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Entrepreneurial f The Premier Magazine For Food Entrepreneurs


June 2018 Issue 24


The Various Factors to Understand




Using Surveys to Better Serve


The Pros & Cons from Experts

SOCIAL MEDIA 3 Mistakes You Need to Avoid


Williamson Combining Hard Work, Creativity & Business Strategy entrepreneurial chef


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Entrepreneurial f Che


June 2018 Volume 3 / Issue #24

Publisher Rennew Media, LLC Editor Shawn Wenner Contributing Editors Katharine Rankin

Contact Us Entrepreneurial Chef 151 N. Maitland Ave #947511 Maitland, FL 32751 contact@entrepreneurialchef.com

Contributors Christine Matheson Green, Chris Hill, Dale Willerton & Jeff Grandfield, Rachel Strella, Tom Scarda, Deb Cantrell

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.

Special Thanks Brooke Williamson, Mike Cordero, Barbara Pollastrini, Gaby Dalkin, Joe Garber w/Data Essentials

All Rights Reserved Š 2018 Entrepreneurial Chef Published by Rennew Media, LLC

Staff Writers Jenna Rimensnyder, Jay Michael, Chloe Friedman, Marie Reynolds Graphic Designer Rusdi Saleh Cover Brooke Williamson Cover Photographer Jim Sullivan

entrepreneurial chef



The point of sale that serves your business.

Bakery • Café • Restaurant • Food Truck


Contents Features


14 Gaby Dalkin

From Hobby Blog to Food Media Empire

52 Mike Cordero

How to Scale & Maintain Authenticity

Brooke Williamson

Combining Hard Work, Creativity & Business Strategy

72 Barbara Pollastrini The Life & Advice of a Private Chef

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Contents Advice

10 The Number One Social Media Fail & 3 Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

Opportunities: They Start with Knowing Who You Are

44 Does Your Concept Have the Secret Sauce for Franchising?



48 Tools of the Trade with Tom Eckert


The Inception Chef: Food Trends Begin with Innovators

62 Taste: It’s Not All Just In Your Mouth


Surveys: How to Get Customer Feedback

Buying vs. Leasing Space: Pros & Cons for Chef Tenants entrepreneurial chef



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Editor’s Note


n a recent conversation with a successful chef-entrepreneur, he reminded me of a book by Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. In the book, Gerber stated, “The problem is that everybody who goes into business is actually three-people-in-one: The Entrepreneur, The Manager, and The Technician.” Why is this a problem you ask? Let me explain. What Gerber eluded to are the three personalities of a founder – the entrepreneur, who finds the opportunities, the manager, who oversees the execution, and the technician, who does the work – and the difficulties of balancing them. Simply put, if you can’t strike a balance, your business will fail. If there’s one lesson from our featured guests this month, it’s their ability to balance the three personalities. Whether they did it alone or with trusted partners or employees, they found a way to make it work - and you can too. As always, I hope you enjoy the latest issue and pick up some fresh ideas, inspiration, and actionable advice.

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Social Media

The Number One

Social Media Fail & 3 Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs By: Rachel Strella


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Social media marketing was once relatively new and mysterious, and many just weren’t sure how to effectively use it. But today, it’s a much different story. The online world has changed dramatically, and we see widespread use – and misuse – of social media by businesses and entrepreneurs all the time.


f you have found it challenging to use social media effectively to further your company’s goals, you’re not alone. Organizations of all sizes and in all industries struggle. And with constant changes, it is no wonder why. But understanding what works, what doesn’t, and avoiding common mistakes will enable businesses to continually thrive. Below are some of the most common mistakes businesses make as well as the #1 blunder.

1. No Concrete Plan A business must have a social media strategy in place to get results. This first requires an understanding of the business and its marketing goals. Unfortunately, many business owners fail in establishing that foundation. Without clear goals, they don’t understand social media’s role in helping to achieve them. To overcome that problem, it helps to answer the following questions: • What’s important to your customers? • What matters most to your team? • What is the company vision? • What are the core values?

