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Entrepreneurial f The Premier Magazine For Food Entrepreneurs

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May 2017 Issue 11

10 Ways to Improve Your Yelp Reviews

Tried & True Methods for Getting New Clients

Chefs Who Started Small & Scaled

To Unimaginable

Heights

How To Go From

Concept to Reality

Four Decades of Innovative Culinary Education & Beyond

Richard Grausman


Entrepreneurial f Che

Magazine

May 2017 Volume 2 Issue #11 Publisher Rennew Media, LLC Editor Shawn Wenner Cover Richard Grausman Cover Photographer Tori Soper Graphic Designer Rusdi Saleh Contributing Editor Kaiko Shimura Contributors Monti Carlo, Ray Payne, Ira Gostin, Katie Eberle, Amy Riolo, Deb Cantrell, Jeff Grandfield and Dale Willerton Photo Credits Courtney Apple, Donn Jones, Rodney Bedsole, Cristian Zuniga, Rey Lopez, Amber Frederiksen, Scott Roth, Ed Krieger, Jerry Ruotolo, Kathryn Cooper, Jody Horton Special Thanks Richard Grausman, Joyce Appelman, Jernard Wells, Carlos Scott, Tanya Holland, Tim Ma, Jehangir Mehta No content, for example, articles, graphics, designs, and information in this publication can be reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher. For advertising information, letters to the editor, or submission inquiries, please email: Contact@EntrepreneurialChef.Com All Rights Reserved © 2017 Entrepreneurial Chef Published by Rennew Media, LLC 2

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Editor’s Note

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single phrase spoken by aspiring food entrepreneurs can literally make my skin crawl. The phrase is, “I don’t have the money to get started.” Even typing the words gave me the willies! Yet, too often I hear such nonsense from people, and yes, I said nonsense. To be fair, I acknowledge certain business models require an extensive amount of capital to launch. However, I’m flabbergasted at those who simply give up, or pray for money to magically appear – news flash, it never does. When I hear someone mutter the phrase, I simply ask, “how can you get started without the money?” You see, asking the question removes the obstacle, money, and sparks creativity. It’s not to say a business can be started without a dime spent, but the type of business can be altered to accommodate the financial commitment one can afford. For this reason, we worked to find guests who harnessed the power of “how.” Food entrepreneurs who started small and scaled. From Jehangir Mehta who opened his restaurant in a dilapidated building, Tim Ma who used cash advances on credit cards for funding, Jernard Wells who launched a food business in his mother’s kitchen, Tanya Holland who leveraged her media savvy to build her brand, and Richard Grausman who impacted tens of thousands through culinary education one student at a time. Our guests started where they were, with what they had, and you can too! As always, I sincerely hope this issue provides timely ideas, inspiration, and actionable advice! Cheers, Shawn Wenner


Contents Editor’s Note............................................2

36 21 32 49

4 17

Tanya Holland From Under-Capitalized to Keys to the City ..................................4 10 Ways To Improve Your Restaurant’s Yelp Reviews.................. 17 Jehangir Mehta The Business of Juxtaposing Ingredients, Textures & Tastes........... 21 Likes, Clicks & Shares Don’t Move the Needle!..................... 32 Richard Grausman Four Decades of Innovative Culinary Education & Beyond........... 36

85 90

7 Tried and True Methods for Getting New Clients........................ 49 Tim Ma The Mechanical Engineer Turned Entrepreneurial Chef............................. 54 Writing a Cookbook Proposal.............. 65 Jernard Wells The Art of Diversifying Your Talent.............................................. 70 Build it Around Fire.............................. 82

54 65 3

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From Concept To Reality..................... 85 Understanding the Significance of Signage.............................................. 90


Success Story

The Art of Persistence:

From Under-Capitalized to Keys to the City

Tanya

Holland 4

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Success Story

Patrons

at Tanya Holland’s soul food restaurant, Brown Sugar Kitchen, have been known to leave behind love letters to her Creole shrimp and grits. Even New York Times Food Editor Pete Wells tweeted his regret that Holland’s restaurant was not around the corner from his house. “WOW is Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA a good restaurant,” tweeted Wells. Her restaurants have received a long list of awards, including the “Bib Gourmand” rating from the Michelin Guide and “Best New Barbecue in the USA” from Food and Wine Magazine. She is so esteemed in her adopted community that the mayor and city council passed a resolution declaring June 5th, 2012 as “Tanya Holland Day.” If such an honor wasn’t enough, in 2014 the mayor gave Holland the keys to the city. Yet, Holland’s success in the kitchen and as a restauranteur is only part of the story. As the host of the “Melting Pot Soul Kitchen” on the Food Network in the early 2000’s, author of two cookbooks, “New Soul Cooking” and “Brown Sugar Kitchen: New Style Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland,” and a regular on NBC’s “Today Show” and CBS’s “The Talk,” Holland truly has diversified her talent. Holland has even contributed to Food and Wine and Signature Bride magazines. She has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Savoy magazine, Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Food and Wine, O Magazine, Ebony, Essence, and local publications. More than a chef, author or restauranteur, however, Holland sees herself as an entrepreneur. 5

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“What I really like about the business is the entrepreneurial aspect,” said Holland, “I really like building businesses and creating things.” Growing up in the suburbs of Rochester, New York, Holland learned early about the power food has to bring people together. As a child, her parents founded a gourmet cooking and eating club that included couples from a variety of ethnic and professional backgrounds. Such exposure to foods ability to bridge differences is reflected in Brown Sugar Kitchen’s menu as well as her philosophy as an entrepreneur. As a business owner, her belief in the power of diversity reflects not only in those she hires, but the clientele her restaurant serves. In our interview, Holland shares invaluable insights for aspiring food entrepreneurs. From the initial leap and the “big learning curve” she faced, to the ways she’s enrolled people into her entrepreneurial vision. Holland even talks about what it’s like to be “under-capitalized,” the real story behind getting incredible press coverage, and how she anyone looking to cash in on their passion for cooking as a food entrepreneur will need to “learn the business” side of the equation.


Success Story

& QA The

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industry?

Tanya Holland

Can you share a little of your background and what attracted you to the culinary

Growing up, my parents had a gourmet cooking club, so I was exposed to culinary at a young age. My parent are from the south, so food was a big part of their social life. I really absorbed a lot from that experience. In college, I started working in restaurants for some extra money and hosted friends’ dinner parties for fun. I was one of the only ones who knew how to cook or had an interest in cooking, and then I found another friend with a similar interest, so we started experimenting. Shortly after college, I moved to Manhattan, worked in restaurants, and started taking cooking classes at what was Peter Kump’s Cooking School – now ICE, The Institute of Culinary Education. I met a lot of instructors who had gone to this cooking school in France. 6

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While working as a manager at a catering company, a woman walked in with the school of LaVarenne on her resume. At the time, I had always wanted to live and work in France, so I decided to attend LaVarenne for culinary studies. Throughout the early stages of my career, I had been closely watching successful restaurateurs, and I noticed they were either chef-owner operators or operators who really knew food and they had spent time abroad. So I went to school thinking it was just to broaden my knowledge of food, not necessarily to become a chef. Fast forward, and I ended up staying in the kitchen until this day. It’s been a good place for me. What I really like, though, is the entrepreneurial side of the business. What really inspires me, more than being a chef or restaurateur, is being an entrepreneur and building or creating businesses.


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When did you take the entrepreneurial leap full-time and what was this period like for you? It was shortly after I moved to the Bay area. I was actually thinking of leaving restaurants, and then I met some people who wanted to support me and invest if I opened a place. So, I said, ‘Oh well, let’s give this another shot.’ I started looking for restaurant spaces, business partners, and investors; it was an interesting process. You often work alone as an entrepreneur, so it was definitely lonely. You have this vision, and you’re trying to convince other people it’s viable, but it’s not something tangible they can sink their teeth into. I had to jump through a lot of hoops – more than I expected. At the time, I had 20 years in the business, so I thought I already proved myself, but

without owning a restaurant prior, people weren’t necessarily comfortable with the idea. It was all a big learning curve. From learning the financial and operational sides of the business – something my culinary school did not teach – to hiring different consultants, it’s been some expensive lessons. The initial period was hard. I was working to get the project off the ground but had to pay my bills, so I was working flexible catering jobs at the same time. It was a tough period.

I had to jump through a lot of hoops – more than I expected. — Tanya Holland

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Success Story

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How did you enroll people in the vision for your business so our readership can model after you? Persistence. I was persistent with everyone. Truthfully, I’m still working on it because my vision is bigger than what I’ve accomplished thus far. Also, I think you always should continue to learn. I will talk to anybody who will listen and listen to anyone who will talk. You just keep plugging away.

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Was there a time when it all seemed like it wasn’t working? If so, can you share this period and how you made it through?

Talk to anybody who will listen and listen to anyone who will talk. — Tanya Holland

Yes! And it’s still happening (laughs). In the beginning, I was under-capitalized. Sure, I opened the doors and customers would come and spend money, but when overhead was a certain amount and revenue didn’t add up I’d think, ‘Oh, what do I do now?’ The answer? Go try finding more money, change the labor model, or get creative with both. Even now, it’s happening again as I’ve had equipment setbacks, lawsuits, and other business expenditures. I think entrepreneurs are forever working to gain some momentum.

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Some food entrepreneurs would love the press coverage you’ve received, as such, can you share some insights on getting coverage? Even the effect from a business standpoint? Just know, it’s been a blessing and a curse. The press has been very generous to me, mainly because I have a very different story. If you have a unique story, the press becomes very interested.

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SSuccess u c c e s s Story Story There are not too many female African-American chefs in the industry today who are media savvy, have trained abroad, and run a popular restaurant doing sustainable work and giving back to the community. It’s a different storythe press enjoys covering. The real conversation is that despite all the press, I still do not have much access to capital. It’s a mystery at times. Everybody loves my food, the press loves me, but my expansion efforts are falling short. The main reason – just like being a new entrepreneur with a concept nobody’s seen before – there are few African-American restaurateurs, so it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around. Another thing people don’t realize, especially when they see you in the media, they think someone with all that attention is set. They believe everything has fallen in place for that person and it’s working out for them. And they think maybe you’ve monetized because you show up in the media, but they don’t realize you don’t get paid for that exposure, and sometimes it costs money. When I go on the Today Show, it costs money. I have to pay for the flight and hotel, so it’s an investment. I think that’s something I have always done and encourage entrepreneurs to do – continually re-invest in yourself. Don’t always look for that big paycheck. The bigger paycheck will come if you keep investing in your own education in the industry.

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How does someone capitalize on press coverage for it to be advantageous for them from a business perspective? I share any coverage with potential investors, industry influencers, and my social media community so the word can spread. 9

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Entrepreneurs are forever working to gain some momentum. — Tanya Holland


Success Story

The bigger paycheck will come if you keep investing in your own education in the industry. —Tanya Holland

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Success Story When you get coverage, it might be the time to put it out there that you’re looking for investors. Go to a real estate developer and say, ‘Hey, I’m not alone. I’m getting ready to get all this attention, and I want to open my own place.’ Leverage it if you can.

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Do you have any values or personal philosophies you live by that carry you through both in life and business? I am a perfectionist. I really try to do my best and present my best. I always say my mission is, and has always been, to be aware of the necessity of diversity and integration of all kinds of people. Not just racially, but ethnically, socially and economically. My goal is to keep promoting environments like that. So, who I hire and who I serve and interact with, that influences my work.

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What do you look for in potential employees to ensure they fit the culture of the business? Definitely integrity and a good work ethic. They don’t necessarily have to have experience in the industry, but they must possess a desire to learn and grow – this is very important. Also, curiosity and discipline. I feel if they have that in their life it translates well to their work.

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How do you drive a strong culture of service in your restaurant?

I work to instill in my employees that service is the most important. We’re here to provide service, and to be thoughtful in our service. It’s important they be proactive and anticipate someone’s needs instead of them telling you what they want. It goes for co-workers as well. I cross-train all my staff, so they are educated on how everything works together. I find it works best when everybody is cross-trained with the same goal in mind.

My mission is, and has always been, to be aware of the necessity of diversity and integration of all kinds of people. —Tanya Holland

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Success Story

Have a vision for what you want to accomplish, what your food business will look like, and work for someone who is doing something similar so you can learn from them. — Tanya Holland

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Success Story

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Have you had to deal with negative reviews either from critics or patrons, and if so, how do you deal with those?

Yes, of course! I was told by someone many years ago that I would get a lot of criticism in my career and to just tak it and work on making it better. First, I evaluate to see if the event really happened or if the person was just having a bad day. I find one of our staff members who was involved and ask if they can recall the event. Then it depends on the severity of the complaint as to whether I’m going to offer some kind of compensation or not. Most importantly, I try to acknowledge what people are saying, and will offer an apology at times. I always keep in mind, this business is subjective, or a matter of taste.

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Get out of your comfort zone and learn all aspects of the business – it’s really helpful. — Tanya Holland

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What is the best advice that helped you grow professionally in your career?

