Entrepreneurial f The Premier Magazine For Food Entrepreneurs
April 2018 Issue 22
6 Founders Share Their Funding Secrets
PRODUCT LABELING How to Avoid Missteps & FDA Trouble
â€” TOOLS OF THE TRADE
JEREMIAH TOWER An Intimate Interview with a Living Legend
10 Must Haves from DR. BBQ
t t o c S onant entrepreneurial chef
Entrepreneurial f Che
April 2018 Volume 3 / Issue #22
Publisher Rennew Media, LLC Editor Shawn Wenner Contributing Editor Katharine Rankin Staff Writers Jenna Rimensnyder, Jay Michael, Sara Kleins, Christian Saddler, Marie Reynolds, Chloe Friedman Graphic Designer Rusdi Saleh Cover Scott Conant Cover Photographer Ken Goodman Contributors Howard Cohn, Deb Cantrell, Jordan Anderson, Larry Adams Special Thanks Scott Conant, Lucy Fowlkes at Becca, Nancy Cushman, Meredith Sidman at Baltz & Company, Jeremiah Tower
Contact Us Entrepreneurial Chef 151 N. Maitland Ave #947511 Maitland, FL 32751 firstname.lastname@example.org
The opinions of columnists and contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by Entrepreneurial Chef and/or Rennew Media, LLC. Sources are considered reliable and information is verified as much as possible, however, inaccuracies may occur and readers should use the information at their own risk. Links embedded within the publication may be affiliate links, which means Entrepreneurial Chef will earn a commission at no additional cost to our readers. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any fashion without the expressed consent of Rennew Media, LLC. For advertising information, letters to the editor, or submission inquiries, please email: Contact@EntrepreneurialChef.Com. Entrepreneurial Chef donates a portion of advertising & editorial space to C-CAP, CORE, NRAEF & Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry. All Rights Reserved ÂŠ 2018 Entrepreneurial Chef Published by Rennew Media, LLC
SQUARE FOR FOOD AND BEVERAGE
The point of sale that serves your business.
Bakery • Café • Restaurant • Food Truck
14 Nancy Cushman The Art of Scaling
How To Walk Your Own Path
54 Jeremiah Tower The Role of Chaos & Random Acts
74 Amanda Biddle From Hobby Food Blog To Full-Time Business
84 Matt Sission Creating a Dream Product
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Tools of the Trade with Ray Lampe aka “Dr. BBQ”
Business Failures, Mistakes & Lessons Learned
66 Master Your Time & Dominate the Day with These Tips
80 Consumer Trends Creating Food Safety Concerns
90 Don’t mislabel your packaging, The FDA is Watching Carefully
Finding Capital is Tough (But Not Impossible) 6
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hat I love about this issue is the various directions and career paths some of the success stories took and the raw and relevant advice they shared.
For instance, Nancy Cushman, the co-founder of the acclaimed O Ya restaurant in Boston, who alongside husband Tim Cushman, exponentially grew their hospitality group and learned a tough lesson in the area of infrastructure to impart on ambitious food entrepreneurs. Jeremiah Tower, a living legend who among a handful of others pioneered California cuisine, shared the journey of becoming one of the first modern-day celebrity chefs. The stories told and advice he pulls in hindsight is applicable to anyone striving to build a culinary legacy today. Finally, Scott Conant recalls a 30+ year career that began with the humble ambition of buying a car and quickly morphed into opening his own restaurant, only later to forcefully cash in life insurance policies to make payroll, have ideas stolen, question his entire career, and eventually become an influential figure in the industry today. The journey is quite spectacular. One thingâ€™s certain, their stories are compelling and instructional all in one, and it was an honor to pull everything together. As always, I hope you enjoy the latest issue and glean from it fresh ideas, inspiration, and actionable advice.
Mistakes & Lessons Learned By: Chloe Friedman
erhaps you agree with Samuel Smiles when he said, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” Actually, it’s a proven fact. We learn more from failures than successes. And it’s not just our failures, it’s other people’s too. So this month we decided to connect with food entrepreneurs who bravely shared their business failures and mistakes in hopes of educating the audience on what not to do in the future – so, listen up!
Too Much Demand & Couldn’t Keep Up Our first failed business attempt was Another Bread Company, which was a Cottage Industry home bakery business providing hand-crafted, artisanal bread loaves, bagels and pretzels to visitors and locals in the Santa Ynez Valley / Santa Barbara region, via custom order and a monthly club. The business was open from 2013-2014, but we just couldn’t keep it going. The low-priced bakery food items didn’t bring in enough revenue to make up for the insane amount of time that it took to produce products at a very small scale, and the fact that we didn’t have a physical storefront was a problem at that point in time – partially due to the fact that my wife, a food and beverage PR person, did such a good job at marketing us, that we had too much demand and couldn’t keep up with it.
Lesson Learned Do the math, manage expectations, educate your audience (if applicable), and don’t over-market if you’re not ready to keep up with demand. We should have done better calculations – to include my very precious time – in figuring out the actual cost of each product and what we needed to bring in as far as income from the business. Also, don’t spread the word *too* much, if you can’t keep up with the possible demand that might come of publicity. You need to be very clear in your messaging – what goes out to the press – as far as your capabilities and circumstances. *Create* the expectations of the consumer. James Sparks, Winemaker & Ex-Baker Kings Carey Wines entrepreneurial chef
We Nearly Went Broke As an American food entrepreneur who started a social impact snack company in Ethiopia called Dirkosh Crunch, our big fail was neglecting to focus on cash flow & costs per unit. We centered all our energy on a good product & marketing. At the end of the day, we had a great snack, but not a sustainable business. We nearly went broke. Finally, we began tracking everything we spent, lowered some of our supply costs, & increased our wholesale price.
Lesson Learned To become financially aware & profitable as soon as possible. And your product is just as important as price. Valerie Bowden, Chief Cruncher Dirkosh Crunch
$400,000 I started a business called Super Suppers. It was a “make and take” concept. The idea was the customer comes to our “studio kitchen” location and preps meals in bulk, for a very reasonable price, and takes them home and freezes them. On days when they were busy, instead of ordering pizza again, they could put one of their meals in the oven and have a home cooked dinner in minutes. It failed in less than two years and we lost $400,000.
Lessons Learned The biggest take away is we were trying to change people’s food buying and prepping habits. I think, unless you have lots of time and money, it’s difficult to change people’s habits. Many people came to our location once for the novelty of the idea and to try it out. Most never came back a second time because it wasn’t convenient. It was easier to go to the grocery and buy a hot rotisserie chicken for $6 bucks, a bag of salad, a premade side from the deli section, and be done with it. Tom Scarda, Founder The Franchise Academy Photo Credit: Jr Casas
The Art of
Scaling By: Sara Kleins
ancy Cushman is the co-owner and founder of Cushman Concepts in Boston and New York City, home of the critically acclaimed O Ya in Boston and New York, Hojoko Japanese Tavern in Boston, and both Covina and Roof at Park South Hotel in New York City. Alongside husband Tim Cushman, a James Beard Award-Winning Chef, Cushman has built a hospitality company with a work culture founded on genuine care.
A graduate of the University of Illinois, Cushman’s first job in advertising would spawn a decade-long career working with Fortune 500 Companies – many of which were national food brands. Though satisfied with her career, the economic downturn abruptly morphed Cushman’s role into firing, terminating and laying off employees – an event that stifled her natural tendency to foster growth. Despite the experience later proving invaluable, Cushman sought to make a change. Being both creative and business-minded, Cushman, along with Tim, developed a business plan for a restaurant, secured a loan, found a location, and took a leap of faith to open their first restaurant O Ya. And though it was a rocky start out of the 16
gates, O Ya would later receive numerous awards, including being named by the New York Times’ #1 new restaurant in the U.S. outside of New York and the top Zagat rated restaurant in Boston – among other accolades. With the success of O Ya, and the birth of their hospitality company, the Cushman’s shifted into high gear and scaled to five establishments in a 5-year period. And while their success may have appeared smooth sailing, Cushman admits the road was more than rocky but worth every moment. In our interview, we discuss Cushman’s journey from one to five locations, lessons learned from hyper-growth, her infrastructure dilemma, and advice for all the ambitious food entrepreneurs out there.
When venturing out for the first time with O Ya in Boston, what was that period like?
It was very dicey in the first year. When we opened, we were very slow. We didn’t have any money for PR and had delays, so we paid rent for six months before opening, and it really put us behind. We were a couple of payrolls away from not being able to meet payroll again. Then, we had two things happen. Food & Wine named Tim as a Best New Chef, and the New York Times named O Ya as one of the best restaurants outside of New York. From there, we went on a completely different trajectory – it literally saved the business.
How did you know it was the right time to venture out on your own initially?
There’s a great quote that says, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So, it’s about being ready. Also, for restaurants, location is everything. We believed O Ya in Boston could be a destination restaurant. It’s in the leather district off the beaten path and has a speakeasy [feel]. The building was an old fire station with brick and high ceilings and has so much character. The building itself fit with the concept, so it was one of those must-dos. The biggest thing for us was developing a plan. We said we’d take it one step at a time, and if we hit a roadblock we couldn’t get past then we would stop, but we’d keep going until that happened. We also did tastings in our house with different people – some who really enjoyed food and some who didn’t really care about food. We wanted to make sure our food appealed to anybody that might be sitting at the table. We wanted people to punch holes in our plan because it ultimately strengthened it.
You have to show that you’re willing to put skin in the game.
What were the early hardships you faced and how’d you overcome them?