After considering those concepts, consider this with your marketing: • What is the message you want to convey? • Who is the audience? • Where is the audience? • What do you want them to do? • H  ow will you create a message that will resonate with them? • How will you measure the effectiveness? From this process, social media goals can be distilled and established to support marketing goals through awareness, education, customer service, customer engagement and more. A social media plan should serve as a roadmap that lays out the channels, the content, integration with other marketing efforts, and measurement methodology.

2. Failure to Launch A social media strategy is only as strong as its execution. That requires dedicated resources—those that have the time, knowledge and interest in delivering the components of the plan. However, many companies delegate social media to an intern, an administrative assistant, or a member of the sales team. In some cases, business owners or company leaders are entrepreneurial chef


ambitious enough to recruit themselves, and in smaller companies, the implementation can be led by a spouse, a child, or even a neighbor. Inconsistency and ineffectiveness happen when businesses entrust their social media management to someone who is not equipped to handle it properly. The end result is no result. It’s a wasted effort.

3. Outdated Content Strategy The amount of data on the web is increasing at startling percentages. Our ability to consume the vast amount of content available today is virtually impossible. How does a business break through the noise? One way is to acknowledge that content creation is only the starting point. Content must be of high-quality; it must be read; and it must move (i.e., be shared) to be effective. Yet less than one percent of all content on the web is shared, so how can a business move the needle? Emotion. It’s the key driver of social sharing. People who share content have an emotional connection to it. Therefore, it’s critical for content to speak to its audience so that people will share it.

The #1 Fail: Leaving it to Al While automated marketing can supplement an overarching marketing plan, it shouldn’t be done to the point of overkill. Overloading people with too many messages on auto-pilot destroys trust. Unfortunately, technology has blurred the lines between what is “nurturing relationships” and “spamming.” Robots will eventually have the ability to automate most essential marketing tasks—including algorithmic writing. And many clients will welcome relief from the time and effort it takes to develop blog posts. 12

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However, the web is already oversaturated with content and becoming more so rapidly. Because of this, discover what makes you unique in the crowded and competitive online space. This involves finding your voice and showcasing the human element. While automating marketing functions is technologically possible, businesses cannot automate relationships. They must humanize their brands to build emotional connections and trust.

Where Does This Leave You? If your business hasn’t been getting the results you have hoped for from social media, perhaps one or more of the issues shared is impeding your success. Take a closer look at how you’re approaching your online marketing efforts to determine if your mindset, planning, execution, content, and coordination are presenting stumbling blocks. Identifying the problem areas is a giant first step toward putting your social media strategy on the right path. Photo credit: Peshkova

Rachel Strella is the founder of Strella Social Media, www.strellasocialmedia. com, a social media management company serving dozens of clients nationally. She is a regular contributor to Small Business Trends and Social Media Today and has been featured in Forbes and numerous other major publications. She owns an award-winning blog with over 75 posts syndicated internationally and is a wellrespected speaker having delivered dozens of social media presentations Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RachelStrella


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Success Story

Gaby Dalkin: From Hobby Blog to Food Media

Empire By: Jay Michael


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Originally launched as a place to brag to her friends and family that she learned to cook, Gaby Dalkin started her food blog What’s Gaby Cooking back in 2009. Fast forward to present day, there are over 1100 recipes on the site, and it garners a couple hundred thousand visitors per month. It’s evident her side project has exploded, birthed a personal brand, and became the foundation or her media empire.


fter graduating from college, Dalkin decided to attend a culinary school where in her second week she landed a job as a private chef. A few years of working for families in the Los Angeles area, Dalkin took the leap to focus on What’s Gaby Cooking full-time. Now, as a cookbook author, recipe developer, food blogger, and someone with a solid personal brand, we caught up with Dalkin to ask about her journey, lessons, and advice for those wanting to carve a niche for themselves. entrepreneurial chef


& QA The


Gaby Dalkin



With a massive platform built and personal brand, what’s been a major factor in your success today?

At what point after launching What’s Gaby Cooking did you realize you had a full-blown business in the making?

I think two things have really helped me get What’s Gaby Cooking to where it is today, one, finding my voice. When I first started my blog, I really had no idea what I stood for, and there wasn’t any real brand identity. About 4 years into What’s Gaby Cooking, I invested some time and money into really honing in on my brand, and that’s been completely worthwhile. And number two, being real. We live in a world where we are inundated with perfect pictures of everyone’s lives, and I think it’s refreshing to let people into the behind the scenes of it all where it might not be quite so polished and perfect!