Some of the professional service people I’ve worked with know I have a strong intuition and I have always said to “trust my intuition. ”When I do, that’s usually when I make the best decisions around my business. The best advice I can give to other food entrepreneurs is, talk to as many people as you can and listen to as many that will talk. And try to learn from other’s experiences and mistakes if you can.


Success Story

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With the importance of sustainability and minimizing waste, can you share some of your practices? The biggest thing we do is compost our food scraps with a local garden. Our raw food scraps, egg shells and coffee grinds go to a community garden down the street. What’s so good about that is it also helps with our fees for garbage. We do a lot of recycling of plastic, and we even recycle our oil. We have a company that picks up our dirty, unusable oil. We also work to source products from local vendors who also practice sustainability. Overall, we try not to have a lot of waste.

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What are some final thoughts for the readership of aspiring food entrepreneurs?

Have a vision for what you want to accomplish, what your food business will look like, and work for someone who is doing something similar so you can learn from them. Also, get out of your comfort zone and learn all aspects of the business – it’s really helpful. I spent 7 years in the front-of-the-house and I’d go back and forth sometimes, all before I went to culinary school, and that time and experience was very valuable. And don’t think you will just cook this magical dish and everyone will flock to your place. It’s much more complicated than that, so learn the business. Photo Credits: Lisa Keating Photography, Tanya Holland & Jody Horton

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Top Ten Takeaways from Tanya Holland 1

Any entrepreneur needs to be open to learning from other business owner’s successes and failures.

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Getting started as a food entrepreneur isn’t easy. Be prepared to enroll people in your vision with a compelling story.

2

Diversity makes life richer and more flavorful and that is especially true in the restaurant industry.

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Prepare for the unexpected by creating a cushion in your business plan if possible.

3

As a business owner, become locally focused with a vested interest in doing good in your community.

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Persistence, persistence, persistence. Always keep moving forward.

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A desire to listen, as well as a willingness to share your own story can help in your journey.

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Every food entrepreneur will need to nurture their own resilience to overcome a slate of obstacles.

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Don’t just learn one way of doing things, learn as much as you can from a variety of people to help in your entrepreneurial journey. Never stop investing in yourself, it will pay in dividends.

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CORE supports children of food + beverage employees navigating life-altering circumstances/conditions. Learn how you can help at COREgives.org

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Reputation Management

10 Ways To Improve Your Restaurant’s Yelp Reviews

By: Monti Carlo

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Reputation Management FACT: In the hospitality industry ‘word of mouth’ is your most powerful marketing tool. Yelp is “word of mouth” on steroids. It is the platform used most often when people are trying to decide where to eat. Check out these stats: 98% of Yelp users have made a purchase at a business they found on Yelp, with nearly 90% of them doing so within a week. A one-star increase in your Yelp rating can increase your revenue by nearly 10%. Just a half-star bump in your Yelp rating can bring almost 20% more people through your doors at peak times. The bottom line is clear: a great Yelp rating is the easiest, cheapest way to increase revenue and your customer base. Here are 10 Ways to get the best Yelp rating possible.

the top for a customer. It could be as simple as writing them a thank you note after they celebrate their birthday at your establishment and giving them dessert on the house.

3.

FOH and BOH should know the menu inside and out. They should taste every dish. Servers should have a detailed understanding of how every item on the menu is prepared and the ingredients used to make it. This will allow them to truly sell the food and make informed recommendations to diners especially those with food allergies. Kitchen staff should work from a recipe bible that allows for consistency in the way each dish is prepared and presented.

A one-star increase in your Yelp rating can increase your revenue by nearly 10%.

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Your chef should consider how a dish photographs and plate accordingly. Make sure your dinnerware is flaw— Monti Carlo Make a great first less. Pretty presentations impression #IRL and make for incredible photos #Online: Of course, you and on Yelp that equals money in know that your restaurant needs to the bank! be clean and welcoming in real life, but so does your Yelp page. Claim it, add incredible photos Have BOH and FOH staff dine at your and videos and make sure you have filled your establishment so they can see the expeprofile out correctly. If you look at your profile rience from a customer’s perspective. A page and think “This place looks amazing!” so comped meal can get you valuable feedback on will thousands of other foodies on Yelp. what needs improvement.

1.

5.

2.

Train your staff to give the kind of service people will Yelp positively about. We are in the hospitality business! Staff should have a deep understanding of what that really means. Be genuine, friendly and accommodating at all times and customers will notice. Use the “And One” technique and think of the one thing that could take the experience over 18

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6.

Be proactive and monitor reviews on your Yelp page daily. Acknowledge positive reviews and negative reviews. Thank clients that had a great time and invite them back. Apologize to those that had a bad experience and find out what you can do to make it better.


Reputation Management

Get rid of any item that you aren’t absolutely knocking out of the park. — Monti Carlo

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Have a floor manager that actually works the floor. Great managers are the eyes, ears, and helping hands of your dining room. They should quickly deal with any situation that arises, whether it’s helping a server that is in the weeds or buying a round of drinks for a table that has been waiting too long for food.

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Have your chef give your menu a make-under. Less is always more. When you focus your menu, you are doing your FOH, BOH and your food cost a solid. Take the time to figure out how many different dishes you can pump out while still maintaining efficiency, quality and staying on brand. Get rid of any item that you aren’t absolutely knocking out of the park.

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Smaller stations are a must. Servers running around in a panic isn’t a good look. Give staff a chance to really focus on the client and to not just meet expectations but surpass them.

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10.

Watch #HelpMyYelp on @FoodNetwork! Seriously. Seeing how quickly you can affect change in your Yelp reviews by simply finding the things you can do better and fixing them can be all the motivation you need to get started! Photo Credit: Food Network

Monti Carlo is a chef, restaurant consultant, and bacon aficionado. She spent decades working front and back of the house at restaurants across the country before she traded her apron for a microphone. After hosting award-winning morning radio shows in Phoenix, Atlanta and Seattle, Monti stepped back in the kitchen and has appeared as a judge on shows including Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped Junior and Food Network Star. The Puerto Rican blogger is also behind islandgirlcooks.com.


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Success Story

The Business of

Juxtaposing Ingredients, Textures & Tastes

Jehangir Mehta

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Success Story

Chef

Jehangir Mehta is as intriguing and multi-faceted as his dishes. A pastry chef by training, Mehta honed his craft with the likes of James Chew, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Rocco DiSpirito, and Didier Virot, quickly becoming one of the most celebrated pastry chefs in New York City. While Mehta gathered acclaim for his creative, unorthodox desserts, he transitioned to savory in 2007 when he opened Graffiti Food & Wine. Coupling Asian flavors with French and American cuisine, the restaurant was named the 11th best in New York City by Zagat, and has continued to be a success. Mehta then branched out to Me & You, a unique private dining experience, Mehtaphor, and Graffiti Earth, which strives to minimize waste and provide fine dining through sustainable means.

An entrepreneur at heart, Mehta spoke to us about how a cooking camp for kids evolved into catering events, how he opened Graffiti, some lucky breaks, and sustainability. Quiet, humble, yet incredibly talented, Mehta also talked with us about the value of employees and the lessons he’s learned in opening three hugely successful restaurants. Background Born in Mumbai, Mehta had expressed an interest in food and cooking from an early age. This lifelong interest led to his enrollment in first the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering, Technology, and Applied Nutrition in Mumbai, then the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. There, he honed his culinary skills and started his professional career at L’Absinthe in 1996. Next, he moved on to Typhoon Brewery where he worked with James Chew, then to Jean-Georges in 1997. Mehta was selected by Jean-Georges Vongerichten to open the now 22

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renowned Mercer Kitchen the following year. In 1999, Mehta left Mercer Kitchen to work with Rocco DiSpirito at his restaurant, Union Pacific, before joining Didier Virot in opening Virot, then Aix in 2002. With a star-studded resume, Mehta started to branch out on his own in 2003. After establishing an event management company, the celebrated pastry chef started a cooking class for children aged 4 to 14, called Candy Camp. When parents started to express interest in learning how to cook from Mehta as well, he expanded his program to include cooking classes for adults. Then came requests to cater events and weddings.


Success Story

Social media is a time-consuming process but at least there is a medium for individual people to get their voice heard. — Jehangir Mehta

The next step was opening his own restaurant, Graffiti, in 2007. Combining Mehta’s love for Asian spices with French and American cuisine, the 450 square foot restaurant received highly favorable reviews and press. Zagat would later list it as the 11th best restaurant in New York City. With the opening of a successful restaurant, and the publication of his first cookbook, “Mantra: The Rules of Indulgence,” Mehta had transformed from a brilliant pastry chef into one of the most talked about chef owners in New York City. Graffiti was followed with a second restaurant/private dining experience, Me & You. An interactive, multi-sensory experience with food, music, and wine that are crafted with personal tastes in mind, it remains one of New York City’s best-kept dining secrets. While managing two successful and busy 23

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restaurants, Mehta also appeared on Iron Chef America in 2009, where he lost to Chef Masaharu Morimoto by a mere two points. Later that same year, he finished second in The Next Iron Chef. Since then, he has made multiple television appearances on shows such as the Martha Stewart Show, Dr. Oz, and Master Chef India. In 2016, Mehta’s third restaurant, Mehtaphor, was rebranded as Graffiti Earth, which currently focuses on sustainable fine dining. Utilizing “ugly” vegetables and damaged seafood, such as scallops in broken shells, Mehta and his team have managed to vastly minimize food waste, both in how they procure supplies and how they cook. The forward-thinking venture has been a success; Graffiti Earth has received a flood of favorable reviews for the quality of its food while keeping waste levels impressively low.


Success Story

Fears and Hurdles Despite Mehta’s decades of experience in illustrious kitchen across New York City, he told us that the experience of opening Graffiti was still a very uncertain one. Looking back, the chef that always loved the business side of the kitchen gave us some great advice: “If you think uncertainty is something you can’t cope with, don’t do it.” Mehta believes that he was fortunate in that his wife had a stable income which could support both of them should the restaurant venture fail. “It has to do with where you are in your life,” he said, pointing out that at that time he also had no children, “and the cash flow you have to take care of yourself. I was very fortunate to have that [cash flow], but taking the leap was still very difficult.” Mehta also mentioned that outside of cash flow, entrepreneurs must be mentally ready to fail. Even if cash flow is not a large hurdle, such as in Mehta’s case that is not to say he didn’t deal with setbacks. He recalled the time as “not mentally a very nice place to be.” Though he was able to work out of that slump, Mehta emphasized the importance of the ability to deal with failure. “You have to go with the possibility that you’re not going to succeed,” he said, “are you that person who can manage disappointment? If you’re not that human being, don’t do it.”

Firstly, I look at the human being, I don’t look at the experience, that’s the way I like to hire. — Jehangir Mehta

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Though this period was full of uncertainty, Mehta pointed out that he took comfort in knowing that should Graffiti not succeed, he would be able to find a full-time position quite quickly. With an impressive resume and having made a name for himself, Mehta was also doing a fair amount of consulting, which added to his realization that his expertise was in demand. That safety net was critical in that Mehta knew that he would be able to make up for any losses rather easily. “I think all of that makes the fear better, because it puts you in a more comfortable position,” he said, “but of course, the fear of not having what you really wanted to do is always there.”


Success Story

If you think uncertainty is something you can’t cope with, don’t do it. — Jehangir Mehta

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Success Story Mehta likened the gamble of opening Graffiti as an affliction that can affect anyone, rich or poor. Mehta knew that he had a safety net and more funds than most first-time chef owners, yet branching out was just as risky. “That disappointment will always be there, no matter where you look [when you open a restaurant],” he said.

Walking the Path and Lessons Learned When we asked about the process of opening Graffiti, the first thing that Mehta mentioned was the small size of all of his restaurants. Mehta told us how he walked around the areas that he personally enjoyed. A love for the Washington Square area eventually led Mehta past a sign for a space in the East Village. The space was old and run down, with a tilted sign, but offered directly by the owner. He called the next day, and the owner said yes. “It just happened,” he said, “it’s a 450 square restaurant. A lot of people told me it was too small, but I was

like no, I want to keep it small because my risks are less and the chances for success are even greater. I ran a few numbers in my head and I felt that even if we were slow, the chances of failing would be the least.” Even with this calculated approach, with no budget for PR or marketing, one main issue was getting press coverage for Graffiti. In this respect, Mehta believes he was lucky: three or four other famous pastry chefs had left their positions at around the same time to open their own restaurants. “We were lucky in that we all left our positions to start our own businesses, and we fed into each other’s stories,” he said, “if one was mentioned in some article, they would still mention the two of us, and if I was mentioned, then those two were mentioned. So it really helped. I think the timing just managed to be right. I think it was a lucky break for all of us.” A PR company that Mehta had worked with at a previous restaurant also did some pro bono publicity work for Graffiti in the first month of its opening. “It was very nice of them to personally do that,” Mehta said, “and get the knowledge out there that I had started my own place.”