It was mostly financial. Getting the proper funds and being prepared for rainy days. After opening [O Ya in Boston], we had a year of low sales, but we never let staff go because you have to be ready if all the sudden you get busy, which we did. Some people let staff go, and at some point you have to, but you also have to be ready to deliver the goods. Also, with managing funds, in the beginning, everything’s a choice. There’s a really expensive version and a really cheap version of everything. It depends on what’s important to your vision when you’re spending your money, and not getting wooed by all the fancy things – stick to your original budgets. 18
What’s your advice to people before they step out on their own for the first time?
To make an idea real, you have to create a business plan and force yourself to answer the hard questions. Nobody starting out wants to imagine that a business is going to fail, but I’ve learned the most important thing you can do is plan for this in advance. What happens if you don’t succeed? What do you do for a partnership dissolution? Do you sell the assets? You should map out your failure plan and what you would do to turn things around because there will be times where unfortunate things are going to happen if you’re taking some chances. You need a plan as the foundation to support your great idea.
With your first O Ya in Boston, was that self-funded or did you have investors or partners? It was very challenging because we did it without investors by putting our house on the line. I still remember to this day how I felt signing away my house at the bank if things were not to go well. There was a really great low interest, seven-year loan designed to create jobs and stimulate [economic] growth. We needed around a half a million dollars, so we got the loan and put in additional funds. A lot of people often talk about doing their own thing, but when the rubber meets the road, you realize what kind of risk you’re willing to take to make your dreams come true because it takes a lot of sacrifice.
I still remember to this day how I felt signing away my house at the bank if things were not to go well.
What would you say to the person thinking between self-funding versus bringing on investors or partners? You either do it on your own and stomach all the risk and reward, or you get investors and realize you’re beholden to paying them back. It’s a very different stress associated with each. We’ve done about every approach and my preference, although it was the hardest, was to get the loan for the first restaurant. Tim and I knew if we did it on our own, we got to make every single decision without interference. And that was really important for the vision we had for O Ya. It’s most important to have cash flow because it will be tighter than you ever think it’s going to be. Access to funding is hard to get. For most chefs who want their own place and might have a following at their current restaurant, when it comes time for people to write checks [for your business], no matter how good you are, 90 percent are going to back out. [That said], you have to show that you’re willing to put skin in the game.
7 With incredible growth in the last six years, was there a standout lesson? One thing we found was our concepts are strong, but it was the infrastructure that was not. When you’re small and growing, you can’t overstaff infrastructure wise, and we quickly grew past our infrastructure. We’re still catching up. We were scrappy getting everything open and realized we needed more systems in place and tools and resources for everyone to perform well. That has been very interesting.
What was the period like as you were scaling from one to several locations so quickly? Highly challenging. It was a lot of balls in the air at the same time. It took a ton of planning and 20
To make an idea real, you have to create a business plan and force yourself to answer the hard questions. organization. The challenge is trying to do everything right and as well as possible because attention gets splintered. Also, where to focus. When and how to make sure everything’s rolling accordingly. Expanding so quickly, for us, without having the infrastructure was a challenge. It was the chicken and the egg [conundrum]. We were too small to be big and too big to be small. It’s that half pregnant point that’s really painful.
We said we’d take it one step at a time, and if we hit a roadblock we couldn’t get past then we would stop, but we’d keep going until that happened.
entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chefchef 21
What’s your advice to those looking to scale to several locations?
Don’t do too much too fast. Take it one step at a time strategically and make sure the footing is solid, and then move on to the next step. The more experience you have with doing that, you might be able to expedite [later]. Make sure what you’re doing is at a hundred percent, and then doing the next thing at a hundred percent, in the long-term is going to serve you better than trying to jump-start[growth] and maybe not doing it exactly as you’d like. Another thing is making sure the team is structured correctly to whatever your growth is. It’s a challenge as an entrepreneur and as a growing group because you can’t bring on that hundred plus thousand-dollar person now, but you need them at the same time. So, get creative because there are other ways to do things.
In relation to marketing or advertising, what have you learned through the years in this area? First, I never thought I’d be having menu conversations about something being “Instagram-able” [laughing]. When we opened O Ya in Boston, we didn’t have money for PR and word of mouth was powerful, but slow. I believe the service and product you provide on a daily basis is your strongest form of marketing because that’s how you’re going to get people to come back. Things are changing so much with social media now with influencers and having followers, but at the same time, I don’t know how much that’s actually translating into people coming into the restaurant to sit and eat versus just liking something. The whole arena is right changing so much right now that even PR agencies are adapting. People are consuming food and restaurants in a much different way, so staying current, aware, and relevant is important. Another thing is building your network to partner or collaborate with other groups, brands, products, or whatever makes sense for your audience and guests. And you have to know who your guests are and how to reach them, which is totally different by concept, city, market, or even times of the day.
What’s your final advice to the food entrepreneurs striving to pursue their dreams and goals? If you’re thinking about chasing a dream or creating something new you have to fast forward to the end of your life and ask if you would regret not trying. If you’re really entrepreneurial, and you plan properly with thought behind it, you can pretty much find a way to overcome anything.
It depends on what’s important to your vision when you’re spending your money, and not getting wooed by all the fancy things – stick to your original budgets. Photo Credits: Brian Samuels, Eric Laignel, Jess Nash
entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chefchef 23
Top Ten Takeaways from
Nancy Cushman 1
Plan diligently from a capital standpoint for your first year in business just in case sales are slow growing.
Plan ahead for a business or partnership dissolution to be prepared with an emergency plan if it ever happens.
Being self-funded means you’re not beholden to anyone else and decisions and/ or creativity is solely up to you – that can be a major plus.
When you’re building your business there’s a cheap and expensive version of everything, so plan your budgets in advance and work diligently to stick to them.
If you want to get investors, you have to show that you’ve got skin in the game.
Scale your business one step at a time so you don’t bite off more than you can chew and compromise your quality or service.
People are consuming food and restaurants in a much different way in our social media driven age, so it’s important to stay current.
If you’re truly entrepreneurial, you can find a way to overcome anything.
Luck is defined as preparation meeting opportunity. Always be ready.
If you’re thinking of chasing a dream but are unsure, imagine the end of your life and ask yourself if you’d regret not trying.
Finding Capital is
(But Not Impossible)
Hereâ€™s how six founders funded their ventures
Sharon Spatucci, Owner & Pastry Chef
Sugarplum Studio Getting Funded: When I realized that I wanted to open a cake and cupcake decorating studio instead of a traditional retail bakery, I developed a business plan and looked into getting a loan, but found that nothing was available to me without a business history. So, I modified my plan and did mobile cake and cupcake decorating in customersâ€™ homes on nights and weekends, saving every penny toward my future plan, while continuing to work at my production bakery job. A year and a half later, I found out from my employer that the business was folding and I knew it was time to take the leap and find a home for my business. Having the experience and capital from the mobile format of the business let me open the doors to Sugarplum Studio. Advice For Others: It may be possible for you to fund your business yourself. Consider finding creative alternate ways of doing business to gain the experience and funds you need to move forward.
Josephine Caminos Oria, President & Founder
La Dorita Cooks Kitchen Incubator & All Natural Dulce de Leche Products Getting Funded: In order to fulfill our first Dulce de Leche orders from Whole Foods Market, we were required to produce our product in a licensed commercial kitchen. At the time, there was a lack of affordable food grade spaces available for rent, and combined with the high upfront cost to build out a food grade space, we were faced with an enormous challenge that threatened to deter our food business before we even got started. With no other options at hand, we decided to build our own commercial kitchen in the dining room of our home, which required us taking out a $30,000 line of credit on our home and set us back six months in the process. Three years later, we opened the first Commercial Kitchen Share Incubator in Pittsburgh, PA to fill the void of licensed co-working space for food entrepreneurs. Today we aim to help other food startups avoid the very mistakes we made. Advice For Others: Consider joining an industry-specific shared-workspace such as a kitchen incubator, church kitchen, or even partnering with a restaurant and using their kitchen on off-hours. Incubators and shared-work spaces act as a proxy to capital in early years when growth is risky and provide micro-enterprises to prove their concept before breaking ground and to preserve operating capital for high-priority expenses such as research and development, trademarking, personnel acquisition, marketing, and branding. According to research conducted by the National Business Incubation Association, it is estimated that 87% of businesses that graduate from established incubator programs are still in business within five years, versus 50% of those that have not had this support.
entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chefchef 27
Kelli Lipson, Founder
Spoonable Spirits Getting Funded: For the first year, I started with a small investment from my personal savings before looking for a large source of funding. This allowed me to test my startup idea and see how it was received without any large financial consequences. To aid in startup costs, I also entered several business plan pitch competitions, including one through the NY Public Library, which each provided a little bit of grant money. Now that I’m one year into launch, I am taking advantage of a program available to select business school students while I’m at Columbia Business School, called Dorm Room Fund, which invests through a SAFE with super founder-friendly terms. Advice For Others: Make small investments until you’ve tested your product. This will allow room to adjust your idea without too many consequences. Once you’re ready for a larger source of funding, look for investors that work with similar companies in your industry. They will understand the type of terms that work best to help your business excel and be able to offer useful guidance.