It was a super slow roll. I was working as a private chef and doing What’s Gaby Cooking from 2009 - 2013. In 2013, my first cookbook came out, and I walked away from private cheffing entirely to see if What’s Gaby Cooking was viable as a business. The first year or so was a roller coaster, but in 2014 I really hit my stride and started to feel confident that this could be a full-time business.


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I’m all about a to-do list and just crossing things off and moving on.

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How did you make your first dollar from the platform and what was that like for you?

My first dollar was probably from some tiny little sponsored post that I did. I think I made something like $125 and I was pumped. That was a week or two of groceries, and I felt like a baller!


In what ways do you monetize the platform today?

What’s Gaby Cooking is monetized in a variety of ways today. I have a line of products that are sold exclusively at Williams Sonoma, I write cookbooks, I have ads on www.whatsgabycooking.com, I work with brands as a spokesperson, I do sponsored posts on the blog, I host events, I work as a consultant at times, etc. 18

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The first year or so was a roller coaster, but in 2014 I really hit my stride and started to feel confident that this could be a full-time business.


In the beginning, how did you begin connecting with brands to work with and what was that like? Remember when Twitter was really cool and everyone would have full blown twitter convos? That’s how the blogging world was when I started, so it was really easy to engage with brands on that platform. As far as working with brands, that has always been one of my favorite parts of my job. It’s awesome to get to tell the story of a brand through my own voice, and I love the creative process that goes into every detail. My background is in business so it’s never been tough to communicate my worth and what I can provide when talking to brands.


What about advice for those with nice size platforms (food blog, social media, etc.) who are ready to start working with brands, how would they go about this today? Reach out! Shoot them an email, post on their Instagram, send a message on Twitter, you name it, just make the first move. And be picky about what brands you work with. You don’t want to work with a brand that you don’t actually love, so really be strategic in who you reach out to. There’s no faster way to alienate your audience that when they can see you did something just for a quick dollar.


I would recommend finding a mentor. I have a few that I can turn to for advice, and they have been instrumental in helping me build my business.

For those looking to build a platform from scratch today, what’s changed from when you started in 2009? The landscape is totally different now I think. When we all started back in 2009, and before, we all started as a hobby. No one knew you could make money “blogging” as a career, let alone what you could turn your blog into (i.e., products, books, tv shows, etc.) so things weren’t quite so competitive so I think it’s harder to start today. You really need to know what you stand for and what message you want to share and make yourself stand out! And be ready to work – it’s a 24/7/365 job. I can’t remember the last time I had a day off! entrepreneurial chef


My first dollar was probably from some tiny little sponsored post that I did. I think I made something like $125 and I was pumped.


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Similar to above, any tools or resources you recommend for them?

Not so much tools, but I would recommend finding a mentor. I have a few that I can turn to for advice, and they have been instrumental in helping me build my business.


For someone looking to build a platform today, what will be the absolute hardest part for them and how can they overcome this? I think there are a lot of other creators out there right now, so the hardest thing is to stand out. You really have to be funny or witty or have beautiful photography or be providing incredible content, otherwise, there’s too much other noise.

Never be afraid to ask for something. The worst that can happen is someone says no, and then you move on to the next opportunity.


For anyone who doesn’t know the benefits of building a platform &/or personal brand today, can you give insight to the benefits you’ve experienced? I’ve built my entire business on my platforms. It started with the blog, then I added Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram were next, Snapchat quickly followed and then so did all the opportunities from those platforms. Book deals, product lines, brand work, travel experiences, etc. I am able to support myself and my team because of all my various platforms and the services we provide. entrepreneurial chef



With all that you have going on – running the site, traveling, the new cookbook – how do you manage your time to be the most productive? I’m all about a to-do list and just crossing things off and moving on. I try and get the most important and pressing things out of the way first thing in the morning before I go work out, and then later in the day, I can keep going. And each day looks different; the only constant is that I go see my trainer every morning! Then it’s anyone’s guess. I could be in the kitchen recipe testing, at a photoshoot, on the road for my book tour, traveling on behalf of a brand, meeting with my management team, etc. 22

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No one is going to just hand you what you want, so don’t be afraid to go out there, ask for it, and make it happen.