You can pay attention to more things like wastage when you have technology around you in a larger space versus a smaller space where you can just see it. — Jehangir Mehta

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Success Story

People are so used to focusing on so many things at once that their idea of focusing on one job very well is decreasing. — Monti Carlo

However, Mehta also points out that how much traffic or press an owner can get depends on a number of factors, not least of which is how much one is loved by the press. He mentioned too that those with a bigger budget for a PR company and a marketing company will always get more press, even if the chef is less talented than a chef at a smaller restaurant with a much smaller budget. At the same time, those without the budget do have other methods of getting the word out about a new restaurant in the form of social media. “Social media is a time-consuming process,” he said, “but at least there is a medium for individual people to get their voice heard.” While Mehta insisted that he was lucky, there is something to be said for the impressive amount of work he has put into developing his career and his business acumen. He is consistently careful in how he approaches the different aspects of a restaurant, such as selecting a square space instead of a long, rectangular one. “You might need a host in the front because the restaurant is so long and or because it’s not an open kitchen,” he pointed out, “so there are many variations of how you can cut back on labor costs just because a restaurant is built differently.” Mehta went on to explain how he focused on aspects such as cutting down food 27

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costs – the most variable expense in a restaurant – and limiting the need for a large team of employees with a smaller restaurant.

The Right People Though Mehta manages a relatively small team at all of his restaurants, he is extremely careful in how they’re chosen. “Firstly, I look at the human being, I don’t look at the experience,” he said, “that’s the way I like to hire. That has worked for me. It doesn’t matter how good your guy is, if he has a bad attitude, he is going to be very, very hard to work with. You have to be very sure not to make that mistake.” In an industry where turnover is more often measured in months rather than years, Mehta has managed to keep employees for impressively long periods of time. His sous chef worked with Mehta for close to seven years prior to opening Graffiti and they traveled as a package deal. If a restaurant refused to take on Mehta’s sous chef as well as Mehta, Mehta would decline the job. When Graffiti opened, his sous chef also transitioned from primarily pastry to mostly savory. “For him, it was a big transition,” Mehta said, “but to have


Success Story that attitude where you know they will change and start making the things you want them to make, just because they know they are good at understanding food, is invaluable.”

socks, quite easily and therefore that can be managed. In contrast, with a larger restaurant, maintaining inventory, organizing ordering, and taking stock of what is going on in the establishment itself is like trying to keep track of ten children’s socks. It is much more difficult to keep everything organized in your head, and therefore technology is much more useful in a larger space. “You can pay attention to more things like wastage when you have technology around you in a larger space versus a smaller space where you can just see it,” he said.

Mehta’s sous chef stayed at Graffiti for another eight years, making their total time together an incredible fifteen years. Mehta has also developed a long-term relationship with his waiter at Graffiti, who has been with him for over ten years. Another waitress worked with Mehta for eight years and when she left, her brother picked up where she left off and has been For example, if a with Mehta for the past VIP client came to Graffour years. “I think when fiti, with its 5-table dining people know you have a area and a waiter that has — Jehangir Mehta particular personality, then been there since its opening, you attract that person’s friend there would be no confusion that who has a very similar personality,” he this was a VIP. The waiter has seen him said, “because they know you’ll get along with numerous times before, and there is no likelithem. It can really, really make a huge difference hood that another waiter would serve the VIP in knowing their personality and you can mold and fail to recognize the client as an important them into performing well.” one. However, in a 50-table restaurant, that

It has to do with where you are in your life and the cash flow you have to take care of yourself.

Going Hi-Tech In terms of technology, Mehta takes the sniper approach in his use of BlueCart to manage and organize inventory and ordering, and Open Table for online reservations, to name a few. However, he sees the restaurant industry moving towards mobile payment and believes it will become a crucial part of the business in the future. Mehta explained that one reason why he does not rely as heavily on technological tools as other restaurants is due to the small size of his restaurants. He made an analogy to having two children versus ten; with two children, you can see the supply and demand for, say, 28

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VIP may be missed through some miscommunication or human error. “It’s not that technology is not helpful in a smaller space,” he said, “but the need for it is less.”

When we asked about limiting waste and BlueCart, Mehta told us that he appreciates the application’s ease of use in managing inventory and ordering. Particularly in making orders, it has helped to remind him when he does or does not need to order a particular product. “It’s great because it creates a structure,” he said, “I think with how society is moving, I think people are getting distracted with many things. People are so used to focusing on so many things at once that their idea of focusing on one job very well is decreasing. So BlueCart makes that flow easier for that kind of human being.”


Success Story

Sustainability at Graffiti Earth Mehta’s third restaurant, Graffiti Earth, is uniquely focused on sustainability. Making use of “unloved produce and underutilized seafood, sustainable proteins and healthy grains,” Graffiti Earth marries Mehta’s signature eclectic style with a goal of limiting waste. This means using sustainable fish, and within that category, slightly injured products such as scallops in broken shells or “ugly” fruits and vegetables that would be unsuitable for the public market. Vegetable peels are used for a daily soup stock, the flavor of which can vary depending on the peels and remnants used that day. The concept of limiting food waste isn’t entirely new, but what Graffiti Earth does differently is that it takes that concept and applies it to the entire experience. Newspapers are used as placemats, and flatware, crockery, and utensils are all hand-me-downs from friends and family. Each napkin has been stitched together from scraps of cloth that would have been thrown away otherwise. Mehta told us that he has also never bought a writing pad for any of his waiters, as they cut up scrap paper to make small pads. It’s sustainability taken to the next level, where diners and servers alike are placed in an environment where careless waste is discouraged.

Me & You Towards the end of our interview, Mehta told us in detail about his second dining establishment, Me & You. The space offers two types of dining experiences: first, a group of two to twelve can reserve a private dinner that is specifically catered to their party. Mehta asks the group to fill out a questionnaire regarding their specific tastes and favorite colors and places, then infuses that into the five, six, or seven-course meal that is designed to tell a story. It is a multi-sensory experience with accompanying music that will change with each course. 29

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A lot of people told me it was too small, but I was like no, I want to keep it small because my risks are less and the chances for success are even greater. — Jehangir Mehta

Mehta also provides this experience for companies, calling them “ideation dinners” in which he will take a corporate concept and interpret it through food. “We take ideas of companies, of a project they’re working on,” he explained, “and we translate that into food.” The second type of dinner Mehta provides at Me & You is a dining experience in which he creates the menu and opens the table for the first fourteen people who reserve a spot. The menu often features flavors of the season, Mehta’s favorite wines, and a menu that is often inspired by his childhood. Every other month, Mehta also collaborates with artists, chefs, designers, and writers to bring together both art and food in a “memory-driven” menu. Despite the incredibly intriguing concept, Me & You has never received any press to date. “No one has written up about us,” Mehta said, “we’ve been very lucky; but why we haven’t been written [about]? What can I say? There’s nothing I can do about it.” Yet, Mehta’s dining experience has caught on, with smaller companies referring much larger ones and word of mouth spreading. For now, Mehta is quietly cultivating success at his three restaurants, and Me & You remains one of the most mysterious and thought-out dining experiences in New York City. Photo Credits: Courtney Apple, Donn Jones & Rodney Bedsole


Top Ten Takeaways from Jehangir Mehta 1

If you’re not comfortable with uncertainty, don’t open a restaurant or venture into entrepreneurialism.

2

Go into a venture knowing that you might not succeed. If you can’t deal with the consequent disappointment, it might not be for you.

3

Having a Plan B can help with the anxiety, but the fear of not accomplishing what you want to do will always be there. Be prepared to work with it.

4

A physically smaller space can impact your budget and costs, so take that into consideration when looking for a space. Also pay attention to how the space is set up and what that will mean in terms of labor costs.

5

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You can have a successful restaurant without press ever covering it, like Mehta’s Me & You.

entrepreneurial chef

6

Look at ways to reduce food costs, and any other variable costs, when operating a restaurant business.

7

Hire the right people and make sure you can work long hours with them.

8

Smaller spaces also decrease the need for a lot of expensive technological tools; with a smaller space, you don’t need all the bells and whistles to start operating.

9

Do your part for sustainability and look for ways to not only use underutilized produce and proteins, but also other ways in which you can reduce waste and expenses.

10

A PR and marketing firm will help you gain press coverage, but if you’re smaller, or don’t have a marketing budget, you to rely on word of mouth and social media.


Social Media

Likes, Clicks & Shares Don’t Move the Needle! By: Ira M. Gostin, MBA

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T

Social Media he more I speak with senior executives and business owners about their marketing, I am amazed to hear all the conversations about likes, clicks and shares and their importance to overall marketing strategy.

In the restaurant/chef world, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest have become the go-to communications tools. There are some amazing chefs showing their work on Instagram and promoting their restaurants and catering companies. Now before you label me a luddite, consider that, from a marketing perspective, the use of social media platforms (Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Yelp, Foursquare, Vimeo, etc.) is a tactic. There are marketing and communications agencies pitching the restaurant world with

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strategies of “social media is the holy grail of marketing.” Huh? Not by a long shot. We aren’t talking about which platform is more fun, or which one delivers the most prospects. We are talking about social media as a tactic from a marketing definition. Which means by definition, social media platforms should be a piece or pieces of a marketing or communications strategy encompassing multiple channels of communication. With LinkedIn at nearly half a billion users, Facebook at over one billion daily users, Twitter at 300-plus million users and Instagram with about the same, I’m not suggesting at all to ignore these tools and their members. What I am suggesting is without a clear and specific strategic plan, identifying the objectives to be filled by each tactic, you will revert to a series of social media analytics that do nothing for your bottom line.


Social Media Take a mythical chef/owner and restaurant, “Chef William” and “Bistro.” As annual goals, the owner identified 15 percent growth in gross revenue, 10 percent growth in weekly customer count and per ticket spending increase of 11 percent, while costs were contained and presumed to be flat for the upcoming year. Chef William has 5,000 followers on Twitter, 5,000 on Instagram and 2,500 on Facebook. He puts out several posts a day across each platform. Scrumptious food pictures, unique menu items, special pricing and more, all through hissocial media team. At the end of the first year, Chef William looked at the books for Bistro and finds this: Revenue basically flat, up 1percent Daily head count down on average of one person per week Per ticket spending up, 2.5 percent Costs up slightly at up 2 percent So what did all of the social media engagement and money spent actually do for the business? Chef also spent money on advertising and boosting posts, towards an annual spend of over $25,000 for all marketing efforts. Restaurants and catering company margins are already razor thin. This is money that Chef William could have easily put back in his own pocket, invested in his team or created upgrades to Bistro. While these are just some easy sample numbers, there are restaurants, bakeries, catering companies of all sizes who have put the Facebook page before the strategy and are not using the correct metrics to judge success. Had the owner at Bistro created a marketing 34

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and communications strategy before engaging social media, he might have learned a few things:  The messaging didn’t work for each of the social platforms because Instagram was just scoring hits based on cool photos, but not on engagement They were doing no targeted marketing to existing customers, so not creating per ticket growth opportunities  Some customers didn’t know where the restaurant was located, so no increased daily headcount A strategic plan would have fine-tuned the specific tactics to each market segment across comprehensive marketing platforms, not just through social media, and garnered some real “move the needle” results. A great SWOT analysis would have helped move this along too! Chinese philosopher and general Sun Tzu wrote 2,000 years ago, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Ira M. Gostin, MBA, is the president and chief marketing officer at 120 West Strategic Communications. He can be reached through the company’s website at www.120west.biz. 120 West works with a chef, a catering company, food events and a butcher shop as clients in the hospitality sector as well as clients in other sectors.


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Richard

Grausman

Success Story

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Four Decades

of Innovative Culinary Education & Beyond


Success Story

For

Richard Grausman, cooking began as a hobby. After graduating from the University of North Carolina with a degree in economics, he joined the Air Force National Guard before transitioning into the import industry. It wasn’t until he took cooking classes with James Beard that Grausman realized that culinary education was his calling. Quickly switching careers, Grausman enrolled in, and graduated from, Le Cordon Bleu Paris in 1967, and earned the prestigious Grand Diplome.

Grausman so impressed Madame Brassart, the school’s owner, that he became the first ever ambassador for Le Cordon Bleu, representing the school in events across the country. Grausman simultaneously became one of the most prolific culinary educators in the nation, teaching both in the U.S. and Canada and running travel seminars in Paris and the Cote d’Azur. His recipes and articles have been featured in a number of publications, and in 1988, Workman published his cookbook, “At Home with the French Classics” (later re-released in 2011 as “French Classics Made Easy”). In the age before foodies, celebrity chefs, and the Food Network, Grausman was quietly redefining cooking in America. He also redefined classical French cooking. His book, a culinary must-read for amateur and aspiring professional chefs alike, interprets French dishes for the busy home cook. Tweaking the recipes to reduce salt, butter, and sugar where necessary, Grausman also simplified techniques, keeping the modern cook in mind. The result is a classic in and of itself that demands shelf space in any food-loving kitchen. While a highly successful culinary educa37

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tor, a speech at an industry seminar in 1989 changed the course of Grausman’s career. In listening to an industry executive predict “the age of cookless kitchens,” Grausman sought ways in which he could change that prediction. Through his newly founded organization, C-CAP, Grausman’s initial plan was to teach French cooking in high school home economics courses. Yet, he soon realized that “some [of the students] couldn’t read of were working way below age level.” Those same students had few careers options after high school but came alive when cooking. Grausman connected the dots, understanding that there was an underserved student population that could benefit from developing culinary skills, and a restaurant industry that could benefit from fresh, new talent. When he approached the New York Board of Education with his idea of teaching student’s culinary skills, the response was positive, but moderated by the lack of funding. Grausman then raised the necessary funds himself, asked his publisher to donate his book as a textbook for students, and launched his first high school program.