Carin Luna-Ostaseski, Founder
SIA Scotch Whisky Getting Funded: I bootstrapped at first, taking on freelance work in my previous life as a Graphic Designer in addition to working my full-time job. I pulled money out of my savings and borrowed against my house. When it came time for production for SIA Scotch Whisky, I was low on funds, so I crowdfunded the first bottling on Kickstarter, becoming the highest raise for a spirits company at that time, and the first time ever that a Scotch Whisky was crowdfunded. SIA is now thriving with multiple awards won, incredible distribution and chain retail partners in several states, and investors to help drive our next stage of growth. Advice For Others: Think about how much you will need to get started, budget everything (production, legal, marketing, sales, accounting/taxes, public relations) to breakeven. And then, this is very important, once you have that number, triple it. Everything will take longer and be more expensive than you can estimate. I also frequently give the advice to start with a business partner if you can. I didn’t and wished I had. Many hours and dollars would have been saved before going too far in one direction or having someone to help run things faster.
Sarah Heard & Nathan Lemley, Owners
Foreign and Domestic, Austin Getting Funded: We gathered our credentials & created a business plan + 7 years’ projections. We took all of these things to several investors, but no one wanted to bite. We finally met someone who put us in touch with a local banker that enthusiastically worked with us. The person who referred us to our banker is now our PR rep – owner of R Public Relations, Emily. Advice For Others: Purchasing an already existing, credible restaurant helped us in a rocky economy. The restaurant had proven that it could weather the ups & downs of the industry. Always do your due diligence, take nothing without a degree of skepticism, & hire a lawyer to draft your papers.
Mary Biggins, Co-Founder
MealPal Getting Funded: We are fortunate to have great investors on the MealPal team. David Beisel at NextView Ventures led the first round of funding when we only had an idea and a few (very ugly) slides. He understood our vision almost immediately and has been a valuable sounding board and advisor. We’ve raised $35 million since our first round with NextView, and have been lucky to add smart and thoughtful investors from firms like Haystack Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Bessemer Ventures, and, most recently, Menlo Ventures. Advice For Others: I think it’s important to understand your audience and figure out a way to engage them throughout the pitch. While it can be easier to deliver a rehearsed pitch without questions or interruptions, I’ve found that pitches that don’t follow a script usually result in the best conversations. It used to really throw me off when people would interrupt or ask a question that I would be addressing in later slides. However, I’ve learned to embrace it – it’s usually a sign that whoever you are pitching is interested. Some of the best pitches have ended on the second slide and turned into conversations rather than a rehearsed presentation.
entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chefchef 29
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ÂŠ 2018 Kabbage, Inc. All rights reserved. Kabbage is a registered trademark of Kabbage, Inc., used under license. All Kabbage loans are issued by Celtic Bank, a Utah-Chartered Industrial Bank, Member FDIC. Credit lines are subject to periodic review and change, including line reductions, line increases, line eliminations. Upgrade equipment Boost yourormarketing This is not a revolving account. Individual requests for capital are separate installment loans. ÂŠ 2018 Kabbage, Inc. All rights reserved. Kabbage is a registered trademark of Kabbage, Inc., used under
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How To Walk
Your Own Path By: Jay Michael
cott Conant knew early in his career he “didn’t want to be a disciple of
anybody else” and wanted to walk his own path. With an unwavering passion to create soulful food in a convivial atmosphere, Conant has worked diligently over 30 years to establish himself as one of the country’s top chefs and restaurateurs. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Conant broke out onto the restaurant scene in his twenties, running the kitchens of famed Italian spots such as il Toscanaccio, Chianti and City Eatery, which earned glowing reviews under his leadership. 34
In true entrepreneurial fashion, Conant put his name on the line to open L’Impero in 2002, which garnered a three star review from The New York Times, “Best New Restaurant” from the James Beard Foundation, and acclaim from Gourmet and Food & Wine. Following the success of L’Impero, Conant opened Alto, an elegant Italian restaurant in midtown Manhattan. With a deep-seeded hunger for more, Conant brought a vision of sophisticated, savory Italian cooking to life with Scarpetta. And by 2017, Conant opened Fusco in New York’s Flatiron district; Mora Italian, a modern, convivial osteria in Phoenix, Arizona; and The Ponte, a contemporary Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, California. Having appeared on the Today Show, The Chew, CBS’ The Talk and Good Morning America, being a regular judge on Chopped, and publishing three cookbooks: New Italian Cooking, Bold Italian and The Scarpetta Cookbook, Conant is relentless in his pursuits, but jokes about his endeavors by saying, “The list goes on, and it’s honestly too much to tell because you’d say, Scott, you’re full of it.” As Conant continues to embark on new opportunities, he works to share his enduring philosophy: savor the pure pleasure of food, down to its last taste. In our interview, we connected with Conant to discuss his entrepreneurial pursuits, how he picks the winners from the losers, dark periods endured while chasing his dream, and the advice he has for other culinary trail blazers.
& QA The
What was your ambition starting out and how has it changed through time?
When I first started as a 15-year-old kid, my goal was to buy a car – humble, beginnings [laughs]. It didn’t even have to be a nice car, just a car. Playing baseball as a kid, a sense of teamwork was instilled in me, and working in a restaurant, I identified that same sense of team and loved it. [My ambition] morphed and I tried to be the best cook in the kitchen; it helped me move up quickly. Then I went to The Culinary Institute of America, Europe, back to New York City, and worked hard to evolve. The benefit now is that the idea of food has changed completely. It wasn’t like that when I first started in the mid-eighties. Now, it’s a food culture. [Back
then] there was food appreciation, but not a culture of food. As it’s evolved, I do a lot of different things under the guise of food – TV shows, podcasts, working in restaurants, etc. [Today], food is my life, and I talk about it all the time.
Was it your plan early on in your career to go in an Italian direction?
No, I wanted to cook fancy French food; I thought that’s where it was at. Take into consideration, as I was working in restaurants, there wasn’t the access and insight you have today – no internet, no Food Network, etc. My idea of fancy French restaurants was strictly things that I had seen pictures of or on [limited] TV shows. Fancy French food; I thought that was the key. I didn’t realize there were elevated versions of Italian food – that came later. entrepreneurial chef
There was a lot of humbling moments and a ton of pressing reset and starting over.
What was one of the toughest periods in your career thus far and how’d you pull through? Too many to name [laughing]! [For me], I was always good at what I did. The idea of cooking good food was never an issue for me; it was the other stuff I wasn’t prepared for. The business arrangements, partnerships, egos, whether mine or somebody else’s, there was a lot of humbling moments and a ton of pressing reset and starting over. The path to success is very, very difficult. I think adhering to the vision is really hard to do, and sometimes it requires a step back to take five steps forward, but you don’t realize at the time when that starts. When you’re taking a step backward, it’s hard to trust that it’s the right thing in order to reset and move forward. It requires a lot of faith in yourself, your team, and overall faith in the universe. 36
When stepping out first time to open L’Impero, and seemingly having overnight success, what was the culmination of this? When we opened L’Impero, I had been working in the city for 12 years to get that seemingly “overnight success.” Success is a weird thing. There’s more of a perception of other people with your success as opposed to how you feel about your own success. I think I’ve had successful moments, had a few really good things happen, I’ve been very fortunate, but I don’t consider myself successful. Successful for me is identifying as a successful person. For me, my own definition of that would mean that I’m close to the end, and I’ve got a lot of things I want to do. Even though it’s been 32 years, I still feel like the underdog. And I’ve had a lot of therapy about this by the way [laughing]!
With a lot of people today setting out to build a “personal brand,” was this something you tried to do consciously or was it just organic over time?
talented that don’t know how to deal with the failures, and that’s where true failure lies.
I just wanted to do things that felt good, and I continued to do things that I thought were an extension of myself.
It boils down to attitude. Always. We do Chopped, a great show with tremendous success, and we have a lot of young chefs who come in with a sense of “you don’t understand me.” And I remember being like that and having that attitude.
If you have a solid core, foundation, good sense of right and wrong, whatever successes you achieve or failures you endure, I think that moral compass and personal integrity that you apply towards your vocation will get you through difficult times. Because failures are inevitable. Nobody has a hundred percent success rate; it just doesn’t happen. In order to deal with the positives, you have to deal with the negatives, and if you don’t learn from them, then that’s the true sense of failure. We’ve all dealt with people in our lives who are so wildly
What do you think holds people back when they’re stepping out for the first time?
It’s okay to have a little sass, that’s good, but all too often you have to keep it in check. If you constantly look at other people and think they’re wrong and you’re right, chances are you’re the asshole. There have been times in my life where I really thought I was right and I turned out I was the asshole, and it takes a hard look in the mirror to identify that within yourself.
Adhering to the vision is really hard to do, and sometimes it requires a step back to take five steps forward.
If you have a solid core, foundation, good sense of right and wrong, whatever successes you achieve or failures you endure, I think that moral compass and personal integrity that you apply towards your vocation will get you through difficult times.
In order to deal with the positives, you have to deal with the negatives, and if you don’t learn from them, then that’s the true sense of failure.
In connecting with so many chefs on Chopped, what separates the “winners” from the “losers” in your opinion? Attitude. And it’s not buying into the perception of other people’s successes. If you spent all your time pursuing the vision of someone else’s success, I don’t think you would ever arrive. You’d never feel fulfilled or happy. That’s not what it’s all about. Success is a funny thing; we all have a different idea of what success is. Some people think it’s money. Other people think it’s a happy family or health. It depends on your own definition – what motivates you and what your own compass is set at. [Personally], I can look at other chefs in my genre and say that guy or woman is more successful than me, but that’s not the point. It’s what am I happy with and what motivates me. That’s what I have to pursue; not society’s beliefs of my own success.