What’s your final piece of advice for the food entrepreneurs we serve?

Never be afraid to ask for something. The worst that can happen is someone says no, and then you move on to the next opportunity. No one is going to just hand you what you want, so don’t be afraid to go out there, ask for it, and make it happen. Photo credit: Matt Armendariz



They Start with Knowing

Who You Are By: Chris Hill


entrepreneurial chef



ne of the great pleasures of the work I get to do at this stage in my chef career is having the privilege of connecting with thousands of cooks and chefs from all across the globe – most just like you.

Many of these individuals remind me of myself, especially in the earlier days of my career in the kitchen. Much like them, I had big, entrepreneurial eyes that wanted to make my stamp on the culinary world – what was that stamp? Open a restaurant? Group of restaurants? Travel the world working for a hotel company? Work for a big-time Michelin star chef? I wasn’t sure.

Some of these folks are in the later stages of their careers and either think they have it figured out, or have just given up – probably a long time ago. For the most part, though, the ones seeking guidance and recommendations for how to bring their ideas to life as it relates to food, cooking and the culinary craft skew a bit younger. Perhaps these minds haven’t yet been calloused by this challenging industry and as a result, are able to approach a given opportunity with untainted and hopeful eyes. Nevertheless, I understand what it’s like to be in one’s early twenties or thirties because I’ve been there before navigating my way through this challenging industry in the most successful way I knew how. Success is a funny thing, and I think each of us has our own definition of success – whether we realize it or not. Some of us value our time, others value money, while many value relationships with the people most important to them. If we want to make a boatload of money, we must create opportunities to do so. If success looks like spending time with our families, we

must position ourselves by creating opportunities in our careers that allow us to do so. If we want to give back to the community, we must create the time and or resources that allow us to do so. When you think about these scenarios, what do they all have in common? One word: Opportunities. Assuming you want to create a successful career (based on your definition of it), the only way to do so is to actually create opportunities for yourself that align with your definition of success. You see, the job you want, the chef you want to work with, the business you want to start, or the foundation you want to start, those are the opportunities standing in front of each of us single day. Taking hold of those opportunities in a smart and strategic way is how you’ll create success. Strategically means knowing what you want. If you don’t know what you want, I encourage you to do some soul-searching to get really clear on what a successful career looks like for you. entrepreneurial chef


Once you are clear on what you want – now the real work begins – the work that’s going to open up opportunities for you – opportunities you might have never thought possible for yourself. The clearer you can get on who you want to be and what you want to be known for, the more opportunities will present themselves. I was giving a talk at a culinary school in Atlanta a few years back as I was touring for my first book, Making the Cut. Being from Atlanta and with strong roots there, one of the young ladies in attendance asked me if I could help her find a job at a restaurant in the area, hoping I might make her an introduction. I asked her what kind of cuisine inspired her and where she wanted her career to go. She didn’t know how to answer either of these questions. I left that campus thinking to myself, “Why in the world would I put my reputation on the line for someone who has no clue why they’re even in culinary school?”

pelling reason why they should give you the opportunity. Become the sustainable seafood gal. Become the farm to table guy. Become the girl who’s into butchery. Become the dude obsessed with foraging for mushrooms. Become someone that when your name pops up in conversation – everyone knows exactly who is being talked about. In essence, become known for something. Me? I became the guy whose number one goal is to inspire and encourage my fellow culinarians. And you see, it’s gotten me here. But, before that? I wasn’t sure I was going anywhere,and my career was stuck – for years. So, who are you going to be and what do you want to achieve in this industry? If you want more opportunities, you’ve got to build a brand. A brand starts with knowing yourself, what lights you up and why you are even in this industry in the first place.

Think how different that conversation might have gone if she had responded with:

I think prolific speaker and author of Start With Why, Simon Sinek said it best, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

“I love seafood; actually, I love oysters!” or “I love the farm to table movement and supporting the local farmers and ranchers!”