Success Story The idea to supplement high school home economics classes eventually turned into C-CAP, which has grown exponentially. Students must adhere to Grausman’s personal “recipe for success”: show up on time, want to work, show interest and a desire to learn, ask questions, know basic knife skills, safety, and sanitation, and don’t be afraid to use a mop. There’s a minimum grade point average of 2.7 for most college scholarships, but C-CAP is interested in finding career opportunities for all their talented and conscientious students. The program is also focused on future employment, providing students with professional culinary skills and arranging summer jobs, permanent jobs, and mentors. With enthusiastic support from professional chefs and food industry executives alike, when Grausman learned that home economics teachers were paying out of pocket for supplies, he was quickly able to gather product and equipment donations. At the end of each year, C-CAP also holds a cooking competition, awarding its top winning student a full scholarship to one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the country. But it’s not a school chosen at random. Each student is interviewed by Grausman to determine their individual passions, then matched with a school that fits with their goals. Since its inception in 1990, C-CAP has awarded over $53 million in scholarships, and continues to provide training, internships, teacher training, and supplies and equipment to schools across the U.S. Every year, the program works with over 17,000 students and many of its alumni have gone on to develop extremely successful careers at some of the top restaurants and institutions in the nation. 38

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Some are now restaurant owners themselves. A growing number have had success on TV. Lester Walker, a Chopped Champion, Lasheeda Perry, winner of an episode of Sweet Genius, YvanLemoine, a finalist on The Next Food Network Star. Kelvin Fernandez the first C-CAP alum to Beat Bobby Flay, was followed by Brian Archibald and Brother Luck and Amar Santana and Sylva Senat have had great success on Bravo’s Top Chef. Yet, C-CAP is more than just a scholarship program. Outside the curriculum, students can gain industry insight and take advantage of community networking events. The organization also provides college application advice, encouraging those who hadn’t considered college to attend hospitality programs while minimizing debt. It is a multi-faceted program aimed at pushing disadvantaged students to pursue fulfilling careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry, while also encouraging diversity in the workplace. With an alumni network that gives back by taking on interns and serving as mentors, C-CAP has successfully closed the loop. It is no surprise, then, that C-CAP has earned the highest charity rating from the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator. Grausman himself has been awarded the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year award in 2001 and has received the highest honor in the nation for his work with C-CAP, the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. In our interview, Grausman spoke to us about the origins of C-CAP, what strategies he used to build awareness and the challenges he faced along the way. He gave us some great advice for students and culinary entrepreneurs alike, and what he believes has helped C-CAP grow.


Success Story

& QA The

with

Richard Grausman

1

What inspired you to create C-CAP? Was there a specific moment in time, or a culmination of events? I wanted to stem the tide towards the cookless kitchens of the future. Industry forecasters told of microwave ovens for the family car, and knowing how to cook would soon mean that you would be adept only in the use of the freezer and microwave oven. In addition, we were being told the family meal was becoming a rarity, with individual family members eating at different times and rarely sharing the same food. Children and teenagers were being exposed to the limited menus offered by fast-food chains, which tended to provide a diet high in fat and low in variety. While promoting my cookbook, I became a spokesperson for the launch of Dorman’s Low-Fat Cheese and went on a media tour to 39

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2

Philadelphia. While there, the publicist Joyce Appelman, now C-CAP’s Communications Director, had me prepare a classic French Omelette on the morning TV shows. On the train back to New York, Joyce and I spoke about teaching French cooking to high school students.

2

Traveling back to when C-CAP was strictly an idea, what gave you confidence it would be worth the time, energy, and money to build the organization?

I knew the state of Home Economics - now Family & Consumer Science - in 1990 and knew, from my past 20 years of teaching French cooking, that I could make a difference.


Success Story

3

Many alumni, now graduates of top culinary schools, are working in leading restaurants and hotels throughout the country. — Richard Grausman

3

In the beginning, what were some of the steps you took to turn your idea to a functioning organization?

My wife Susan, who was an elementary school teacher and I went to the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) to see if they would be interested in my idea. 40

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4

In the early stages, how were you able to create awareness for C-CAP and get the organization supported and adopted? I knew a lot of people in the food press from my 15 years of teaching for and representing Le Cordon Bleu de Paris and they all loved the idea of my helping the public schools and their students. I reached out to Joyce to help me publicize my new innovative project and she jumped in to give me her professional guidance. The New York City school programs needed help, and the media understood that this new initiative, in partnership with the NYCDOE, would make a difference in the lives of the inner-city teens and help keep them in high school so they could graduate. Many of these teens had to make a choice between joining gangs, selling drugs, or staying in school.


Success Story

Have patience, hone your skills, work for the best employers even if it pays less, don’t switch jobs for at least a year or 18 months, and be focused and eager to learn. — Richard Grausman

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5 Success Story

5

While building the organization to what it is today, what surprise – good or bad – did you encounter along the way?

The good surprise was that when introducing the program to people and funders, in and out of the industry, everyone loved it. It didn’t hurt that I started the program just when food, restaurants, and chefs were starting to get hot! We launched just a year before The Food Network aired. We created the first Cooking Competition for Scholarships, and the media jumped on board to cover the event. We approached foundations to support our programs. The negative surprise was that foundations thought we were too small to support. For the most part, we have had to support our programs around the country through funding developed out of New York City. Getting local or national support has been challenging. The foundations and industry partners that support C-CAP do realize the impact our programs and services provide to our teachers, students, and alumni.

6

What challenges did you face while building the organization? For instance, was there a time it almost failed?

Challenges occurred when school management changed from central to school-based. It was easy to show a school superintendentthe value of our program, but much more difficult to get a principal to allot funds for the program, but we have not been worried about 42

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Choose something in life that you love to do and do the best you can do each day. — Richard Grausman

failing. We encourage the principals to visit the culinary classroom to see the students cooking, along with the equipment and ingredients that we are able to donate to the culinary program. Awarding scholarships to the students has also helped to gain the enthusiasm from the principals.


Success Story

7

How did you overcome the aforementioned challenges?

Since 1990, the organization has awarded over $53 million in scholarships, provided job training and internships, college and lifetime career support, teacher training and product and equipment donations to classrooms across the country. C-CAP works with over 17,000 students nationwide each year. Through C-CAP’s efforts, large numbers of its students find rewarding careers in the foodservice and hospitality industry. Many alumni, now graduates of top culinary schools, are working in leading restaurants and hotels throughout the country. For the fourth year in a row, C-CAP received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the highest rating from the nation’s largest evaluator of charities.

I wanted to stem the tide towards the cookless kitchens of the future. — Richard Grausman

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8

8

In looking back, to what do you attribute the success of the organization?

My knowledge of cooking and my contacts in the industry have opened many doors for me and in turn for our graduates. Inviting professionals in the industry to join the organization has helped to nurture the next generation of culinarians. The high level of performance that we expect from our students and graduates, even though they come from an underserved population, has helped to set a standard that the industry respects.

9

What did you look for when screening potential partners or employees prior to bringing them on board? Passion and past experience.


Success Story

Become an expert in your field, create the best products you can, don’t go into business with family or friends, use your expertise as collateral and not your own cash, and never sign a contract without good legal advice. — Richard Grausman

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Success Story

10

Can you share how you created a thriving culture in the organization, one that has stood the test of time? I just lead by example. I invite everyone on staff and our partners to actively participate in the organization.

11

In relation to the students C-CAP serves, what changes in their thinking patterns or behaviors have you noticed through the years?

13

For the students (or individuals in general) who are striving to become food entrepreneurs and build something of their own, what advice do you have for them? Have patience, hone your skills, work for the best employers even if it pays less, don’t switch jobs for at least a year or 18 months, and be focused and eager to learn.

Those that come to our attention today are brighter, more motivated, and focused.

12

What are some of the challenges you see with culinary education today & potential solutions? Most high school educators want to believe that they can teach more then they actually can and more than what is necessary for entry-level employment. Setting realistically achievable benchmarks for the students and their teachers that are, at the same time, meaningful to potential employers.

Many of these teens had to make a choice between joining gangs, selling drugs, or staying in school. — Richard Grausman

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Success Story

14

Can you share the best piece of advice you received that helped shape your career? Something that could be just as impactful for others in their journey? Choose something in life that you love to do and do the best you can do each day.

15

What is on the horizon for culinary education, in other words, what does the future hold?

17

For the audience of food entrepreneurs, what final piece of advice or thoughts would you like to share? Become an expert in your field, create the best products you can, don’t go into business with family or friends, use your expertise as collateral and not your own cash, and never sign a contract without good legal advice. Photo Credits: Kathryn Cooper, Scott Roth, Ed Krieger, Jerry Ruotolo & Tori Soper

Shorter courses, including on-line education, like that being delivered by Rouxbe.com. I am exploring new opportunities with our Board CoChair Marcus Samuelsson, award-winning chef and owner of the acclaimed Red Rooster Harlem restaurant and cookbook author, along with Karen Brosius, our new C-CAP President, so that C-CAP continually stays in the forefront with what the students and the industry are looking for.

16

Similar to the above question, but in relation to the industry at large, what do you see on the horizon? More in-house training to retain personnel, the development of a new form of apprenticeship, and continued growth of the fast-casual part of the industry. Also, a more knowledgeable hospitality and foodservice employee to keep abreast with the more knowledgeable customer. 46

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Inviting professionals in the industry to join the organization has helped to nurture the next generation of culinarians. — Richard Grausman


Top Ten Takeaways from Richard Grausman 1

2

Work to build solid professional relationships; you never know who can help breathe life into your future endeavors. No matter how talented you become, keep an open mind & never stop learning.

6

Find a way to use your expertise as collateral instead of your own cash.

7

Never sign a contract without good legal advice!

8

Involve your staff in all facets of the business or organization; it creates greater working relationships and a stronger culture.

3

It takes time to develop mastery, work to hone your skills.

4

Review at least two qualifications when hiring: passion & past experience.

9

As a leader, you’re always on stage. Leading by example is essential.

5

Always be careful when going into business with family or friends.

10

Find something you love and work at your best each and every day.

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Business Bites Chef Deb is an award-winning, best-selling author, sought after speaker & Senior Certified Personal Chef. For a decade, she has helped chefs across the country level-up their culinary business by teaching the same proven strategies used to grow her 6-figure personal chef company. In her column, Chef Deb will show various ways to transition from behind the stove to a true CEO and attract ideal clients to begin making the money you deserve.

7 Tried and True Methods for Getting New Clients

O

ne of the biggest struggles I see culinary business owners face is maintaining a steady flow of clients. Some weeks are so busy their heads are barely above water, while other weeks they hear crickets. For the personal chefs or caterers, it’s especially true when clients leave town or events are scarce in any given month. As a business owner, it’s important to have methods to use when things slow down, or customers drop off. In this article, I’m sharing what has consistently worked in my 6-figure personal chef company, and for a variety of culinary business owners I’ve coached over the last 10 years.

1.

Become a Referral Source for Other Chefs

If you are reading this magazine, I assume you know the value of connecting with other chefpreneurs. One way networking can turn into clients is by referring business to chefs in your area. It sounds counterintuitive for getting new clients, but when you are willing to help others, they help you in return. For instance, I know several chefs in Dallas and Austin offering similar services than myself, and when a lead contacts me about services I don’t offer, they get referred to my network of chefs who can help. In return, they do the same. This is especially useful for businesses tied to a certain geographical area.

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Business Bites

2.

Email Current Clients to Ask for Referrals

Each time I use this method, I’m guaranteed at least one referral from a trusted client. It might seem silly asking for a referral, but the answer is always “no” unless you ask. It’s as simple as emailing current clients happy with your products or services and asking for people just like them. You can even offer a free product or service (be specific) as thanks for referring someone and helping you further your company’s mission. Make sure they know the type of clients you serve so they can easily think of a friend, colleague, family member, etc. End the email with a clear call to action, either asking them to reply or call with the name of the person. 50

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3.

Send a Reactivation Email to Past Clients

It’s much easier to sell past clients or those who have tried your products or services, as opposed to getting new ones who are unfamiliar with you. That is why this method always works! Once every 4-6 months, I send a “reactivation email.” This email targets past clients who were happy with our services – emphasis on happy. It reminds them of the positive experience they had and asks if they could benefit from our services once again. Almost always, I get at least one past client who signs up for services again. Sometimes it’s about staying top of mind and simply extending the invitation. I have seen big companies like Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh use this same method as well.


Business Bites

4.