With restaurants in places like New York, LA, Phoenix, Vegas, and opening more this year, can you touch on scaling your brand and businesses? First of all, it’s very difficult to get out of your own way, and that’s what I’ve had to do. [Also], I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to surround myself with great people – my team is solid. I also come from a place where the most important aspect of what we do in restaurants has to be service. Service is first and the food is a follow-up to the service experience. It doesn’t mean that food isn’t important. It’s just most important to whoever is swimming in the food lane. Everybody plays a position, and if they do their absolute best within the confines of their position, then we’re going to be fine. But if the second baseman worries about the shortstop, so to speak, then the second baseman isn’t going to be doing his or her job to the best of their ability. It’s really important to set guidelines in the beginning. What I tell my team all the time is that we pursue goodness. We make people happy. And it’s not a selfless act; it’s for my own selfish reasons. I do what I do because it makes me happy – making people happy makes me happy. entrepreneurial chef
If you spent all your time pursuing the vision of someone else’s success, I don’t think you would ever arrive. You’d never feel fulfilled or happy. That’s not what it’s all about.
How important has been empowering your team to effectively run the various locations? People need to be empowered. You don’t want paralysis by over-analysis. I don’t want everybody sitting around, they need to make a decision. And we’re going to make wrong decisions, but we’re going to err on the side of generosity when those decisions are made. We need to think bigger than just the dollars and cents that are coming into an individual restaurant. 40
What do you look for when bringing someone onboard, whether for the front line or management team? I get a feel for the individual to see if I can trust them. I care less about someone’s resume and care more about how they’ve endured life, their perception of customers, or what motivates them. Because if somebody says they want the highest check average out of a customer, that’s a sign they may not be the person I want running my business. I want somebody who’s after the relationship. We’re ultimately in the relationship business, and the relationship that you form with your customer base is most important. I’ll take sincerity and authenticity any day of the week. I’ll hire goodness over a resume any day of the week. Because I could teach the person with that inherent sense of goodness what we need as opposed to the person who thinks they already know everything – you can’t teach that person anything.
What would you tell people about the kind of mindset they need to be successful long-term? There are so many things you need to figure out in order to walk your path, and it takes a long time to know if you’re even on the right path. I was fortunate that early in my career I knew I didn’t want to be a disciple of anybody else, I wanted to walk my own path, but it took me a long time to get there. It took a lot of hard work and being hit on the head. In hindsight, I realized it was necessary for me to go through because I needed to be humbled. I needed to be humiliated and stolen from. I needed my ideas to be ripped off. I needed the culmination of my career to be questioned all the time in order for me to move forward and persevere. It wasn’t easy. To anybody starting out, if you think it’s an easy path, then maybe you should rethink what you’re doing. If you think you’re better than everybody else, maybe you should choose a new career because what you’re leading with at that point are your own insecurities, you’re not leading with confidence. Everybody needs to be humbled in their own way. Everybody needs to realize that you’re not as important to a particular concept as you think. And that’s really humbling. I’ve left my own restaurants at different periods of my life, and they’ve gone on without me, and that was really confusing for me. I thought, “How does that go on without me,” but life goes on, and that’s hard for people to understand.
When you’re approached with either business ventures or opportunities, how do you evaluate before accepting or declining? Lucky Lee of Lucky’s Real Tomatoes said to me early in the game that she decided to only do business with the people she wanted to and if she got a hard time she wouldn’t do business with them. She’d rather have an easy life than to chase people around for money and have it be difficult. At the time, I felt like it was short-sighted – I wasn’t going to be like that. I thought I’d get along with everybody, but you realize you’re not going to all the time. Signing the right deal with the right people and creating the right partnership [is important].In a true partnership, you have to put your ego in the back seat and do what’s right for the brand or what you’re creating. You have to do what’s right for the overall goals and take into consideration what’s right for your team, staff, investors, but ultimately it’s about the customer. It’s about what’s going to make the customer happy. entrepreneurial chef
The most important aspect of what we do in restaurants has to be service. Service is first and the food is a follow-up to the service experience.
Did you grasp the mentality you have today about business & entrepreneurship early on or was this the result of tough lessons along the way?
I care less about someone’s resume and care more about how they’ve endured life, their perception of customers, or what motivates them.
No, I got the shit kicked out of me at different points in my life. People don’t understand what it takes to be entrepreneurial. I think of myself as a cook and an entrepreneur before anything else. When people talk about what it takes [they don’t know that], I’ve had to sell my car to meet payroll. I’ve had to cash in life insurance policies to meet payroll. There were times in my career where I wouldn’t get paid for months on end. I’ll never forget, I was working at a place, and my roommate [at the time] would give me his rent check, and I would cash it and pay my staff out of that check. It was the only way I could cook what I wanted to cook – I needed my team there. I made sure the [staff was] happy,so I could do what I loved. There are days when I say [I have] the best job in the world, and I’m so fortunate to do what I do. And then there are days where I say, God there’s got to be an easier way to make a living [laughing]. entrepreneurial chef
What are the business ventures or opportunities you’re looking at right now?
As I look back at the amount of press I’ve gotten on my tomato sauce – a recipe tweaked over the years – I feel like it’s never been better. And there’s no reason why I’m not selling that retail for people to experience it at home. That’s something I’m taking down the road a little bit. I’m also looking at partnering with vineyards in Italy to do my own wine label with my daughter’s name on them because I could sell those wines in the restaurants and have people experience some of my favorite flavor profiles that come out of a wine bottle. I’m also working on restaurants, putting together another cookbook, and then Chopped got picked up again. The list goes on, and it’s honestly too much to tell because you’d say “Scott, you’re full of it [laughing].” The long-term goal is I want to sit on a boat and fish 11 months of the year.
For aspiring food entrepreneurs, what’s your last piece of advice?
Being undercapitalized is one of the biggest challenges. If you’ve ever gone through it, you know how hard it is because it takes a toll on every aspect of your life. Before you launch, I know that our egos get in the way sometimes, but make sure you’re properly financed. Pick and choose what advice you’re going to pay attention to because there’s 44
a lot of negative people who don’t want to see you succeed no matter how much they love you. Trying to persevere beyond searing words can be really confusing and hurtful sometimes, and your belief in yourself has to be the motivating factor. You have to be pure with your intentions; it can’t be about accolades or anything else. It’s not about accepting Beard awards, getting best new chef, or even about the bottom line, it’s about the purity of your ambition. Photo Credit: Ken Goodman
I think of myself as a cook and an entrepreneur before anything else.
Top Ten Takeaways from
Scott Conant 1
Long-term success is often wrapped in humbling moments and having to press the reset button along the way – embrace it.
Before you launch your business, make sure you’re properly financed.
If you don’t learn from the negative experience’s you go through you will come to understand the true meaning of failure.
Nobody succeeds 100% of the time – it just doesn’t happen.
At times you will have to take a step back in order to take several steps forward.
If you pursue someone else’s vision of success you will never feel fulfilled or be happy.
Take someone’s resume into consideration but get a feel for the trustworthiness of an individual before hiring them.
A true business partnership requires putting egos aside and doing what’s right for the brand or business.
Service is the most important aspect in a food business. The food is a follow up to the service.
It’s not just about accolades or the bottom line, it’s about the purity of your ambition.
entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chefchef 45
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Tools of the Trade with Ray Lampe aka
We are questioning food entrepreneurs on what their top 10 tools or apps that assist them in exceling at their craft. From cooking tools to secret ingredients, they are spilling it all to give readers an inside look at what is in their bag. This month we have checked in with Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, to find out which equipment brands the barbecue hall of famer prefers, as well as his signature spice supplier. 48
Big Green Egg Simply the best grill, smoker and pizza oven. I use a Large and a Mini-Max for most of my cooking.
Big Green Egg Natural Lump Charcoal Good clean fuel is critical to making tasty food and the Big Green Egg lump charcoal is as good as it gets. entrepreneurial chef
Billy Bar Grill Cleaner Sometimes the simplest of tools are the best and the Billy Bar qualifies. I use it to clean the grates, stir the charcoal, lift the grid and in a pinch, it will even flip a steak.
Custom-Made Chef Jacket from Culinary Classics I like to look good when Iâ€™m cooking and these guys have been making my signature Chef jackets for years. I get the V-neck cut with Âž sleeves, cuff and collar conversion and fabric wrapped buttons.
Shun Kanso Brisket Slicer When my brisket is done, it is tender so it takes a quality sharp knife to slice it and I have never found one that was better than the Shun Kanso. It’s long and sharp with a handle that won’t slip and it comes with a handy wooden sheath for safe storage.
Penderys Brand Granulated Garlic & Onion As a barbecue guy, I make a lot of dry rubs and these two ingredients are staples so I always buy the best that I can, and that comes from Penderys. Hint: I buy a lot of other spices from them too.
Sugar In The Raw Anyone who makes dry rubs should be using this product because it doesn’t burn as fast as white or brown sugar.
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Disposable Cutting Boards When you cook outside, as I do, hauling and cleaning cutting boards can be a lot of work. These things solve that problem and they really last. Buy the big ones.
Kikkoman Soy Sauce My top-secret salt substitute for just about any dish. 52
Vitamix Blender This thing can blend anything in seconds and it will last a lifetime.
