Despite the length of the journey travelled
from working as a restaurant dishwasher
to becoming one of Malta’s top cravingsatisfying
restaurateurs, Daniel Grech has
been in the business for no more than a
Surely everyone has tasted a dish from at least
one of restaurateur Daniel Grech’s eateries
around the island. If you haven’t cut a knife
through an Instagrammable pile of red velvet
pancakes from Shoreditch, then you’ve bitten
into a truffle burger from Burgers.Ink, or twirled
pad Thai noodles on chopsticks at one of his
most recent ventures – Asian restaurant Wagyu.
The 29-year old’s list of achievements is
impressive, especially when you consider
how his kitchen career began. He shows no
hesitation in telling his difficult story – one in
which he ended up homeless with no choice
but to fend for himself. But he was determined
to stand on his own two feet and make
something of himself, he says.
This ‘something’ began with him securing a job
as a dishwasher in a fine-dining restaurant in
Sliema, aged 19. At the time, he was looking to
make some money to pay his bills and just get
by. But he surprisingly started to enjoy life inside
the restaurant kitchen and all the adrenaline
it brought with it; far more than he expected
when he signed up for the job.
In awe, he would watch how an empty plate
would become the base upon which a lavish
meal would be built. He was also intrigued by
how the same ingredient could be transformed
into dramatically different culinary experiences.
“I found a love which I never thought I’d have…
It was very unexpected,” he recalls.
Plate by plate, his interest grew. Then, one
day, he came up with the idea of using part of
his wage to buy food and practice making the
restaurant’s dishes. After each dishwashing shift,
he would stay on in the kitchen and attempt
to recreate the meals he had been analysing
day after day, for months on end. Over time,
and with the mentorship of a veteran chef,
Elias, who had begun taking the youth’s effort
seriously, Daniel learnt the right length of time
for pasta to boil, for instance, and he perfected
that tricky technique to fillet a sea bass. His knife
skills became swifter and his meals better, until
he was finally offered the role of chef within the
It was during his next job that the seed of
cuisine experimentation was planted, when he
started work as a chef in a football club in Lija.
The Club’s menu boasted a range of cuisines,
reflecting the expertise and cultures of the chefs
who were creating them. There, Daniel worked
alongside a chef from the Philippines, one from
Thailand, and one from Malta. “I learnt a little bit
of everything,” he explains. It didn’t take long for
him to get promoted to head chef.
Going into Business
During those years at the football club, Daniel
gained enough confidence in his culinary skills
to branch off and set off on his first business
venture. Inspired by his love for eating at burger
joints while travelling overseas, and encouraged
by a lack of competition in the sector locally,
Daniel launched Shoreditch in Paceville.
While creating food that ticked all the right
boxes to warrant an Instagram foodporn
hashtag, Daniel used his time at Shoreditch for
unique culinary experiments built upon a burger
patty and arranged between a burger bun. He
expanded Malta’s tastebuds by introducing
burgers based on flavours we would not
typically associate with a burger: Carbonara,
Truffle, and BBQ, for example.
But Daniel could not sit still; he wanted to
experiment with an array of ideas and cuisines.
In fact, it is this will to constantly learn that
triggers all his different business endeavours. “I
like the excitement of learning new things, and
I’ve been this way ever since I can remember,”
he says. Till today, after a long evening at
work in one of his several restaurants, he sits
at his computer and spends hours browsing
through YouTube videos, learning more about
the cuisine he’s currently interested in. Eager
for new adventures, Daniel eventually placed
Shoreditch into new hands and began working
with entertainment magnate Frankie Grima,
who became his business partner. Together,
they opened numerous eateries dotted around
A Foodie Empire
Today, the easiest way to spot both Daniel’s
success and his cuisine exploration is to walk
along the area in Valletta where Old Theatre
Street meets Strait Street. On the latter stands
Loop Bar, a bar and café serving pizza, platters
and cocktails – Daniel’s first experience in the
Around the corner you can find Wagyu, which
specialises in Japanese cuisine. And next door
sits his steakhouse lounge Blackbull, looking
over St George’s Square.
Walk down the road towards the Manoel
Theatre and you will find the burger joint
Burgers.Ink, which Daniel refers to as his ‘baby’.
The burger shop’s popularity and success have
resulted in four outlets opening up around the
island, and an upcoming outlet in Mgarr, Gozo.
It was so popular during the pandemic that it
sustained all the others, Daniel says.
Not that COVID was easy for Daniel. With
restaurants closed for 14 long months off-and-on, takeaway became the company’s lifeblood.
As he reflects on the period, Daniel admits it
wasn’t easy, but it did lead to some silver linings
“The pandemic both destroyed me and made
me,” he says. “Before COVID, I was doing well
business-wise, but I was quite disorganised.
When it hit, I learnt my lesson that business isn’t
a game. It made me greatly appreciate my staff
and not take them for granted, and it prepared
me to mentally ready myself for the worst case
The pandemic has also refocused Daniel’s
attention. Besides continuing to burst with
ideas for his next big business venture, he has
come to realise the importance of a factor that
was, to a great extent, eliminated throughout
the pandemic – quality of service. To do this,
he is literally practicing what he preaches
and has started working as a waiter in his
own establishments. There, he learns from
– and teaches – his staff, socialises with his
customers, and keeps an eye on the quality of
the dishes as they emerge from the kitchen one
“Restaurant service is often underwhelming
in Malta. There should be a balance of great
food and great service, but I actually think great
service trumps great food. Customers want to
be communicated with and to feel comfortable
when they’re at a restaurant,” he says.
not only dishes from his own kitchens that
receive Daniel’s watchful eye. His critique has
expanded to thousands of homes around Malta
and Gozo, where viewers tune in to watch
Gourmet Challenge – a cooking competition
broadcast on national television. There, Daniel
stars as a judge, and critiques participants’
meals. Although occasionally blunt, he believes
in the importance of honest feedback to
achieve necessary improvements.
So, what next?
With so much happening for the restaurateur
in less than a decade, you can’t help but
wonder about his future plans and long-term
goals. However, for Daniel, the answer seems
obvious: “I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing –
experimenting, working hard, keeping my staff
happy. Sometimes succeeding and sometimes
failing. The most important thing is that I keep
trying,” he adds.
When it comes to his short-term goals,
however, there is always a new idea, a new
cuisine and a new establishment in mind. This
time, it’s YouTube videos of pizzaiolos he’s
watching, in the run up to his new pizzeria in
St Julian’s. After that, who knows? Eatery ideas,
like cuisines, are almost endless.