Offer Something Extra to Warm Leads

We all have people who complete a contact form or call about products or services, get more information, take the next step in the sales funnel, but then drop off without becoming a customer. Unfortunately, a lot of chefs think it’s over at that point, but it’s not! Make a list of these warm leads and offer something to help push them over the edge to purchase. Possibly a free meal with their first service or something to incentivize them to finally become a customer. You have to be careful with this method because it could start attracting clients who are not your ideal customer. So only offer this to warm leads you believe could become valued customers able to afford your products or services in the long run.

Facebook Groups with Your Target Market 5. Join Have you ever thought of joining Facebook groups consisting of your ideal customers? If not, start searching for some in your area. Ask to join and start connecting with people in the group. For me, I found high-end mother’s groups lead to new clients since moms are often the decision makers when it comes to starting personal chef services with us. I am a member of two local mom Facebook groups and have received a handful of new clients from posting regularly about my services, sharing recipes or something useful for the group. 51

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You can take it a step further and private message some members – after being a member for a while – to offer products or services for free. Be very selective of who you choose. Find people with a large social media following who are active in their community. They will be more likely to spread the word with a greater number of people hearing about you. In exchange for offering free products or services, ask them to post a couple of times about you on social media. I have also hosted giveaways in groups and was able to not only gain new customers, but also engagement and followers on my social media channels. However, be mindful of the group’s rules as some do not allow you to openly sell your products or services. In this case, either find a different group or start sharing valuable information to become a trusted expert that members can turn to when they need your products or services. The key is finding the right Facebook group with people who can afford your products or services.

6.

Participate in Popular Local Foodie Events

List the popular food events in your area and select the most valuable ones to participate. One way I determine if the event will drive new clients is by the ticket price. Since I offer high-end services with a hefty price tag, I only participate in events with higher entrance fees – so a $10 ticket event is probably not one where I will be. At these events, I have a tasting station, marketing materials, and work with the event coordinator for social mentions. I use a giveaway to attract people to my table and collect names for


Business Bites my email list, with the giveaway usually being my smallest personal chef service. Doing this always leads to lots of sign-ups, which means more people to convert to customers. I don’t always get clients immediately after these events – sometimes not until several months later – but people remember my name, face, and company. For those without a brick and mortar location, this is extremely beneficial.

7.

Use Social Media Channels to Attract New Clients

Even though some are skeptical and see it as a waste of time, social media can result in many new clients. It has for me and the chefs I’ve coached. Now, it’s not the only method you should rely on as it’s more supplemental than anything else. Here’s one example of how social media attracted a new client. One day we posted a picture of a gorgeous charcuterie platter. It was a simple post about the foods we included with a tip for balancing the salty and sweet side. A few minutes later, I got a private message via Instagram asking to cater an event because they were so impressed with the picture and platter. Now that my friends is the power of social media! The reason why this method is so effective is because people eat with their eyes first. Now, is it always that easy? No. So here are ways to increase your chances of getting new clients via social media: Make sure your social media profiles are business profiles. These offer more features and call-to-action capabilities to drive people to call, visit your website, and more.  Check your social media insights to make sure you post at peak times for a greater chance of visibility.  Post quality content. I see way too many chefs posting ugly photos of their food, and 52

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frankly, it does not do your food justice! Before you post a photo of your food, ask yourself, “does this look appetizing?” If you can’t get good photos, try searching Unsplash. com or Pexels.com for beautiful stock photos that represent your food as closely as possible, or consider hiring a photographer.  Using the 80/20 rule, 20% of the time, invite your followers to take action, such as reading a new blog post, ordering a meal, buying a gift certificate, etc. It’s okay to be a little “salesy” as long as 80% of the time you are posting helpful content that builds your brand image and helps you connect with followers.  Consider using Facebook Live and other new features that allow people to further connect with your brand and get to know you on a personal level. This has helped me generate sign-ups for webinars and build relationships with my followers.  The question now is, “Which tried and true method are you going to try?”


a M m i T Success Story

The Mechanical Engineer Turned Entrepreneurial Chef 54

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Success Story

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mechanical engineer by trade, Tim Ma was already 30 when he decided to switch careers. A sushi dinner with his sister and brother-in-law led to first, the realization that he wanted to open a restaurant, then, culinary school. A year after graduating from the French Culinary Institute – now called the International Culinary Center – Ma bought his first restaurant location on Craigslist and opened Maple Ave. Nine years later, Ma has owned and operated five restaurants, including a gourmet sandwich and specialty food market called Chase the Submarine, and a Chinese-French upscale neighborhood restaurant named Kyirisan. It’s difficult to believe that Ma and his now-wife, Joey Hernandez, were a day away from declaring bankruptcy, that they slept in rat-infested apartments and paid yesterday’s bills with today’s money, for years before they made it. Ma sat down with us to talk about his dive into the culinary world, the risks he took to open Maple Ave, failing forward and the countless business and entrepreneurial lessons he’s learned.

Background Growing up in Maumelle, Arkansas, Ma was exposed to the restaurant industry at an early age, when his parents operated one of the first Chinese restaurants in Arkansas for a brief period. Though he was only three or four years old at the time, Ma remembers that his parents had both good and bad memories of the experience. Though the restaurant did very well, their chef left to start his own restaurant across the street. “It was one of the best lessons I learned as I grew older and found out about this,” Ma said, “that’s actually why I went to culinary school. I knew I wanted to open a restaurant when I turned 30, but what I didn’t 55

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want to happen was what happened to my parents. So I decided to go to culinary school to learn how to speak the language and walk the walk of a chef, just in case. But through culinary school, I had this discovery that I enjoyed professional cooking.” Though restaurants were always a part of his family – two uncles also owned and operated restaurants – Ma instead pursued a career as a mechanical engineer. After completing a master’s degree, Ma worked as a government contractor before realizing that what he really wanted to do was to open a restaurant. Despite objections from his parents, he and his now-wife quit their corporate jobs to move to New York City, where he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute.


Success Story The transition wasn’t easy, involving a lot of couch surfing and living in apartments with rats, but an externship at the two Michelin-starred Momofuku Empire followed. The couple moved to St. Thomas for a brief period before returning to Virginia, where they found a space on Craigslist. Taking a cash advance on all of their credit cards, they went for it, and opened Maple Ave. Even with help from friends – “the plus side of being 30 when I did this,” Ma said, “was that I had met enough people who wore all these hats who wanted to help” – Maple Ave first struggled to get off the ground. Most days, the nine-table restaurant located in a former Mexican take out shop was empty. With resources at zero, Ma considered returning to engineering when things slowly began to turn around. Three and a half years after opening Maple Ave, Ma and his wife branched out into their second restaurant, then their third, fourth, and fifth. Currently, Ma juggles three children,

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fatherhood, and being a chef-owner of specialty store and gourmet sandwich shop Chase the Submarine in Vienna, Virginia and upscale neighborhood establishment Kyirisan, in Shaw, Washington, D.C.

Break it down into manageable pieces, and just get started. Don’t put it off and don’t blame outwardly, just take that step. — Tim Ma


Success Story

We’re in a day and age where the complete experience matters so much. — Tim Ma

Leaping Blind One of the most remarkable things about Ma’s story is that he made the transition from chef to chef-owner of his own restaurant in about a year. “I was over 30, I knew I was starting my career probably fifteen years too late if I was trying to be a chef,” Ma said, “so I took the leap into being an entrepreneur very quickly.” Though Ma had the vision of opening a restaurant with himself as the chef and his wife as the manager, he admits that it was “a leap of blind faith.” “It was scary,” he told us, “it’s one of those things where you have to walk into restaurants, not just knowing how to run a restaurant, not just knowing how to be a chef or a manager, but you need to wear every hat, 57

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which is true for most entrepreneurs.” However, Ma’s age and life experience came in useful as he’d built relationships with friends in a variety of fields who were eager to help. Those friends helped to guide them through the process of opening a restaurant and building it out. Though challenging, Ma recalls the experience as a positive one: “it got us off to a great start, because we knew, after that, we navigated this path on our own enough, that we can handle the challenges that are about to come.” That’s not to say it was easy. Finding a restaurant location on Craigslist meant that it was significantly cheaper, but it still required the kind of capital that you don’t normally have squirrelled away. Ma looked everywhere for financing, applying to FDA loans, traditional financing, investors, partners, landlord partners,


Success Story and each one said no. “It was demoralizing, but you learn,” Ma said, “and I took those lessons and applied them to the next venture. But sometimes, your first venture, you’re going to have to take some big risks. Imagine taking a cash advance on every single credit card you can find. That’s what we did.” Luckily, a restaurant listed on Craigslist wasn’t going to ask where Ma’s financing came from. Ma doesn’t recommend finding funding the way he did, but doesn’t regret the path he took, either. “I had people telling me that there’s no way you can open a restaurant for under $100,000, and I did it for much less than that,” Ma said. Getting past all the people who told him no, or that a contemporary dining restaurant in a former Mexican take out shop was stupid, was worth it. “You have to listen to people and take criticism, but if you can get past that and

still have the belief that you can accomplish your goal,” Ma said, “you can achieve it without the traditional means of opening a restaurant.”

Failing Forward When we asked about pushing through failures, Ma told us of a saying that he and his team adhere to, “we will always fail forward.” Ma pointed out that in any entrepreneurial venture, failure is inevitable. What is most important is how one reacts to that failure, and the lessons that one takes away from it. “Through the entire process of buying a restaurant, building a restaurant, and opening a restaurant, there was a daily failure,” Ma recalled, laughing, “but you just keep pushing forward, that’s the only thing you can do at that point. You find a way around the problem.”

I had people telling me that there’s no way you can open a restaurant for under $100,000, and I did it for much less. — Tim Ma 58

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Success Story

When to Grow

waiting another two and a half years before chasing down their third.

With five restaurants under his belt, one would expect that the decision to expand came to Ma quite easily. Yet, Ma told us how, within four months of opening his first restaurant, Maple Ave, they had burned through all of their working capital. “There was a day where we had negative money, and no more sources of money to get us through,” Ma said, “after we went through that, we didn’t think about expansion for a very long time.” While Maple Ave and Ma received favorable reviews from blogs and critics at the twoyear mark, the Ma still waited another year and a half before opening another. “It wasn’t until that third year, where we started thinking, okay, we’ve made it three years and now we’re starting to make money and now we’re starting to make a big enough name for ourselves,” Ma said, “so we thought about expansion.”

When we asked about advice regarding expansion, Ma stated that it was crucial to have your back end established and running smoothly. “Your back end has to be set not just for one restaurant, but for however many units you want to move into,” Ma said, “the accounting has to be solid, you have to have all the legal paperwork in place for both good and bad possibilities. Because if you fail, you need to be able to fail forward, and if you succeed, you need to be able to capitalize on that.” Ma also points out how expansion accentuates any weaknesses your establishment has, however minor. “Your weaknesses really show when you get to more units than you can control, and you need a team to help you,” Ma said.

I took the leap into being an entrepreneur very quickly.

The Right Team

To manage his restauThe reason for wait— Tim Ma rants, Ma relies on a solid ing was not only Ma’s team with which he keeps prior experience with zero in constant contact. He is finances, but also because he wanted to ensure that the careful in the hiring process, only restaurant could function smoothhiring people who fit well into the cully and efficiently. Maple Ave was doing nearly ture that he has created. “Never compromise round-the-clock service, to the point where Ma on your staff,” he said, “no matter how strapped stopped shutting down between services, but you are, because the people who work for you expansion wasn’t an option until the restaurant and the people that promote you are the most was functioning “like a machine.”Even then, Ma important. They need to believe in it.” had to feel stable enough that he felt like he This emphasis on quality people means that could step outside the kitchen. To test this, he Ma’s entire team will work extra hours, make purposely tried to stay away from the restausacrifices, or simplify the menu before they hire rant for about three to four months to see if it someone that they don’t believe in. It’s no surcould operate as well without him. At the three prise then, that Ma tends to hire people based and a half year mark, they made the plunge into finding a second location. Even after opening more on their demeanor than what they’re catheir second restaurant, Ma remained cautious, pable of. 59

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Success Story

If you fail, you need to be able to fail forward, and if you succeed, you need to be able to capitalize on that. — Tim Ma

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Success Story

When you’re in the daily grind of a restaurant, you tend to forget what the big picture is, and sometimes if you have something to see or read that shows you what you’re shooting for as a restaurant, or as a group, it really helps. — Tim Ma To create a collaborative, cohesive culture, Ma sees or speaks with his team leaders every day. The meetings aren’t only centered about business; Ma likes to build a personal rapport with his team members and instill in them the same values through constant communication. Ma has also written a mission statement of overall goals for the restaurant group. “When you’re in the daily grind of a restaurant, you tend to forget what the big picture is,” Ma said, “and sometimes if you have something to see or read that shows you what you’re shooting for as a restaurant, or as a group, it really helps.”