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Jeremiah Tower: The Role of Chaos & Random Acts By: Christian Saddler
entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chefchef 55
s one of the first modern celebrity chefs, Jeremiah Tower’s lived a remarkable life. Though often controversial, Tower’s influence inspired a food revolution as he, among a handful of others, pioneered California cuisine. And though Time Magazine’s account in the past of Tower being more famous than Meryl Streep was to illustrate a point, the quip was not too far from the truth. Beginning his career at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, Tower’s role of executive chef came without prior kitchen experience. Yet, within a year’s time, Tower became an equal partner and commanded full charge of the kitchen. After a fallout with Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, Tower courageously stepped out to launch his Stars Restaurant in San Francisco. The success was immediate, and Tower was thrust into the limelight as the now legendary Stars would become one of America’s top-grossing U.S. restaurants. Pushing the boundaries further, Tower would open and own several highly acclaimed restaurants such as Stars Café, Speedo 690, The Peak Café in Hong Kong, Stars Singapore, and Stars Seattle. Tower even appeared in places like The New York Times, Times Magazine, on the PBS series Julia Child’s “Cooking with Master Chefs,” “Good Morning America,” “CBS This Morning,” “Regis shows” and “The Late 56
Show with David Letterman,” and authored, co-authored, or appeared in numerous books. Seemingly overnight, Tower sold the Stars restaurants to an Asian group, pursued other projects, and then mysteriously disappeared from the scene for nearly two decades. In his documentary Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, Tower would resurface in the most unlikely of places: New York City’s fabled Tavern on the Green. It would be there where a journey of self-discovery would begin. Hearing from people like Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl and Martha Stewart in the film, the documentary tells the story of the rise and fall of Tower and cements his legacy as a culinary genius. In our interview, we walked down memory lane to explore Tower’s illustrious career. From the humble beginnings at Chez Panisse to stepping out to launch Stars Restaurant. His rise to fame, the struggles endured, and his advice for those working to leave a culinary legacy.
After a Harvard education in architecture, where did the decision to pursue food come from? I’m a great believer in the role of chaos in one’s life and the big decisions that affect your life. Answering that ad [for Chez Panisse] was sort of random, but it was because I was completely broke and I needed a job. It never occurred to me that I would be a chef or run a restaurant. Probably, if I knew what it meant, I would never have gone there [laughs], but I’m glad I did.
2 of cuisine?
Can talk about what you did at Chef Panisse that invented a whole new type
I can see people rolling their eyes when I say that every single product in whole foods, except for perhaps iceberg lettuce, did not exist [in a single store]. I had to drive 10 miles to find olive oil, and fresh herbs I stole from gardens. One day, there was a knock at the back door of the kitchen. A guy was holding wild king salmon, and I thought, “finally!” I didn’t know where to get Salmon that fresh, so I said if he brought anything from the bay I would buy it from him – and then the word spread. Suddenly, there were hippies bringing mushrooms, people bringing mussels, and the next thing I knew we were raising geese in Sonoma to make cassoulet. That’s how it started because there was nothing [at that time]. Walking to Chez Pannise from my apartment, there was a garden that had a lot of nasturtiums, so I would bring a bag and pick them and put on salads for lunch. Everyone’s thought, “God, that’s really weird; flowers on food?” And that’s how far we’ve come.
Using fresh ingredients like that back then, were you just having fun or really trying to create a new cuisine?
After leaving Chez Panisse, what was it like stepping out on your own for the first time to open Stars?
It’d sound ridiculous to say we had no idea we were creating a new cuisine, but I was just trying to fill a restaurant. That’s when I came up with the ideas of the regional dinners in France, then around the United States, and finally the California regional dinner in 1976, which grabbed the attention of the press to call it “California Cuisine.” I had no idea that we were doing anything sensational, it was the only way I wanted to cook – the only thing that turned me on.
I was absolutely terrified! I mean, what are you going to do though? You have to just pull yourself together and get on with it.
Ingredients are what it’s all about. If you ever lose your love of those you should slam the door of your kitchen and leave.
The first event we held there, a press lunch, we had not finished the restaurant. So, I put a huge table down in the middle of the main room – all the workman were sawing and hammering away – and I decorated the table with nails, hammers, and saws. We had no gas, so we cooked everything on charcoal. That was a huge hit. The press went mad from there saying if we could do that, we could do anything. You need to be obsessive. You need a great work ethic. You need to be slightly crazy. Otherwise, how could you be a chef? To be a restaurant owner, you have to be obsessive and worry about whether the light bulbs are out just as much as whether the asparagus is perfect when it goes out to the table.
I’m a great believer in the role of chaos in one’s life and the big decisions that affect your life.
As you started to experience the success with Stars, what was the gravity like dealing with it at such a high level? It’s much easier getting the fame than keeping it. So, my formula was I never read a favorable review of me because I knew my head would explode. I would take the favorable ones and post for the staff because they loved seeing them. I would read only the negative reviews, and then have staff meetings to go through every point to improve and make sure it didn’t happen again. At some point, Time Magazine said I had more publicity than Meryl Streep, which was not true, but their point was how could a chef be as famous as a Hollywood mega-star. That’s pretty dangerous territory to get into. Especially if you believe it. Once you believe your press, you’re done.
Having not dined at Stars but seeing the footage, the restaurant has been called the original modern restaurant, right? According to the people who talk in the film [The Last Magnificent] like Mario Batali, Martha Stewart, and Anthony Bourdain who said that was the restaurant that changed restaurants forever. Johnny Apple, the food columnist for the New York Times, said it was the most democratic restaurant in America. Meaning, you could have a hamburger and a glass of Chateau La Tete sitting at the bar, or you could spend hundreds of dollars all dressed up. My favorite story was the opening of the opera, and a homeless, naked streaker came
Ingredients are what it’s all about. If you ever lose your love of those you should slam the door of your kitchen and leave. through. I thought it was going to really upset the evening, so I stopped him, and I turned to the bartender and said, “Get this man a glass of champagne please.” The guy took one look at me, one at the glass of champagne, and fled. Everybody in the restaurant thought I had staged it, so they all stood up and started clapping [laughing]. Again, the role of chaos and random acts.
What were the dark or challenging periods at Stars, and how’d you pull through? In [The Last Magnificent], you see the impact the earthquake in 1989 had on the restaurant. The civic center – opera, symphony, ballet, etc. – closed, and as my chef said [in the film], we went from 350 lunches to zero overnight. It cost me about $8 million, but I wanted to keep Stars open. We couldn’t pay our bills, and it got really hairy. It was horrible to walk into that restaurant with the staff thinking if we were going to close. But, when the going gets tough, you just do it. What I did was open the restaurant in Hong Kong, which was incredibly profitable, and I brought back a half a million dollars at a time and threw it into Stars, so I didn’t have to lay anybody off. entrepreneurial chef
In The Last Magnificent – a beautiful documentary – they dive into your childhood, so was fending for yourself early on something that helped you mature faster in this industry? Yes, absolutely. As a child, the least terrifying thing was telling the maître d’ what kind of smoked salmon I wanted. When it came time to open a restaurant, find that smoked salmon, and find the customers who wanted it, that was a different story. I had restaurant nightmares until at least five years after I sold my restaurants. The nightmares where you open the restaurant and nobody shows up. As a kid, a customer in great hotels, that wasn’t my worry. It did give me discipline and training to just get on with it – pull up my socks and do it. 60
You need to be obsessive. You need a great work ethic. You need to be slightly crazy. Otherwise, how could you be a chef?
In previous correspondence, you were quoted saying, “I am a sucker for the slim chance.” Can you elaborate on this? Everyone asks me why I left the beach in Mexico and went to New York in the winter to do Tavern On The Green. And I said because it was the biggest challenge I could possibly think of and a very slim chance. Choosing the location for Stars was a very slim chance. Everyone said I was insane to take that location, but I knew it wasn’t. The Peak Café in Hong Kong was a slim chance. So I believe these opportunities come by, and your immediate reaction is that you’d be crazy to do that, and that’s when you should look again.
You mention the role of chaos in your career, as such, what have you learned about managing chaos when you look back?
What do you look for when hiring individuals and what’s your philosophy on leading them?
First of all, the restaurant business is like a centrifuge going the wrong way. You as the operator, it’s your job to put your arms around that centrifuge and stop everything from spinning off instead of going into the center.
If they don’t have the right work ethic and attitude, you can’t teach them anything, and it’s a waste of time. But if somebody has the right attitude, then you can teach them anything. [Dominique Crenn] is a perfect example. I talked to her for five minutes and knew she had the right attitude.
Chaos and randomness are like the lunch we did in Newport, Rhode Island at the Astor Mansion for a hundred journalists. When we got to the Astor Mansion in the morning, a famous French chef at the time and his crew were there, and they said to get out – we were just California kids to them. We had to cook lunch in about four hours, and we didn’t have a kitchen. I looked around, and we had three six-foot grills and charcoal. I said, “Okay, we’re cooking everything on the grills,” and I put them right in front of the journalists. It ended up being four cooks, each with two 12-inch sauté pans, flipping mixed berries in the air in syrup and putting on a show. That’s accepting chaos; you embrace it.
The biggest challenge is to have a team have all the same work ethic, expectations, and passion. You have to instill a benchmark in your team. How do you do that? You sit them down, give them the best possible experience that you could wish for a paying client, and teach them.
The hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur is to make that decision and do whatever it takes until you achieve success.
You should stand in front of the ingredients, get absolutely blown away by whatever they are, and then cook them according to what they tell you, not what you are telling yourself because you
want to be in a Michelin Guide.