If you haven’t yet started doing that, it starts right here.

If she had responded this way, I would have happily introduced her to a number of people. This same situation might have happened to you in an interview for a job you didn’t get. Chances are, the interviewer was trying to unearth some information that would let them know whether or not you would be a good fit for the job. So, if you’re looking for a job, looking to fund a new venture, or want to do anything else in this industry, it helps if you have a very clear understanding of what it is you want. If you want to work at or open that seafood or farm to table restaurant, give the people standing in the way of you and that goal a com26

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Photo credit: Paulus Rusyanto

Chef Chris Hill is regularly featured on TV shows in various markets throughout the Southeast. His writing & work have been featured in numerous publications, in addition to authoring his book “Crush Your Career: A Proven Path to a Sustainable Life in the Kitchen.” He speaks at various colleges & universities regarding culinary media, branding, social media, and the realm of food writing.

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The Inception Chef:

Food Trends Begin with Innovators In Collaboration With: The following three trends are all in the Inception Stage of Datassential’s Menu Adoption Cycle (MAC). Inception is where trends begin – these ingredients and dishes exemplify originality in flavor, preparation, and presentation. 28

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Bone Marrow It better be on your radar because this soft, fatty tissue has significantly increased on menus and growth is expected to continue at its current pace. Why It’s Trendy: Considered a delicacy in many cultures, bone marrow still adds an exotic touch while providing a rich, buttery flavor to a versatile array of dishes, from seafood to hamburgers and beyond.

72% 59% 14%

2% Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Who Know It

Consumers Who Have Tried It

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Taro According to Sunset.com, “taro tastes much like a sweet potato, doesn’t fall apart when cooked, and soaks up flavor like a sponge.” This tropical root vegetable is most common at ethnic restaurants and can be used in sweet and savory dishes and beverages. Why It’s Trendy: Root vegetables have shown increased growth on menus thanks to their perceived health benefits, flavor, and variety of uses.


30% 13%



Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Who Know It

Consumers Who Have Tried It

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Ponzu Originally from Japan, this tart, citrus-based sauce includes citrus fruit juice mixed with mirin, rice vinegar, tuna flakes, and seaweed. It’s essentially a citrusy version of soy sauce. Why It’s Trendy: Authentic Japanese cuisine is growing in interest across the country. Ethnic condiments have also been gaining traction on menus. This sauce adds an acidic twist to dishes.

28% 21% 12%

5% Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Who Know It

Consumers Who Have Tried It

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Cover Story

Brooke Williamson:


Hard Work, Creativity

& Business Strategy

By: Shawn Wenner


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orn and raised in Los Angeles, California, Brooke Williamson has carved quite the niche for herself in the food business. From being the youngest female chef

to cook at the James Beard House, winning Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 14, and owning five establishments with business partner and husband Nick Roberts, Williamson’s hard work, creativity, and dedication have created a winning combination.

Prior to venturing on her own, Williamson gained experience at Chef Michael McCarty’s nationally acclaimed restaurant Michael’s of Santa Monica, the renowned Daniel by Daniel Boulud, even became the Executive Chef of Brentwood’s Zax at 22 years’ old, which she recalls was, “unheard of, especially for a female back then.” After leaving Zax, Williamson and her future husband Nick Roberts opened their first independent venture together, Amuse Café in Venice. Being recognized as “Rising Star Chefs” from StarChefs in 2004, the two would spend the following years methodically and strategically opening more establishments – Hudson House, The Tripel,

a four-in-one-concept Playa Provisions, Tripli-Kit, and Playa Vista. By March 2017, Williamson won Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 14, which thrust her further in the public eye. And though fame was never a motivating factor when starting in the food business, Williamson welcomes the opportunity to share her message and build awareness for her restaurants all-in-one. Along the way, Williamson learned invaluable business lessons like relinquishing control in order to scale, embracing negative reviews as learning mechanisms, and the importance of consistency for customer retention – all of which she shares in our featured interview. entrepreneurial chef


Q&A The



Brooke Williamson

What prompted the entrepreneurial path as opposed to working for someone else?