Drawing People In and Staying Relevant When we mentioned marketing, and how to attract customers, Ma referred to how the restaurant experience has changed significantly. “We’re in a day and age where the complete experience matters so much,” he said. In 2009, when Ma first opened Maple Ave, he described the general time period as a “restaurant depression where you were starting to see the quality of the food supersede everything else.” It was a perfect storm for Ma, whose first space was 61

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“a dilapidated building,” but where the quality of the food was so high that it kept people talking. Now, Ma believes that the times have changed, to the point where the entire process has to be nearly effortless, from making reservations to great service to a great environment to dessert to getting the check. Though Ma currently works with a PR firm, he still has no marketing budget, relying more on the slow growth of organic, word of mouth advertising. He believes that it is one of the best ways to get the word out because it is authentic and natural: people are advertising your establishment because they genuinely love it. Maple Ave was a great example of how this works, with word spreading slowly but gaining it a strong, dedicated following. Related to this, one of the biggest challenges Ma faces every day is to stay relevant. To keep his restaurants and name in people’s minds, he told us that he works at it every day. In this respect, Ma’s PR firm has provided invaluable advice, but Ma also emphasizes the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded people. “[My PR firm] believes in me,” he said, “they believe in the quality of what we’re doing, and having people drinking the Kool-Aid with you helps, because you have everybody promoting you with the same enthusiasm that you have.”


Success Story

Technological Advances & Use Ma’s belief in running a tight ship on the back end has incorporated quite a bit of new software. Though customers still expect the same kind of direct contact with servers and chefs, technology has increasingly streamlined the business side of a restaurant. “Especially as a chef-entrepreneur, I want to be cooking, I don’t want to be sitting in my back office having to do paper work,” Ma said, “so now you’re starting to see technology help out with that, to make me more efficient on the back end so I can spend less time doing stuff like accounting or ordering or inventory.”

saved. Smart ordering, controlling inventory, and smart menu designed to use every part of whatever you order, plus composting and ordering responsibly from people you trust and who practice the same things you do, have changed Ma’s kitchen. Through designing a better menu, Ma attempts to use every part of a vegetable or animal, putting bones and vegetable peels in stocks and sauces. With BlueCart, Ma can quickly access past orders, order history, and compare that to sales. “Having that data in front of you, in an — Tim Ma organized fashion, on your phone or your iPad makes it easier to control what’s going on,” Ma said.

Your weaknesses really show when you get to more units than you can control, and you need a team to help you.

With the increased use of new software in restaurants, Ma also pointed out how there are an increasing number of packages that bundle different aspects of a restaurant together, such as inventory and ordering. This saves both time and money; “any way that you can save five minutes here, five minutes there over the course of everything you do as an entrepreneur, that can turn into an hour you can turn into doing something else,” Ma said. Another way software can save money is through the availability of data. By looking at your inventory and your ordering history, that kind of technology can point out errors in ordering, thus potentially saving restaurants money. It can also minimize waste. Through BlueCart’s Zero Waste Kitchen program, Ma has been exploring a different way to both save money and limit waste. Using the data logged by Ma into BlueCart, the company is attempting to show his kitchens new ways to reduce waste, which ultimately equates to money 62

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For Aspiring Food Entrepreneurs When we asked for advice for budding food entrepreneurs, Ma told us, “just take the leap.” He stated that it sometimes helps to ignore the big picture, and to simply start by taking that first step and break the project into smaller pieces that can be more easily digested mentally. Ma recalled building out a $1.4 million restaurant with no investors. The idea was daunting, but the first step was asking the landlord how much he was willing to help Ma. That was enough to get the ball rolling, and eventually turned into Kyirisan. “Break it down into manageable pieces, and just get started, don’t put it off,” Ma said, “and don’t blame outwardly, just take that step.” Photo Credits: Rey Lopez w/Under a Bushel, Cristian Zuniga & Amber Frederiksen


Top Ten Takeaways from Tim Ma 1

2

At a certain point, you will fail, but remember to fail forward. Learn from your mistakes and apply that to the next project. Opening a restaurant is more than just cooking. You must understand legal requirements, building codes, how to install cooking equipment, building out a space, and the list goes on.

3

Don’t think you always have to do things the traditional way.

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Surround yourself with like-minded people who believe in you and what you’re trying to achieve.

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5

Never compromise on your staff, even if you’re strapped for cash.

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Word-of-mouth can go a long way for a restaurant, and generate a lot of natural, organic press.

7

Expansion will increase any of your weaknesses exponentially.

8

Data can be your gateway to saving valuable time and money. Remember, what gets measured gets managed.

9

Don’t blame outwardly.

10

Don’t get caught up in the big picture; break it down into manageable steps and just take that first step.


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Cookbook Corner: How to Write, Publish, and Promote Your Culinary Philosophy

As an award – winning, best-selling, author, chef, television personality, cuisine and culture expert, and educator, Amy Riolo is known for sharing history, culture, and nutrition through global cuisine. A graduate of Cornell University, Amy is considered a culinary thought leader who enjoys changing the way we think about food and the people who create it. In this column, Amy shares her insights into successful cookbook writing.

Writing a

Cookbook Proposal

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hink of a well-researched and carefully written proposal as the business plan of your book. Whether you plan to self-publish or go the traditional route, a professional proposal is an important part of the process. If you plan on submitting your proposal to a literary agent, or directly to a publisher, having it polished and thorough helps put your best foot forward. The proposal will enable the prospective agent or publishing house to understand your concept and determine whether it fits them or not. It also reveals your writing style, voice, author platform, and business savvy. Many people who self-publish skip over the proposal process because they are time-consuming, but that’s a mistake. Taking the time to write 65

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a proposal before crafting your book can help determine its marketability and analyze the competition. If you want to make money with your book, you should be just as cautious about the venture as a publishing house would. The process of developing the proposal will help you tighten your ideas, distinguish yourself from the competition, and set a strong marketing platform to sell more books and get more publicity. Below is the template I use when writing a cookbook proposal, and I’ll explain each section as we go along. Note that authors and publishers may use various templates, and some prefer different lengths. My proposals tend to be quite long because I include as much information up front as possible. If you are ever asked to submit a shorter proposal, you can always edit it down.


Cookbook Corner Proposals are usually single-spaced and written in a traditional font, such as Times New Roman size 12. They contain a cover page with the name of the proposed book, the word “proposal,” author’s name, address, email, and date. If you are submitting to a publishing house, they may take three months to respond. Literary agents usually have their own policies and may give a timeline during initial conversations with them. This is what I recommend submitting:

Overview This section is usually a page in length and gives an overall synopsis of the book’s premise, why it’s needed, and why the author is the best person to write it. It’s important to begin the first paragraph with a compelling statement to get the reader excited about the concept.

Key Points This is a bullet-point list of the key factors (say 5-10) your book offers. I usually include things like the number of recipes, why the recipes are relevant, unique factors about the book, and in essence, reasons why people would purchase.

New Features This is another bullet-point or numeric list of features which are new in your book. For example, your book might be the first to demystify a certain type of cooking to English speakers, or it might be the first cookbook devoted to a certain area or technique, you will want to outline it all here.

Why Now? In this section, you outline why the book is needed. You are illustrating its importance and 66

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marketability. Statistics are very helpful here. For example, if you can prove a 50% increase in happy hour business in the United States as well as a significant increase in home entertaining, and your book is about DIY cocktails, mixology, or bar food, that would be beneficial. If there is a large, nationwide increase in any culinary trend or specific ingredient, it would also be great to mention. If your specific business also feeds the above-mentioned trend, then you could speak of the trend from a place of personal authority which would make it even more compelling. You can research food associations, specialty food magazines, and supermarket trends to determine what is growing in popularity. If there is a need for more knowledge or DIY information regarding those trends, then your book will be even more relevant.

Marketing & Promotion Many believe this section to be the backbone of the proposal. The days of the publisher doing all of the PR and marketing for cookbooks are gone. Nowadays, authors and publishers partner together to create winning strategies. At the end of the day, however, it’s up to the authors to promote their own books. If you want to earn a significant amount of money doing so, then you cannot spend too much time on this section. A great deal of my personal schedule and resources are spent on marketing and promoting my books. The good news is that once you build up a platform, you can continue to use it for future books. I begin my marketing strategy long before writing my books.


Cookbook Corner

Marketing Elements This section willreveal exactly what you plan to do in order to sell the book.

Author-driven Publicity If you have access to media outlets – print, television, radio, and blogs – you can mention that you will pitch them with strategic press releases and concepts here. In addition, if you have secured a PR person, you want to mention them here. Not all publishing houses designate PR campaigns for all of their books, and having your own agent can be extremely helpful.

Social Networking & Web Social networking will be a valuable tool for marketing your book. Here you want to say “For the promotion of this book, I plan to do the following:” These are a few of the ideas that my colleagues and I use to promote our books.  Create on

.

videos & they will be aired

 Create a supporting Facebook page for the book, where readers will be able to find extended resources, up to date information, and discuss with the authors and other users via an online forum. The site will also include a blog, podcast, and speaking engagement calendar.  Leverage Google AdWords, where we can drive users to the Facebook page.  Utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for ongoing promotional purposes, where you will engage readers and announce book updates and speaking engagements.  Offer a “book ambassador” incentive to A-list bloggers to solicit reviews on their blogs and Amazon.  Along the tour, I will work with small, local restaurants, cultural centers, and food companies to plan book events, including menus based on recipes from the book. Locations may include: 67

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 I plan to solicit television appearances with (I have already appeared on many of these shows and make television appearances frequently):  I plan to solicit radio interviews with:  I also plan to solicit print reviews with contacts I have at:  The following experts are willing to endorse the book:

Competitive Works This is my favorite part of the proposal. Here you want to pick three competitive titles, meaning ones similar to your idea. If they are synergistic to your book, as well as best-sellers, those are the ones you want to mention. Then, you write a few paragraphs comparing and contrasting the three other titles vs. yours. You always want to first write a paragraph explaining what you have in common, and then a subsequent paragraph explaining why your book is even better. Perhaps it has more recipes, explains an idea further, or has additional features, or maybe you have more credentials on the topic than the competitive author.


Cookbook Corner

About the Author This is your author platform. A one to two-page bio explaining why you are the best person to write and market this book is what to include. One of my future columns will be dedicated to this topic. If you are having trouble getting started, take a look at the book jackets of other cookbooks, and you will get a feel for how authors are poised to be subject matter experts. If you are not a subject matter expert on this particular book, but the topic interests you greatly, I highly recommend beginning with a book in line with your expertise and saving the original topic fora later publication.

Table of Contents That’s right, the complete table of contents is due at the time you submit the proposal – complete with chapter names and recipe titles.

Sample Chapter You will need to submit one sample chapter. It may be the chapter of your choice. Some people choose the chapter based on the popularity of its’ topic; others choose it for sentimental reasons.

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You may include whichever you like best. Since you will also include sample recipes, it may be advantageous to include the sample chapter introduction that corresponds with the recipes that you are submitting. For example, if you are submitting all dessert recipes, then the corresponding chapter should be the sample.

Sample Recipes In this section, you will want to submit 10-15 well-written and professionally edited recipes. If you missed it, please see my first column from the March issue entitled “How to Write a Recipe.” Also, make sure the recipes you include are appetizing and have been professionally tested. Many editors will test the recipes of prospective authors before giving them contracts to ensure they work. It is always a good idea to submit the most popular, on-trend recipes as possible. These are the basic requirements of proposal writing. While it can be frustrating in the beginning, once you get the hang of it, creating the proposal can be one of the most rewarding parts of your writing experience. Your next step will be to determine whom to submit the proposal to, and we will cover that in a future column. Wishing you the best of luck!


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Success Story

The Art of Diversifying Your Talent

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Success Story

Nicknamed

“The Chef of Love” and “the Barry White of food,” Chef Jernard Wells has successfully mixed business with pleasure in all of his culinary ventures. A celebrity chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and owner of a line of sauces and spices, Wells also has a multitude of television appearances under his belt, including as a contestant on Cutthroat Kitchen and runner-up on Food Network Star. Not content to strictly stay behind the stove, Wells has taken his love of food to the next level as an entrepreneur. From opening his first culinary venture out of his mother’s kitchen at the age of 16 to managing nine restaurants and launching the Le’ Chef Amours Haute Cuisine spice brand, Wells doesn’t like to stay idle. In our interview, Wells spoke to us about how he turned an entrepreneurial venture with the initial purpose of buying a car during his senior year of high school into a personal brand that includes cookbooks, restaurants, and a manufacturing company. Wells also discussed how he turned the fear of failure into a motivating force, diversifying your expertise and business ventures, and how to succeed at the thing you love to do.

Background A Mississippi native, Wells always thought he would become a lawyer. A former political science major, Wells learned how to cook from his father, a former chef. “My father passed away when I was 16 years old,” Wells said, “because he became disabled and he couldn’t work. What he would do every day at home was, he would cook all day long. And he felt like he was less than a man because he wasn’t able to go out and work and make a living, but he didn’t realize I admired him.” When Wells was 16, he opened his first culinary venture out of his home. “It wasn’t 71

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because I wanted to open a restaurant or be a chef,” he said, “it was because I had that skill that my father had taught me.” With the goal of making enough money to buy a car during his senior year of high school, Wells initially believed he could run the idea by his mother and start a casual side business with the $50 he had saved. When Wells told his mother about the idea, she responded by telling him that he had to do it “the right way,” which meant writing a business plan and creating a menu. From there, Wells pitched the idea to his mother, who then took him to the local courthouse to apply for a business license. It cost $5.