What are your thoughts on the direction of the industry today, specifically in the US? Lost its way. Blindly grouping down the restaurant road. Because I can be in Sydney, London, Hong Kong, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the same plate is put in front of me. It looks the same, and it’s the same “of the moment” ingredients. [For instance], take 16 different colored dots around a plate, what am I supposed to do with each one? Put my fork in them? And if so, in what order? Now let’s say for a moment we want that, well, why is everybody doing it? Everybody. They’re cooking intellectual with their heads and not cooking with their mouths and all of their senses. It comes back to ingredients. You should stand in front of the ingredients, get absolutely blown away by whatever they are, and then cook them according to what they tell you, not what you are telling yourself because you want to be in a Michelin Guide. The ingredients are the star, not you as a chef. I say to everybody, grow some balls and do what you want to do, what makes your heart sing. 62
What would be some of your advice for those looking to standout today or experience career success? One word, indispensable. Make yourself indispensable. [In my career], I got there not by knowing that [superstardom] even existed, I got there by making fabulous food in fabulous restaurants. If I were a young cook now, I would go and cook with the people I most admire who would teach me what they know, make it my own, and make it so fabulous that everybody would want to know who I was and see what I was doing. There are enough famous chefs coming to the United States on tour where you could push your way in – convince them they need you. I went to James Beard, and I said, “We need to know each other. You need to know me, I need to know you, and you need to write about me.” Again, you see an opportunity, you grab it and make the most of it. Photo Credits: Paul Zimmerman, Getty Images, CNN Films, Jeremiah Tower
Top Ten Takeaways from
Jeremiah Tower 1
Chaos has its place in life. When it happens, you should immediately embrace it.
When opportunities are present that terrify you initially, you should look again very carefully.
Ingredients are the star, not you as a cook or chef.
It’s much easier getting fame than keeping it.
Even if you don’t know how to do something, say yes, gulp, and figure it out. That’s what entrepreneurship and hospitality is all about.
Be obsessive about the things you want most in life.
If you start to believe your press, you’re done for.
Attitude is everything; both personally and when hiring employees.
Make yourself indispensable.
Find those you most admire and create an opportunity to work with them as to absorb as much knowledge as possible.
entrepreneurial entrepreneurialchef chef 63 63
= PRODUCTIVITY CERTIFICATION RETENTION ADVANCEMENT
Are you in?
To get your company involved, visit ChooseRestaurants.org/Apprenticeship
Co-chaired by Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) is a national non-profit that promotes and provides career opportunities for underserved youth through culinary arts education and employment. WHO DOES C-CAP SERVE?
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
17,500+ students 211 public high school teachers 168 schools 5,000+ industry partners
Mentor or hire a sudent Donate products or equipment Support our programs and scholarships Host a fundraising event
@CCAPInc For information or to get involved: contact us at email@example.com, (212) 974-1711, or visit www.ccapinc.org Founded in 1990 by Richard Grausman
e m i T r u o Y Master y a D e h t e t a n i m o D & s p i T e s e with Th s
By: Larry Adam
ith only so many hours in the day it’s crucial
to make every second count. While some fall
victim to Parkinson’s Law, the adage that
“work expands so as to fill the time available
for its completion,” others possess an uncanny
ability to master their time, even work ahead,
and make it look effortless. In this article, we connected with some productivity pros with successful food businesses and they imparted some actionable advice. Read, repeat, and be deliberate about implementing any tips that will help you master your time and dominate the day.
Remove the Digital Clutter One of the biggest obstructions to my productivity has been digital clutter. One of the easiest ways that I’ve found to reduce my emails and digital clutter is an app called Mailstrom. It allows me to make rules – emails with reservations in the subject or body immediately get forwarded to the reservations team or emails with catering in it get immediately forwarded to the sales team – so that nothing falls through the cracks. Those emails then get automatically archived, so they don’t fill up my inbox. I also use Boomerang which will essentially boomerang an email back to the top of my inbox if it’s something that requires me to fol67
low-up. For example, if it’s a major client who I need an answer from, I’ll schedule the email to boomerang back to me in a few days so that I don’t forget to close the loop on something. The Boomerang app also allows me to schedule emails, so, for example, I have scheduled reminders to go out two weeks before every upcoming holiday so that they can staff and schedule production as necessary. Diana Yin, Owner of Poppy + Rose & Peaches Smokehouse & Southern Kitchen entrepreneurial chef
Streamline Operation w/Tech I am a firm believer in applying technology to assist my business. The larger the operation becomes, the more critical it is to have ways to keep accountable to our clients and ensure staff does not let leads fall through the cracks. We’ve begun using HoneyBook to help keep track of the entire sales cycle for our catering business from inquiry to contract stage and through execution of the on-site event. The system helps the events team manage multiple clients and provides the ability to set automatic workflows. Payment processing is also incorporated into the system, making collecting payment easy and efficient. We anticipate we will spend less on labor resources which is especially appealing in a tight labor market. Christina Ferrari, Owner & Operator of Shoreline Lake Boathouse and American Bistro
Control Your First Two Hours I always work from home for the first two hours a day. I use this time to get all of my emails answered, make my to-do list, and prioritize what I need to do in the next day, week, or month. It works for me because it is too easy to get distracted once I am at work. Many things can happen, good or bad, and that can take my attention away from the goal. By having some quiet time in the morning, I know I am progressing on my goals daily. Jason Santamaria, Co-founder of Second Self Beer Company 68
Outsource as Much as Possible We live in the 4-Hour Work Week era, so the more you can delegate to the others, the more time you’ll have to grow your business. Hire and train kitchen staff, product demo teams, social marketers, and find solutions that’ll free you up from whatever else takes the most time out of your schedule. Utilize online platforms, such as RangeMe for national distribution. Don’t let your startup be stifled by the “it won’t be done right unless I do it myself” trap. I’ve been there, and it’ll only slow you down. Jenn Stoner, Owner of Cake Bams
Make an Execution Plan Being truly organized is vital. For me, each job is different. From who the client is, their needs and expectations, to the location. To be more productive and not waste time or forget something last minute, I create a run-sheet for every event to make sure I can plan a timeline of every detail weeks or months out. That way my team and I know what needs to be done, and when. It can seem a little tedious writing it out, but it’s worth it and has saved me from forgetting vital details. Peter Pan, Somm & Cellar Consultant with Vintage Wine Consulting USA
Clear Communication w/Customers The key to good productivity is personal communication. It seems counter-intuitive, but by personally speaking to all of our clients we get to know them it helps us serve them better, so there are no surprises, complaints, or dissatisfaction later. By developing a personal relationship with our clients, they become our friends – long before they arrive at our cooking schools. This means we know them and are better able to help them enjoy their time with us. By investing “up front” in our clients, there is no growing period – we start out on day one knowing what our clients like, dislike, and want to gain from their visit with us. George & Linda Meyers, Cooking School Owners
Let Go to Grow To any young entrepreneur trying to perfect every aspect of their business, I would tell them to just let go. Not completely, but a little. Especially while you are trying to expand, it is difficult to manage every minute detail of the business. But to grow, you have to allow others to take on some of the responsibility so that your vision can be executed from a wider perspective. Learn to trust others; it might lighten the load. Tony Quach, Founder of Snowdays
Photo Credit: Timothy H entrepreneurial chef
Ready for a
Commercial Kitchen? By: Deb Cantrell
o many times when you start your business you think to yourself, “This is going to be great, I’m going to finally make money doing what I love, and people will come from all over just to buy my (fill in the blank).” You decide that you are no longer going to stand on someone else’s line or in their restaurant, commercial kitchen or cook out of your home anymore (you know who you are).
When I first started out in business, I thought I was going to cook for a few people with my small personal chef and catering company. However, after about 6 months of dragging my stuff into my clients’ homes and dealing with all that it entails, I realized that cooking in someone else’s kitchen was not for me. I took the plunge and rented my first commercial kitchen and never looked back. Not to mention I was busting at the seams with business. So almost 16 years later, 2 restaurants, 7 companies and 9 commercial kitchens that I have rented, built and sold I learned a thing or two. Two of the most frequent questions I get asked is “Where can I find the kitchen space?” or “What is the standard rate for renting?” It varies in different parts of the country but most will rent for about $25 an hour for peak hours as a standard rule, but discounts are often given for off-peak hours (middle of the night and weekends). Often times, a set rate per week or per month can also be negotiated. Also, make sure and ask to see their commercial kitchen license by the local health department as many will say or they are licensed but are not. I’ve come up with a list of some places where you can find a commercial kitchen. Keep in mind some of these have no clue how to be licensed or want to spend the money to bring their kitchen up to code. entrepreneurial chef
Many churches – especially Methodist churches – have commercial kitchen spaces available. Convincing them to let you use it is the hard part. You may have to kiss a lot of frogs and be willing to be turned down a lot. Many will not want to rent because it can put them in jeopardy with their 501C3 status. However, once you find the right match, this type of relationship can very symbiotic to you and the church. Many big churches need someone in their kitchen to assist with luncheons, funerals, and big events and are willing to do some trades.
Many lodges and clubs have commercial kitchens. I have known several chefs that have rented the kitchen of their local Elks Lodge, Moose Lodge, Shriners, etc.
Small Family Restaurants Small family restaurants are often overlooked. I rented a kitchen one time that was part of a small Italian family-owned restaurant that allowed me in the space whenever I wanted to be, but I had to cook right along everyone else to service the restaurant. I literally had about 3 feet of space and about 4 burners at any one time, but I made it work.
Gas Stations Gas stations often have commercial kitchens. I know sounds strange, right? I have a friend that could not get a loan for his restaurant but he could for a gas station. Once he had the loan, he ripped out everything but the gas pumps and went on to create a 5-star restaurant in a gas station. I also know of a few other chefs that rented commercial kitchens in gas stations.
Shared-Use Rental Kitchens These are typically kitchens that someone has built for the sole purpose of renting them out. These can be costly but can also get you started and can be temporary until you find another space. There are typically a number of kitchens all under one roof that people rent such as a baking kitchen, general use kitchen and even space for prep-only businesses.
