clothes, travel and one day my dream car. I am not saying what it is, apart from it having an AMG badge.

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