Success Story

Then, Wells asked his mother to take him to Sam’s Wholesale to buy ingredients and supplies. In the parking lot, she took $10 out of his hand, saying, “nothing is free, this is for bringing you here. You say you want to be a businessman, well, all of this comes with the territory.” With a menu and a plan, Wells passed out flyers in his neighborhood and made $150 the first week. “I thought, man, I’m doing good,” he recalled, but he soon realized that many of the construction workers and people who worked on yards in the summer would pick up their lunches early in the morning from other vendors. Wells saw a business opportunity and started to upsell the other vendors, offering both breakfast and lunch. “From there, the $150 per week increased to almost $1500,” he said. He increased his income even further by offering to cook dinner for those same workers, providing them with food so that no one had to cook for them at home. “By the end of the summer, I was making $3000 a week 72

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Hone in on your talent, and that’s what you effectively push out into the market. — Jernard Wells selling food out of my mother’s kitchen,” Wells recalled, “and from there, it paved the way for me to open up my first brick-and-mortar location.” Wells juggled a restaurant and college, still believing that a legal career was in the future. However, in a conversation with the cook at his restaurant, Wells told him that he wasn’t a cook, but a chef. The cook asked where he had gone to culinary school, and when Wells told him that he hadn’t, the cook responded by telling him “well, you ain’t no chef!”


Success Story

Monetizing His Talent With his knack for monetizing his various skills in a variety of ways, from restaurants to sauce and spice products, we asked Wells how best to make money from raw talent. “Hone in on your talent, and that’s what you effectively push out into the market,” Wells advised. Wells told us that his personal experience has been more difficult because when he started, social media didn’t exist. Instead, he relied on word of mouth and his father’s reputation as a great chef, which he used to build his own reputation. Another piece of advice he gave us was to “go above and beyond what you think the average person would do.” Wells pointed out that it’s a very competitive world, and that many culiJernard Wells nary entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that graduating from a culinary arts school automatically makes them a chef. “Culinary arts school is just the beginning,” Wells said, “that’s just the first part. What I started doing, I stepped outside of my comfort zone. What I did was I learned how to create other cuisines that didn’t tie into where I was from.” Wells told us how this expanded his expertise, making him much more marketable and ultimately allowing him to put a better price tag on his skills.

Businesses always fail because of the head, never because of the tail. —

The exchange motivated Wells to withdraw from college and enroll in culinary arts school instead. “All because I wanted him to respect what I was doing and call me a chef,” Wells laughed, “and from there, my culinary mentor saw that I had a lot of potential and said I should take a hiatus around the world and learn different cuisines.” Wells traveled and worked for chefs for free to expand his knowledge and expertise while entrusting his restaurant to his mother and sister. Since then, he has owned and operated nine restaurants, written three cookbooks, and made several appearances on competition cooking shows, becoming the beloved “Chef of Love.” 73

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“At the end of the day, in the food industry, that’s really what we have,” Wells said, “our brand and our name. Just like the make of a car. One versus the other.”


Success Story

Inconsistency can kill a restaurant because people are prone to fall in love with something and that’s why they come back. — Jernard Wells

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Success Story When you’re on the wrong path, you don’t fear or care. I like using the old quote, ‘how can you learn to walk on water if you don’t get out of the boat?’ I’d rather have a fear of trying than the fear of living a life where I know I never tried at all.”

When people feel like they have limited access to something, they’re going to want it more. — Jernard Wells

Fear As Impetus Given his numerous, successful business ventures, it’s difficult to believe that Wells has experienced failure. However, when we asked about the fears he had when undertaking any of his culinary ventures, he told us that his biggest fear was the fear of failure. “I even wrote a book about it,” Wells said, citing his book The Weight of Expectations: Losing it All to Gain Everything, “we all walk around life with these invisible weights on our shoulders. And from a food standpoint, it’s ‘what if my food is bad?’ ‘what if I can’t make a decent or substantial living doing it?’ ‘what if nobody ever goes into business with me?’” Yet, Wells points out that he treats fear as botha driving, motivating force and a barometer. “If you feel an ounce of fear in doing something,” Wells advised, “nine times out of ten, that means that you’re on the right path. 75

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Wells also believes that fear can be beneficial in keeping one on their toes. With fear comes hyper-vigilance that can ensure you put your absolute best foot forward. Another way fear can help breed success? It reminds you of where you came from. “Fear of failure has made a lot of people successful,” Wells said, “because they know where they were and they never want to go back. Fear then becomes a driving force.” In a personal context, Wells told us that one constant fear is one that is also inevitable: the fear of not being able to make people happy with what he does. But Wells is unique to being able to channel fears into more product. His fear of being unable to keep up with younger chefs in the kitchen led him to brainstorm ideas on how he could keep his brand alive, without actively working behind a stove. That motivated Wells to start writing cookbooks. That same fear also led him to form his own manufacturing company that produces spices and sauces. That move turned Wells into a brand with even more reach, enabling everyone across the country to have a bit of “The Chef of Love” in their kitchens.

Diversifying For Growth With the ventures that he’s been involved in, it’s no surprise that the most invaluable lesson Wells has learned is to diversify. “As a chef or as any business owner,” Wells told us, “we have a hard time with letting go. As we say, this is our craft and our trade, and we sometimes don’t want to share with anybody because if others use my same recipe, for example, I’ll become obsolete. But to grow, you have to be willing to teach others so you can expand your wings.”


Success Story Though it initially sounds counterintuitive, Wells is onto something. He gave us an example of how many chefs believe they can make a living behind a stove. “I actually tell them, being the chef behind the stove, that’s the first date,” Wells said, “that’s the beginning. But you should be willing to diversify your platform so you can go beyond the stove.” For Wells, teaching others the skills you’ve learned, and sharing that expertise is crucial to opening new doors and opportunities. Doing so, he stated, will “free you up to expand and explore more.”

A Peek Behind the Financial Curtain Wells is also unique in that most of his businesses have been self-funded. Only two out of the nine restaurants he has operated have been funded by business partners, and his current manufacturing company is run jointly with his wife. Wells credits growing up poor for teaching him how to diversify his income streams and his portfolio while building credit. This is one reason why he emphasizes the importance of paying yourself from any venture. For those who can’t afford to self-fund their own ideas, or get a loan for that idea, Wells advises finding out the minimum dollar amount required to launch and finding five to ten like-minded chefs who are interested in joining you in forming the same idea. “If you bring those people together, you should be able to take everybody’s idea and put together something that will work great for everybody and that everybody loves,” Wells said. “Then, if each person puts in $3000, assuming you have ten chefs, you already have a $30,000 pot, so there’s strength in numbers,” Wells continued, “and you have ten employees because everyone will contribute, so now you save on payroll. So you just started your first small business and technically, out of your pocket, all you invested was $3000.” 76

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Being the chef behind the stove, that’s the first date; but you should be willing to diversify your platform so you can go beyond the stove. — Jernard Wells

Failing Forward Though Wells has succeeded in his many ventures, he admits that he has experienced a significant amount of failure. “I took those failures as learning curves on what not to do,” he said, recalling that he had to learn the hard way to focus on both the front and back of the house. If either the front or back of the house isn’t in line, “that can kill a restaurant fast,” Wells said.


Success Story

Another lesson he has learned from near failures is to delegate responsibilities. “I’ve been that chef where I’m buried in the kitchen, cooking,” he told us, “and don’t have family time, and I’m in the kitchen seven days a week, and it’s a miserable state to be in.” When things start to go sideways, Wells believes that the only thing to do is to re-examine himself and where he has gone wrong. “A team is only as strong as their leader,” he pointed out, “so if you have a team that’s not doing right, it’s only because you’re not guiding the ship the right way.” Though many are inclined to blame their employees and others around them, Wells wisely explained that “businesses always fail because of the head, never because of the tail.”

Help Along the Way A believer in the adage that knowledge is power, Wells has proactively sought knowledge and information. However, when he realized that he needed to diversify and spread his wings a bit more, Wells joined forces with NVision Marketing, a marketing and PR firm. He credits his marketing agent, Carlos, for helping him go to the next level. “Years ago, it was just me,” Wells told us, “but now, I’m learning that once you reach that second threshold, it’s time to expand again, and Carlos has done a lot of wonders for me.”

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Success Story When we asked how Wells knew when to take on a PR firm or marketing company, Wells said that your business must be viable enough that your income can commit you to do it without it being a burden on you financially or mentally. “If you look at your business blueprint, and if you can’t envision your business projecting more than 10% of what it’s already doing, you’re not ready,” Wells said. However, if you can see yourself developing a product that would push you over to the next level, Wells advises considering hiring outside professionals that would help you tackle areas where your expertise is lacking.

he had owned called Bon Appetit Bistro, which originally seated 75. It was consistently packed, with the line snaking out around the building, leading Wells to acquire a larger space that could accommodate up to 250 people. Once he opened the new space, the customer base stayed the same. “What I realized is that less is sometimes more,” Wells said, “when people feel like they have limited access to something, they’re going to want it more. When you’re looking for customers, you have to come up with a creative niche for your restaurant or your product. What are you doing that’s different from the next two or three restaurants down?”

Attracting Customers With Scarcity

Wells also encourages taking advantage of social media outlets to grow your customer base. He believes customers should be told about a business’s social media presence, which can indirectly grow your customer base by exposing your business to friends of customers. That can be a vital marketing tool to bring customers in.

With his extensive experience in managing restaurants, we asked Wells how he attracted customers. He told us about a small restaurant

When you’re looking for customers, you have to come up with a creative niche for your restaurant or your product. — Jernard Wells 78

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Success Story Of course, once you gain the customers, the food has to be something that’s worth offering. One of the most crucial aspects of a food business, Wells told us, is consistency. A lack of customers might indicate that your food is not up to par, that too many inexperienced hands are altering the taste of your dishes. “If I fall in love with your gumbo,” Wells said, “and I come back next week, it has to taste the exact same way. Inconsistency can kill a restaurant because people are prone to fall in love with something and that’s why they come back.”

Remembering the Fundamentals

ing to get on Food Network or TV, Wells believes that if cooking is your passion, it should be because you love to create food that other people love. Being a chef can take many forms, from becoming a nutritional chef to help others eat healthier to working as a chef de cuisine at a five-star restaurant. And lastly, Wells told us that he hopes aspiring food entrepreneurs focus on more health conscious, less processed food. Though chefs are leaning towards farm-to-table cuisine, Wells also believes that R&D chefs in manufacturing companies also hold a lot of power in the process. “The company relies on the R&D chefs’ expertise,” Wells said, “if they focus on more health conscious food, it will change how we eat.”

Through all of Wells’ business-savvy, when we asked about the single most important thing that aspiring food entrepreneurs should achieve, Wells pointed to the importance of staying humble and thankful. “I treat every opportunity as if it’s my last because I wouldn’t be where I am without the people who supported me,” Wells said, “and never start believing the hype.” “Be humble in your heart,” he continued, “and never think you are unteachable.” Wells emphasized the importance of continuing to learn and grow throughout one’s career, and to appreciate the four Fs: faith, family, food, and fun. “Enjoy your life,” he said, “life shouldn’t be so serious that you can’t enjoy the people around you.”

Career Advice – Received and Given In concluding our interview, Wells told us that the single most significant piece of advice he received was that “you get one thing in life, so get to it, and never give up.” “If you have one thing that you love to do,” Wells said, “that’s what should be your career.” He pointed to how most successful people are people who are doing what they love to do. Instead of aim79

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A team is only as strong as their leader, so if you have a team that’s not doing right, it’s only because you’re not guiding the ship the right way. — Jernard Wells


Top Ten Takeaways from Jernard Wells 1

You get one thing you love in life, so make it your career, and never give up.

2

Be humble in your heart and always strive to keep learning.

3

Diversify your expertise and your income streams. Share your expertise with others so it can open you up to explore more.

4

With customers, sometimes, less is more. People will always want something that is in scarce supply.

5

Make sure that your food is consistent! This can kill food business, particularly as people often fall in love with a particular dish and come back for the experience.

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6

Go above and beyond what the average person would do. Expand your expertise and get outside your comfort zone by strengthening your weak points.

7

If you feel fear in doing something, that means that you’re probably on the right path.

8

Delegate responsibilities and learn from your failures.

9

A team is only as strong as their leader. If things are going wrong, examine what you’re doing wrong. Don’t blame others; businesses fail because of the head, not the tail.

10

Enjoy life and don’t forget the four Fs: faith, family, food, and fun.


Advertorial

t I d Buil e r i F d n u o Ar By: Katie Eb

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erle


Advertorial

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magine finding a piece of equipment worthy of becoming the epicenter of your concept. One with enough versatility to incorporate both old world style cooking and current trends. Furthermore, what if you reaped the benefits of faster ticket times, greater space utilization, and combatted rising energy costs. I know what you’re thinking, “It’s too good to be true,” right?

