It is a heart-warming rags-to-riches story that gives hope to the homeless and anyone who finds themselves down on their luck.
An African immigrant who slept rough after arriving in Scotland is taking over as owner of a restaurant founded by the Scottish chef who gave him a job.
Nico Simeone is stepping down from running his eponymous 111 by Nico and handing it over to his deputy and one-time rough sleeper Modou Diagne who has become a valued colleague and friend.
111 by Nico will close on 23 March for refurbishment and re-branding to become ‘111 by Modou’ from 3 April.
Modou, originally from Senegal, spent much of his younger life in Spain. At 18, he came to Glasgow by himself with only £200 in his pocket to look for a new life
He slept rough for ten days until he found refuge in a Shelter charity church that helps the homeless and eventually he found permanent shelter.
After a year continuously applying for jobs with no success due to very poor English, he stumbled across a recruitment advert Nico had posted online or a kitchen porter at 111 by Nico. Within three minutes of the ad going live, Modou has applied.
Nico met and hired Modou in June 2014 and began to teach him the skills required in a restaurant. Modou was able to save enough money working at 111 to move into a hostel and get off the streets.
From this point forward there was no stopping his ambition and drive to succeed.
Nico set up 111 in 2015 in Kelvinside and launched the first Six by Nico in Finnieston two years later in 2017. He opened his second site in Edinburgh in 2018 and last year expanded outside Scotland, opening restaurants in Belfast, Manchester and Liverpool with London Fitzrovia due to open on 31 March.
Working with Nico over the years, Modou has played an intrinsic role in the 111 by Nico story and its success. He helped with the launch of previous menus such as the ‘Trust’ and ‘Total Trust’ concepts, and spearheaded the recently introduced and hugely popular 10-Course Tasting Menu.
Climbing up the ranks from kitchen porter to head chef, Modou’s journey at 111 is only the beginning as Nico offers him the opportunity to make his mark in the industry under his own brand, marking the next chapter in Modou’s inspiring and remarkable story.
Commenting on his decision, Nico said: “The time feels right, for both myself and Modou. This has been a personal dream of mine since meeting Modou in 2014, not only getting to know him as a close colleague, but he has become like family to me.
“Six by Nico is going from strength to strength, and as such there are increasing requirements for my energy to continue that development. There is no one I trust more to hand the reins to than Modou.
“This is Modou’s time to write his own story in the industry, and I will always be there to offer guidance and support when he needs it. Modou is ready to begin his next challenge so as one chapter comes to an end for me at 111, another opens for Modou – and I am really excited about it.”
Modou Diagne said: “This opportunity is completely life changing for myself and my family back home. Having moved here in 2013, I would never have dreamed that I would be in this position 7 years later”.
“My hard work has paid off but more so, this is a really special to me as Nico is like a brother. I am more than ready for this next chapter at 111 and I look forward to showing everyone in the industry what myself and my team can do here at 111 by Modou.”