She began life as a humble waitress but now Vicki Ridgway is celebrating 10 years as the boss of one of Huddersfield’s top restaurants.

The elfin blonde started work in 2001 at The Keys in Byram Street and within three years she and her father David were partners.

Vicki, 35, said: “I was here when it first opened. I’d had other jobs but when I first came to work here I really, really liked this sort of work.

“It was strange because I had not thought about this sort of thing as a proper job. At the time I was 22 and just needed a job.

“I guess I had an interest in food and always enjoyed eating out and socialising with friends.

“I enjoyed working with people and liked the idea of going in somewhere feeling hungry and coming out feeling happy.”

And in those early years she was busy soaking up how the restaurant operated, observing how it was run and thinking how she would do things differently, never imagining she would ever get the chance.

But she admits becoming the boss was a steep learning curve. The transition from having been a colleague one day to managing people the next is never an easy one and she shudders slightly as she recalls those days. “It was awful, I hated it at first. There were issues with staff.

“I tried too hard to be everybody’s friend. I had to manage them. A lot of people left. But gradually I began to get to grips with things. I loved the place and the customers and everything about it.”

A lot of changes were needed and none of the original staff she had are with her now. She is now responsible for 12 full and part-time staff.

She was helped by a customer, Paul Wood, who eventually became her husband and gave her the necessary confidence to get to the top. She said: “I didn’t particularly try at school or go to university but Paul made me realise I could achieve more than I was doing.”

Vicky Ridgway at The Keys restaurant at Huddersfield Parish Church.
 

And within just a few years, by 2008, the couple were in a strong enough position to buy Vicki’s father out.

Vicki added: “I was worried at first about doing everything.” But the move worked well with “Paul doing the boring stuff while I train the staff and am the face of The Keys.

“One thing I learnt from observing previous owners here was you can’t just let staff get on with it, it doesn’t matter to them, it’s not everything to them.

“For example, I was left in charge when I had only been here three months and used to enjoy having a fag and putting my feet up!”

But despite the occasional bad days she says she has never looked back saying: “I was never good at people telling me what to do.”