Newspaper Headquarters Newspapers often have commercial kitchens located inside their buildings. I have a few friends that get to use the commercial kitchen in the café of these places for free in exchange for having the café open during lunch for the employees.
Retirement Homes/ Centers Retirement homes/centers often have great commercial kitchens. I was able to use a commercial kitchen in a retirement home for unlimited hours with no cost to me if I offered a low-cost lunch at least 3 times a week to the residents.
Leased Spaces If you are not ready to take the plunge and build out a space of your own or want to deal with the hassle that comes along with having your own freestanding kitchen, you can simply rent the kitchen in a restaurant or retail space while the landlord is working to find a full-time tenant. It is a win-win for both people that way.
Tucked Away Restaurants One of my commercial kitchens was a seasonal restaurant that sat on a marina at the lake near my home. The restaurant needed to open during the boating season only which was on the weekends for 3 months. The marina owner had a hard time finding someone to do this who had a sustainable business and could operate during the week since the restaurant only made money during the boating season. I bought the entire restaurant with tables, chairs, and full commercial kitchen, etc. for $35,000.00. I ran my personal chef and catering business during the week and on the weekends and the counter-service-only restaurant on the weekends for 3 months.
If you are really struggling to find a space, post something on Facebook or in your local chef groups. Youâ€™d be surprised how many people are willing to share their commercial kitchen with you by simply posting that you need one. Moving in and renting your first commercial kitchen can be scary the first time. People often take this step before they are ready, which can make it even scarier. Even if your business is booming, moving into a commercial kitchen can certainly have its rewards as now your volume can increase, but so can your overhead. Before you move into your own space, make sure you have clients in place to support it or at least the marketing strategy with the financial resources to execute it. The easy part is finding the kitchen and moving in; the hard part is getting out of the kitchen that you have worked so hard to get into and finding the clients to make sure you can stay in that kitchen. Iâ€™ve developed a commercial kitchen checklist that I use with my coaching clients (chefs like you) when they are ready to move into a commercial kitchen. Please email me at deb@ chefdeb.com if you would like a copy of it. Photo Credit: Tyler Olson
Chef Deb Cantrell 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.
By: Jenna Rimensnyder
Amanda Biddle: From Hobby Food Blog To Full-Time Business
ounder of Striped Spatula, Amanda Biddle, is a New Jersey-based food writer, self-taught photographer, and videographer. Her content has been featured in a variety of food and lifestyle publications, including the websites for Womanâ€™s Day Magazine, Country Living, ELLE Decor, Good Housekeeping, and Kitchn. Her work has also recently appeared in print in The Digest, a premier lifestyle magazine in North Jersey.
Through her website, Striped Spatula, Biddle shares her accessible gourmet recipes to empower and inspire home cooks of all skill levels to create beautiful meals. We checked in with Biddle to give some invaluable advice to aspiring food bloggers on how to make their site into a career. Biddle tackles questions like how to build your brand as well as your readership, strategies to secure partnerships, and how you make monetary gains from your blog. entrepreneurial chef
In order to build your brand, you have to be able to clearly define it.
When launching your food blog did you plan to monetize from the start? Striped Spatula started as a hobby. Iâ€™ve always loved to cook, entertain, and find creativity in the kitchen. For years, I took casual photos of the dishes I was making and shared them with my family and friends on Facebook. As friends started asking me for my recipes, they encouraged me to start a blog so that I could catalog everything in one place. At that time, I never imagined that anyone outside of my immediate circle would visit my website. Over the course of a year of maintaining the site as a hobbyist, I started receiving comments from people I didnâ€™t know, who were enjoying my recipes. As that happened with greater frequency, and my social media pages started to gain more followers, I decided that I would try turning Striped Spatula into a business. I filed 76
for an LLC, secured the trademark on my name and logo, and started educating myself on the ins and outs of social media marketing, food photography, and the business of running a blog.
How did you land your first partnership? My first partnership was to create a recipe for a cereal brand, and I got the opportunity through an influencer marketing platform. When I was first starting out, most of my sponsorships came through these kinds of platforms. They did the work for me in organizing campaigns and connecting me to those that might be a good fit for my audience. They were a great resource as I built a resume of sponsored work. As my audience has grown, Iâ€™ve moved toward (and prefer) working directly with brands and their marketing teams.
What types of strategies have you used to secure partnerships? Most of my partnerships have come about in two ways: either the brands find me on social media (usually Instagram, where I have my largest following) and their marketing department sends me an inquiry, or I initiate contact and pitch brands ideas for collaboration. To maintain authenticity with my readership, I’m mindful to only partner with brands that I genuinely love and use in my kitchen. Readers have come to trust my recommendations, and that isn’t something I’d ever want to jeopardize. While I’m always enthusiastic about trying new products, I don’t enter into partnerships until I’ve thoroughly tested what I’m featuring.
What are some tips for others working to build their brand?
To maintain authenticity with my readership, I’m mindful to only partner with brands that I genuinely love and use in my kitchen.
In order to build your brand, you have to be able to clearly define it. One of the first steps I took when I decided to turn Striped Spatula into a business four years ago was to sit down and really think about the audience I was trying to reach. Since my blog is a reflection of my own tastes and interests, I made lists of my favorite culinary and lifestyle magazines, the stores I shop in, the types of cuisines I enjoy most, etc., and identified common themes between them. The exercise of writing this all down helped me to craft a mission statement and refine my brand’s aesthetic. I was able to define Striped Spatula as a website for ambitious home cooks who enjoy cooking with fresh ingredients and entertaining with modern elegance. This led to my tagline: “Gourmet Recipes. Seasonal Ingredients. Confident Home Cooking.” entrepreneurial chef
One of the turning points for me in attracting people to my site was to sketch out a content calendar.
For beginner food bloggers, what’s your advice for growing readers and followers? One of the turning points for me in attracting people to my site was to sketch out a content calendar. When I first started as a hobbyist, I was publishing whatever recipes I felt like cooking at the time. People found my posts, but the growth wasn’t as consistent as it could have been. Now, when I’m planning content for a particular season, I research my topics within Google (there are a number of free keyword research tools available for this) and see what’s trending on Pinterest and Instagram so that I’m targeting the types of recipes that people will be searching for. Not only have new readers found me 78
this way, but it’s also made it easier for editors to come across my content, leading to features on magazine websites and in print. Food blogging is a competitive space and growing an audience can take time. Stick with it, allow readers to get to know you, and have fun on the journey! By creating content that is authentic and uniquely your brand’s vision, you will be poised to establish an engaged and dedicated readership.
Photo Credit: Amanda Biddle
WE ARE TEAM NO KID HUNGRY
Join us to end childhood hunger in America. NoKidHungry.org
Creating Food Safety Concerns By: Jordan Anderson
As consumer trends and tastes become more diverse, so do potential food safety issues. Business owners must cater to newer trends such as gardens in restaurants, demand for locally sourced produce, and food delivery will continue to pose new challenges for food safety practitioners. 80
Gardens in Restaurants As some restaurants turn to introducing hydroponic gardens within their establishments, adulteration becomes a major concern. With these gardens, typically out in the open, patrons can freely encounter the produce being grown. Typically, leafy greens or tomatoes will be grown here that need to be thoroughly washed without potential human contamination, but with the open exposure, there must be HACCP processes that ensure the cleanliness of these products. While growing your own produce on-property yields exceptionally fresh produce, Listeria and other foodborne bacteria can envelop these products, exponentially increasing the risk of creating a foodborne illness outbreak. The potential repercussions for business owners not executing food safety best practices can prove detrimental. Consider the E. coli outbreak that recently enveloped a popular fast-casual establishment, resulting in a food safety crisis that sickened hundreds of its patrons. • Business across the chain immediately decreased and remained that way, even months after the outbreak comparable-store sales were still down by more than a fifth. • The company spent millions of dollars to determine the cause of the outbreak; from testing the fresh produce for contamination, on promotional food giveaways to win back customers, and on an intensive advertising campaign (the largest in its history) Despite the multitude of efforts, company officials report that up to 7% of its customer base will not return, and Wall Street analysts have determined the company won’t obtain any earnings growth for three years.
This is why it’s important to ensure all food safety protocols are executed. Food safety technology deploys checklist management systems that allow each employee to follow a systematic program to fulfill all necessary food safety tasks. This ensures the safety of your patrons while protecting your establishment through the verification of proper FSMA record keeping.
Locally Grown & Produced Consumers have increasingly begun to demand a more sustainable food chain. With more emphasis being placed on the reduction of food waste, food companies today must be hyper-vigilant in executing their best practices. While many perceive locally sourced food to be safer, this is not necessarily the case. The produce must still be picked, sorted, transported, and distributed; just like products made at mass by larger commercial companies. This makes traceability more important than ever. In 2016, 42 brand names were implicated in a recall of frozen fruits and vegetables, damaging their name and bottom-line. The impact of those food recalls is widespread and costly. In a survey of 36 major International food companies by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), more than half (55%) reported experiencing a product recall in the five years prior, with the cost of many of these recalls reaching well into the tens of millions, some even costing more than $100 million. Companies must be able to trace its food precisely back to the source for FSMA compliance and record-keeping purposes. Being able to display this information to not only government sources, but to increase consumer confidence in your brand by bringing more value to your reputation. entrepreneurial chef
Food Delivery Challenges While companies such as Amazon begin dabbling in the produce delivery market, or Hannaford participating in the ‘To-Go’ curbside pick-up program, temperature control best practices have become increasingly more vital. The premise of these programs seems simple. Order your groceries – have them delivered to your doorstep or just pick them up when you are out of work. However, the behind-thescenes strategy is much more intense. How do you ensure milk or raw chicken is picked at the right temperature while simultaneously ensuring it’s delivered or picked-up within the same temperature range? How does a company know it’s staying within FDA compliance and further protecting the end consumer? These are fair questions that a scribbled sales slip or manual paper trail cannot accurately answer. Data gathered by IoT devices, can answer these questions, and more, like: • Who placed the order, authorized the purchase, and accepted the delivery?