There wasn’t one momentous standout moment. I worked for other people early in my career and put a lot of emphasis on learning, working hard, reading, and never complaining about the long days or physically demanding shifts. By the age of 22, I was an executive chef, which was unheard of, especially for a female back then. When I left a restaurant called Zax, I started a catering company because I wasn’t sure what I wanted next [or] where I wanted to go, and the company took off. We [needed] a commercial kitchen to prep out of, and [we found] a restaurant. We thought we could do both but ended up doing the restaurant. We 34

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had no idea what we’re doing – not a whole ton of life experience – and we definitely learned from our mistakes.


What was the difficulty you faced as a young entrepreneur?

My mom and a couple of family friends helped fund the restaurant, and we were not in a position to lose their money. We had to do everything in our power to make it work, and we did a lot of ourselves. It was a labor of love, but it made it much more important. There are so many hats to wear that if you’re not incredibly passionate and excited about what you’re doing, then giving up is the easiest thing. It was a crash course in learning every facet of the restaurant industry.

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Having ventured out on your own successfully, what’s your advice for others before they leap? It’s all about experience. And there’s no way to get experience without diving in. On the same token, if you don’t have your ducks in a row, you’re setting yourself up for failure. When I opened my first restaurant, there was an online business plan template I used to give investors some idea of what we were doing – projected costs, expenses – at the end of the day, none of it resembled what actually unfolded. So, expect the unexpected and know there will be bumps in the road. If you’re not a hundred percent excited and passionate about what you’re doing, it will not work. There will be days where you want to give up – you’re scatterbrained, tired, uninspired – and that’s part of it. A lot of people are getting into the industry because they think it’s exciting on its own, but if you’re not bringing the excitement to the table, it will never exist. 36

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We won’t buy advertising space because I feel like it changes the perception of who you are and what you do.


With several thriving establishments present day, what are key business lessons you’ve learned along the way? From my experience, the most important things are understanding a lease, location, and audience. A lease is the foundation of your entire business – what you’re paying, who you’re paying, how much you’re going to invest, [your] payback based on projected revenues. There’s a simple formula, and you’re either going to make money or [not]. Eliminating the latter is surprisingly what a lot of people don’t do.


What does it take for one to achieve success in the food business today? Consistency. It’s something underrated. Providing an experience for people that is pleasant, satisfying, and leaves them feeling better than when they walked in and doing that consistently, is not easy. With turnover in staff and all the factors that go into giving that experience, consistency is at the top of the list.


On a granular level, how does one achieve that consistency in their food business?

Having managers who feel appreciated, inspired, and want to show up to work is very important. Ultimately, they’re the ones who are going to hold the cooks or front of house accountable, and if they’re not excited, then nobody is. I rely on my staff more than anything because I’m unable to be in five places at once.


Speaking of staff, what do you look for when bringing someone onboard?

every day, and adaptability is much more important to me.


What helped you diversify in various ways and scale to several business ventures?

It was understanding I had to relinquish a bit of control. I can’t control every single situation. I can’t see every plate that leaves the kitchen, or every interaction a waiter has with a customer. At some point, I had to have faith we were hiring the right people, they were being trained properly, and they could handle their positions without being micromanaged. Relinquishing control was really hard, and is often still hard.

Using negative reviews collectively as a tool to educate on what makes people happy and what doesn’t has been very useful.

There’s [not] specifically something I’m looking for, but I’m looking to avoid people who are overly confident. I’m all for people who feel confident and excited to tackle whatever’s in front of them, but there’s a line where it starts to become cockiness. That, in my opinion, means they’re not interested in learning and adapting to their surroundings. Things change entrepreneurial chef


We’ve learned that we need to hear each other’s opinions and ideas and give them enough respect to discuss, consider, and potentially disagree with – and not turn it into a life-changing situation.


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There are so many hats to wear that if you’re not incredibly passionate and excited about what you’re doing, then giving up is the easiest thing.


When launching a new venture, is there a backup plan or exit strategy constructed ahead of time? Everything [we] do comes with a backup plan. Whether it be a lease with an exit strategy, or we rethink what we’re doing if something is causing more stress than good. Having the flexibility in your head and the lack of ego is important. Having the mindset to pivot, shift, and adjust is just as important as having the passion for doing it in the first place.