As chefs and operators work tirelessly to carve their niche, the BERTHA oven is a standalone product that can help any concept standout. With a smaller footprint than competing ovens, it boasts a taller cooking chamber for preparing a vast array of foods at varying temperatures. Applications such as high heat cooking, smoking, braising, slow cooking and more, all make the BERTHA oven in valuable for any 83

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restaurant. Not only are the flavor combinations endless, but the reduction of energy can positively impact the bottom line. In this sense, the BERTHA oven provides a true win-win scenario for owners and operators. Several chefs, including Ross Clarke, Justin Sharp, and John Ingram, all utilize the versatility of the BERTHA oven and sing its praise. Chef Ross Clarke, owner of Rum Life Kitchen, has a Michelin star background and leads developmental chefs in his country. Chef Clarke utilizes the BERTHA oven to provide a multi-sensory dining experience for his guests. As he says, “The BERTHA has improved our service because it’s quicker than a normal oven. It’s makes things crispier. The BERTHA has helped to also relight our creativity.”


Advertorial Chef Jon Ingram, Executive Chef of Dormy House Hotel and Spa, brought the 17th-century Hotel critical acclaim with his Middle Eastern and European cooking techniques. Chef Ingram said, “The great thing I love about the BERTHA is the versatility of it. You can have the grill right next to the coals or you can bring it up so it’s away from the fire. Anything you can put through a conventional oven you can put through a BERTHA; it gives it so much more though.” With up to 40% faster cooking speeds than an open grill, versatility to handle an assortment of products, custom color options, and competitively priced, the BERTHA oven is truly a piece of equipment that can become the epicenter of your concept.

Chef Justin Sharp, owner of the Pea Porridge, launched his concept and quickly garnered a Bib Gourmand rating in the Michelin Guide. As written in the Harden’s guide, the small restaurant was, “Already making waves with the sheer consistency and quality of what it offers.” As Chef Sharp explains, “The flavor that you get from the BERTHA is second to none and cooking directly over the coals allows you to achieve flavors that you just cannot experience through cooking in a pan. We use it for high heat cooking, slow cooking, braising, smoking, the list is endless. It’s an integral part of the kitchen now and I couldn’t imagine being without it.” 84

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Katie Eberle is the US distributor for the BERTHA Oven. The only charcoal & wood burning oven available in the US with a vertical chamber. For more information, please contact her at Sales@berthaovenus.com.


Concept to Reality

From Concept To Reality with Ray Payne

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Concept to Reality

fter a short finance career, Ray Payne decided to buy an Italian Ice franchise and quickly scaled it to a 71-unit business. While working to grow the business, he attempted to find a firm to help with everything from design, branding, and finances, but nothing seemed to exist. Instead, he found firms strictly focused on a single area – design, branding, strategy, or finance. There was never a company combining these areas, something Ray refers to as the “head and the heart.” The head being the finance side and the heart being the creative side. Such a gap in the market launched the idea for Ray to build a firm to marry these two sides. And he knew one thing, “Most people have an idea of a concept, but they don’t understand the finance end and the commitment and timeframes to actually built that concept.” Today, Ray and his partner Alicia are the duo behind JBA N+Y+C, a vibrant branding and design agency with offices in New York and Connecticut. With his vast experience of helping people bring their concepts to life, he took some time to get down and dirty with a plethora of solid advice.

1

To jump right in, for food entrepreneurs looking to create & launch their concept, where do they begin?

It starts with three questions: Where were you? Where are you now? Where do you want to go? Pulling on those three threads is most important. That said, one of the first things is creating a business plan to understand the numbers. If you understand the numbers, then the brand strategy and how you navigate organically into potential markets comes easier. It’s just so important for food entrepreneurs to take their creative hat off and put on the business hat to know what the numbers look like.

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There is a big research component to determine the differentiating factor of the concept in the marketplace. A strategy and comprehensive game plan to deliver the unique idea, voice, and brand experience all must be created. And then it has to be refined, so it actually delivers. All of these steps in the research phase help to identify the challenges and opportunities.

2

What are common mistakes you see people make in the first phase of bringing their idea to life & how can they avoid them? Realistic timeframes are always a challenge that I come up against with clients. The concept may be there, but the timeframes to build are not.


Concept to Reality When bringing a physical location to life, for instance, there may be budgetary constraints in terms of buildout costs, equipment costs, construction costs, or architectural costs. Also, there are constantly things outside of your control like the permitting process and working with local municipalities. For instance, once you have your architectural and engineering drawings, you submit them to the town. Those approvals and submittals could take 30 days, 60 days, depending on the municipality, so that’s two months right there. Meaning, you need capital behind you to weather those two months. People not having realistic timeframes from start to finish is very common. To avoid this, you put a number on paper and expect it will take longer. There’s no magic formula, but knowing it will likely take longer and preparing to cover the costs is smart planning.

3

When you help people translate their idea into a solid brand story, what are some key elements included?

There are different elements based on the type of concept, but above all, it’s belief in the brand. Jeff Bezos of Amazon, for example, isn’t delivering product to your front door, but you feel like he is because there’s a connection. There’s belief in the brand. So crafting a brand story is wrapped around believing in the brand. If you believe in the brand, and you’re accountable and responsible for the brand, it will be received by customers well. And obviously, products need to be great. It’s a very competitive landscape, certainly in the food industry evolution. Finally, be willing to evolve. There are a lot of historical brands who are still leaders because they’ve translated their brands to fit in the market today. They’ve evolved the brand in terms of the customer’s tastes and palates in products, even though the brand still remains the same.

4

What are some questions food entrepreneurs can ask themselves when working to create a solid brand strategy? There are a lot of deep questions, and it depends on the concept. When creating a strategy, you can start with a few questions such as: 1. Is there history we can pay homage to? 2. What is the quality of the product? 3. How can the brand be simplified? 4. Can the brand be scaled? 5. How versatile is the brand? 6. How quickly can the brand adapt to market changes? 7. Is the product something the marketplace wants? 8. What makes my product different than everybody else? 9. How will the product be conveyed in a physical space? 10. Can I deliver the same product consistently no matter the location?

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Concept to Reality

5

When food entrepreneurs are working to translate their concepts into physical space, what should they be thinking about? First, the menu conceptualization portion needs to happen very early. The menu translates into the back of the house, which determines a major portion of the physical space, which then translates into equipment budget and then architectural plans. It all fits together. So, that menu should be looked at from an operational efficiency standpoint. For those looking to scale, they want to think about delivering the same quality product in different size locations. Meaning, ifthey’re doing it in 2000 or 3000 square feet, can they do it in 700 square feet and still deliver the same quality? Down the line, they may want to open several locations with core products, so having an idea of menu efficiency, in the beginning, is smart.

restaurant

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6

What advice do you have for food entrepreneurs looking to nail down the right location?

The location is one of the most important pieces, for larger-scale restaurants, fast-casual, quick-serve, you name it. I think most people don’t take the time to really analyze and go through the real estate decisions very, very thoughtfully and carefully. That would be point number one; take your time. Also, it’s crucial to look at traffic counts, median incomes or to visit the Town Hall to see any potential building projects, both residential or commercial, to understand how they may impact the area. If you get the real estate decision wrong, you can have the best brand, you can have the best products, but it’s going to be a tough climb out of that hole.


Concept to Reality

7

What are some of the mistakes you see people make most often from a financial part of bringing their concept to life?

It’s underestimating costs. There are so many expenses, and they add up quickly such as construction, furniture, fixtures, equipment, architectural, permitting, miscellaneous costs, all of those things. Even after the initial capital expense, there are costs for advertising, opening cash funds, uniforms, opening food cost budget, utility deposits, insurance policies, liability, worker’s comp, and all of those things could turn out to be a half-a-million-dollar bill. I think factoring in miscellaneous costs and recognizing they can translate into a timeframe that you’re going to have to carry those over, that’s the first mistake I see most. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how many people have come knocking at the door saying, “Hey, I ran out of money. How do I save this thing?” And many times, they’ve got to almost tear it down and start over again.

8

What are your final thoughts or advice for food entrepreneurs working to bring their concepts to life, create killer brand stories, and solidify their place in the market? If you believe in the concept, be focused, measured, realistic in expectations and timeframes. Follow what you know and take the step to bring your concept, or dream, to life, but recognize you will need help. You may have worked in successful restaurants with amazing chefs and have proven your ability to cook, but don’t walk into creating a new concept from scratch, especially when you haven’t done it before, with a big ego and closed to receiving help from professionals along the way.

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Ray and Alicia are the partners and husband and wife team behind JBA N+Y+C, a vibrant branding and design agency with offices in New York and Connecticut. The cornerstone of what they do is a mission driven commitment to successfully marrying and delivering unique, beautifully creative work that at the end of the day translates into quantifiable financial results.


Commercial Leasing

Understanding

the Significance of Signage By: Jeff Grandfield and Dale Willerton – The Lease Coach

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Commercial Leasing

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t’s much easier for customers to find your business if you have a prominent sign with your business name on it out front. The bigger the sign, the better – and the more attractive the sign, the better too.

Don’t just assume, however, that your landlord shares your vision of a large sign identifying your business on or in front of his property. Food entrepreneur tenants can easily overlook that their landlords may want to restrict all tenant signage on the property. Tenant requests for more or larger signage are often rejected by landlords.

Landlords impose signage criteria and restrictions mainly because whatever they allow one tenant to do signage-wise, the other tenants may also want to do. Most landlords prefer an uncluttered property without extra signage simply because it looks more attractive. If your landlord does allow you to place a sign on the property, creating and maintaining it is your responsibility. This extra work on your part, however, can be beneficial: Signage can make your business easier to find for customers who are specifically looking for you. Obviously, if you’re located in an area with a sea of shopping plazas or office buildings, a sign with your name on it makes it much easier for customers to pick you out of the crowd.  Signage can bring in customer traffic. People visiting other retailers in the property and shopping for other items may see your sign and be reminded to drop in. If your sign reads, in part, “Now Open!”, all the better! Signage will become recognized by local residents who will see you as they commute to and from work daily. These residents are eventually more likely to visit your business because they are familiar with your name. 91

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With that being said, note that your landlord may allow certain types of signage but not others. Typically, the landlord usually requires graphic drawings of your sign for written approval or provides you with a signage criteria package that you must follow as part of your lease agreement. Read this information carefully and understand that your landlord may consent to one type of signage but not another. To give you a better idea of what may or may not be allowed, here are the most common types of signage: Building signage: This is the signage that almost every business location will have, and it will generally appear directly above your main entry door. However, do not overlook the possibilities of having signage on multiple sides or even the rear of the commercial property if that will provide you additional exposure to walk-by or drive-by traffic.


Commercial Leasing Monument signage: A monument sign resembles a tombstone coming out of the ground and, typically, advertises just one or a few select tenants. Monument signs are not that common, but they can make your business look more substantial if you can get one. Pylon signage: The tall sign by the roadway that tells passers-by what tenants are in the plaza is called the pylon sign. A property may have several pylon signs, which all display the name of the plaza at the top of the sign. Don’t just assume that you will automatically get a panel of the pylon sign. There are often more tenants in a property than sign panels available, so make this a part of your offer to lease or lease renewal. Ideally, try to pick your actual panel (both front and back), because a panel higher up on the pylon sign is usually more visible and read first. Sandwich board signage and banners: Food entrepreneur tenants may wish to utilize these forms of signage to advertise limited time specials; however, landlords may say no. If these are of interest to you, negotiate for them in advance. The Lease Coach will often negotiate predetermined times when the tenant can

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use these signs – landlords may be more comfortable in knowing these signs will not be out all year and thereby not create signage clutter. Temporary pull-away signage: These are the signs on wheels covered with images or business messages. Most landlords hate these signs and the problems that they create. Don’t just assume that you may be able to have pull-away signage for your grand opening or some other special sale. Landlords think these signs clutter or obstruct their property and may only allow limited numbers of pull-away signs to be used (and shared) by many tenants throughout the year. Again, negotiate pull-away signage rights up front, because the landlord doesn’t have to let you put these signs up if they are not included in the lease agreement. For a copy of our free CD, Leasing Do’s & Don’ts for Commercial Tenants, please e-mail your request to JeffGrandfield@TheLease Coach.com.

Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield — Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield - The Lease Coach are Commercial Lease Consultants who work exclusively for tenants. Dale and Jeff are professional speakers and co-authors of Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES (Wiley, 2013). Got a leasing question? Need help with your new lease or renewal? Call 1-800-738-9202, e-mail DaleWillerton@ TheLeaseCoach.com or visit www.TheLeaseCoach.com.


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Entrepreneurial Chef #11 - May 2017  

What will you learn from our featured guests? + Richard Grausman: Four Decades of Innovative Culinary Education + Tanya Holland: The Art of...

Entrepreneurial Chef #11 - May 2017  

What will you learn from our featured guests? + Richard Grausman: Four Decades of Innovative Culinary Education + Tanya Holland: The Art of...