While FDA regulations pertaining to FSMA are stricter than ever, it has never been more important for food safety technology to be integrated within the adoption of omnichannel grocery practices. The likes of digitalized checklist management, temperature control, and traceability will have a tremendous impact on continued growth and service within the marketplace. Photo Credit: Alexander Raths
• What was ordered and what are the products proper temperature range? • When did the order take place and when did it arrive? When is its expiration date? • What is the origin of the product and how did it travel to get to you? A potential issue these supply chains will more than likely encounter is changes in the consumer’s schedule. If a customer changes their scheduled pick-up or drop-oﬀ times, retailers must have technology in place that will monitor food safety best practices. Deli, produce, and dairy-related products can use pre-determined checklists loaded that will verify items were picked correctly, bagged properly, and temperature checked to FDA regulated standards. 82
Jordan Anderson is the Product Marketing Specialist for the PAR SureCheck platform. Jordan uses his background in sales and marketing to develop key messaging for SureCheck products and to discuss important issues regarding food safety; with the ultimate goal being to educate others on the dangers and consequences of improper food safety practice.
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Creating a Dream Product By: Marie Reynolds
Ghost Scream is owned and operated by chef Matthew Sisson and his wife Deandra. Together, with his culinary passion and her design skills, they launched the Ghost Scream brand.
att and Deandra have both traveled and were able to experience many different foods. They both enjoy spicy food and found many ways to enjoy spice and peppers. This is what led chef Matt to tap into his vast culinary experiences and create these extremely bold, new hot sauces. “Our love for intense flavor and spice brought these sauces to life.” The challenge in developing these recipes was to take one of the hottest peppers available and create sauces that everyone can enjoy. These flavorful products are handcrafted with only the best ingredients. “We enjoy it every day and know that you will too.”
Where did the idea of Ghost Scream come from? I got the idea to produce Ghost Scream from a request. I was working as an Executive Chef, and one of my food servers had just found out he was a Type 2 diabetic and asked if I would create a hot sauce with no sugar and low sodium. Well, the sauce was a hit, and I was looking to do something as a side hustle. One thing lead to another, and soon I had a little business.
How did you make and then bottle the first product/batch? I started creating the sauces at the restaurant and sending to friends and coworkers to see if they liked the flavor. After getting so much great feedback, I looked into how to find a co-packer. I had some money saved up from catering gigs, and with a few nudges from friends and family, I began producing with a co-packer.
How has your manufacturing/ bottling process evolved up to today and what’s one lesson you learned?
I had some money saved up from catering gigs, and with a few nudges from friends and family, I began producing with a co-packer.
We really started to evolve after I went “all in” with Ghost Scream and stepped down from the Executive Chef position. We stopped thinking in terms of minimums and began to maximize production days. I tell people all the time that certain ingredients do not work out when converting grandma’s secret sauce recipe into 1600 pounds. Test batch the recipe into larger and then larger amounts. Taste and ask yourself, “does the flavor change when you convert the recipe ten times larger? How about 20 times? Invest in this process. It will payoff in the end. 86
How did you get your first sale and what was that like for you? We launched Ghost Scream at a street festival called Fiesta del Sol in Solana Beach. A super fun music festival and the climate in that area is all about the entrepreneurial spirit. We had a fantastic response, and it reflected in our sales that weekend. When you are able to get people to pull out their hard earned money and hand it to you for your creation, it stirs a fire in your belly that is beyond satisfying – it’s addicting.
What’s your process now for marketing and driving sales? We use many ways to drive sales these days. We have a PR company that stirs up interest. We have our social media pages that keep our followers informed of our brand and a company that maximizes our SEO. We love events to test market areas and use those opportunities to inform, sample, and drive customers to our website.
When you are able to get people to pull out their hard earned money and hand it to you for your creation, it stirs a fire in your belly that is beyond satisfying – it’s addicting.
We really started to evolve after I went “all in” with Ghost Scream and stepped down from the Executive Chef position.
Do you have any productivity routines to maximize your output? We like to book our manufacturing on back to back days so that we can maximize labor and space. It allows us to buy at a lower rate because of volume and do some set up for the next day’s production. We have found that we can increase the final day’s case count anywhere from 10-20% if we have all the materials in-house, prepped, and machines in place ready to go the night before. Having all your “mise en place” not only makes for less stress but ultimately more money. 88
Another step we take is always having multiple sources for the same materials. From fresh ingredients to bottles and labels. We even go so far to have multiple POS systems with us at events that we are selling at.
For other food entrepreneurs striving to launch a product, what’s your advice? I have always said that if you can accept the challenges and follow through, then that’s 75% of the battle. The other part is to never bite off more than you can chew. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take your time but hurry up because the road to “someday” leads to a town called “nowhere.”
Truth in Advertising
Donâ€™t mislabel your packaging The FDA is Watching Carefully By: Howard Cohn
hile you absolutely loved fruit roll-ups as a child, your adult sensibilities now recognize that a healthier version would have probably served your body better and you’ve since made it your life’s mission to build an organic taffy company. Congratulations! Of course, you have a lot of work ahead of you, but you recognize that the most important aspect and indeed the core of your product offering is the impeccably healthy ingredients used to make the taffy.
After months of tireless work with a food scientist and endless conversations with various fruit farms regarding ingredient sourcing, you’ve developed a line of cherry, strawberry, and grape taffies that are both healthy and delicious. It is now time to submit the final ingredient list to your graphic designer, which will be artfully, but accurately, incorporated on the
back of the taffy wrappers. After a couple of days, the graphic designer excitedly calls you on the phone and says he is almost done! He has just one question; the ingredient list for the cherry line says “cherry fruit,” but in previous conversations, you’ve mentioned that the taffy only contains “cherry juice concentrate.” What should be written on the taffy wrapper? entrepreneurial chef
Accurate Labeling – Why it Matters On the most fundamental level, food labels are certificates of trust. Behind the legal requirement of an accurate label is the recognition that there is an asymmetry of information about the product vis-à-vis the food manufacturer and the consumer. Indeed, the manufacturer has knowledge and (at least minimal) control over the source of the ingredients, the manufacturing
facility, and the end product while the consumer has, effectively, zero information and control. Take a moment to consider just how crazy of a proposition this is – a consumer walks into a grocery store, sees a package containing some kind of “food” from a company he may or may not have heard of and believes, based on what is written on the package that he is purchasing something edible rather than something that might very well be poisonous. This entire exchange cannot happen without the consumer believing in the integrity of the product, and the importance of truthful and accurate labeling, therefore, cannot be overstated.
The Regulatory Powers of the FDA The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasked with promulgating the health and safety of the public by regulating both domestic and foreign-sourced food (except meat, which is regulated by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service). For our purposes, it is sufficient to understand that the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSA) regulates food products specifically and under the purview of its Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, manages the various regulations and requirements, which govern food and package labeling. Simply, it is up to the FDA (at least in large part) to ensure that food manufacturers are accurately describing their products.
The Enforcement Powers of the FDA Returning to our thought experiment, the designer has correctly intuited that it might be legally problematic to write on the packaging that one of the ingredients is “cherry fruit” when it is in fact only “cherry juice concentrate.” Is he right? Well, as one can readily imagine, there are a number of technical questions about the actual cherry ingredient that must first be answered in order to determine whether or not the description is proper but suffice it to say, the guiding principle for labeling is (or at least should be) honesty. While it might be tempting to write that the taffy contains actual cherries (making the product appear healthy and natural), it would be at best disingenuous and at worst legally objectionable to write “cherry fruit” if the taffy only contains cherry juice concentrate. In the event that a complaint is issued with the FDA alleging that the label contains inaccurate information, the FDA will typically first send a warning letter to the food manufacturer detailing the nature of the alleged infraction and the corrective measures that should be taken. Ideally (from the FDA’s perspective), the letter will instill enough fear in the manufacturer that the company will voluntarily correct the labels and no further action will be necessary. If the manufacturing company does not heed the FDA’s warning AND the FDA determines that the mislabeling is a serious and dangerous obfuscation, the FDA has the power to recall, seize, fine and issue an injunction on the production of further products. Again, it is important to note that these measures are typically taken only under very severe circumstances and of course only after the food company is afforded due process in the form of notice and opportunity to respond.
The Takeaway Ultimately, food companies should do everything in their power to avoid making even the tiniest blip on the FDA’s radar by following all of the appropriate regulatory and compliance directives. Furthermore, beyond the potential legal fallout of a fraudulent packaging claim, it is just poor business strategy to intentionally mislabel products. Consumers are becoming increasingly educated and mobilized, and a viral news story about a “healthy taffy company” that is actually lying about its ingredients will ruin a company faster than you can say the word, taffy. This article is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice. Photo Credit: Alex Skopje
Howard Cohn is managing partner and patent attorney at Cohn Legal Group, a specialty group of a larger law firm, designed specifically to provide a boutique and highly individualized experience for entrepreneurs and startups in the food space.
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