What’s contributed to the successful business partnership between you and Nick? It’s respect for each other’s opinion. It definitely helps that we are married – the last thing we want is to take work stress home. Like any relationship, we’ve learned that we need to hear each other’s opinions and ideas and give them enough respect to discuss, consider, and potentially disagree with – and not turn it into a life-changing situation. It’s listening, understanding, and realizing that we are stronger as a team than we are individually. entrepreneurial chef


Expect the unexpected and know there will be bumps in the road.



From a marketing & advertising standpoint, what have you learned that you would impart to others?

Primarily, you see value in a PR strategy as opposed to a marketing & advertising strategy?

We’ve made a point of not advertising in the traditional sense. We won’t buy advertising space because I feel like it changes the perception of who you are and what you do.

We’ve always seen great value in PR. We will always have a PR company. Whether it be as a liaison for events or to make sure the press knows something new and exciting we have on the horizon. That is so much more valuable than buying ad space. Money well spent on publicity versus advertising is key.

Remaining relevant and exciting has a lot to be said for itself. Reinventing yourself every so often, changing the menu, staying inspired, and remaining in the public eye, are all incredibly valuable things. If you figure out how to remain relevant, whether it be with public events, charity events, or TV, it’s going to bring more excitement to what you’re doing. 40

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In this day, opportunities for creating your own publicity are so accessible. You can learn and utilize the value of creating excitement yourself. I have a lot of friends who don’t have publicists who are constantly in the public eye.


With negative press & reviews being a part of the game, how do you handle these? You can’t please everybody; you have to understand that. If I let every negative comment I’ve read in my career bother me, it would knock me down and turn me into a different person. Using negative reviews collectively as a tool to educate on what makes people happy and what doesn’t has been very useful. Because at the end of the day I’m trying to provide an experience for other people – not myself – and those people are keeping me in business. If they’re not happy, then I have nothing. If I can read stuff that will educate me on making people happier, then I welcome that.

Providing an experience for people that is pleasant, satisfying, and leaves them feeling better than when they walked in and doing that consistently, is not easy. entrepreneurial chef



What’s on the horizon for Chef Brooke Williamson?

Right now it’s a matter of maintenance. We’ve done a lot in the last couple of years. I’m traveling a lot, and I want to make sure everything we’re doing is the best it can be before I move forward and stretch myself thinner. Photo credit: Jim Sullivan, Holly Liss, Ryan Tanaka, Kim Fox 42

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A lot of people are getting into the industry because they think it’s exciting on its own, but if you’re not bringing the excitement to the table, it will never exist.

For the forward-thinking passion-driven food entrepreneur (and anyone else who loves reading about them)

Read about the successes & failures from the most celebrated chefs & restaurateurs in the world. Start your free trial today.


Does Your Concept Have the Secret Sauce for

Franchising? By: Tom Scarda, CFE


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f you’re a Your franchisee gets a fast-track restaurateur, you to success without having all probably flirted with the trials and tribulations that the idea of franchising are associated with starting something from zero. It’s a your concept. Imagine reaping the benewin-win for everyone. fits of owning a large, national brand name So, if you’re thinking restaurant. Best of all, if you execute the about franchising to expand growth successfully, you’d have distribution your concept, there are some basic notions that so people nationwide and perhaps around you need to know. Most the world could enjoy your food all while people do not realize that the helping others to be successful restaurant franchise industry is heavily regulated by the Federal Trade business owners. There is no downCommission (FTC) of the United side – or is there? Yup, there is a lot States government. Interestingly of information to know before though, no laws or regulations exist that dictate benchmarks for a heading down the franbusiness to become a franchise. Simply chise road. said, any business can become a franchise.

The Miriam-Webster definition of the word franchise is: The right or license granted to an individual or group to market a company’s goods or services in a particular territory; also, a business granted such a right or license (2): the territory involved in such a right.

The regulations that are in place are supposed to protect the franchise buyer against possible scams. Thus, the majority of regulations only govern how franchises sell their units. For example, the government does not want franchise sellers to tell people how much they can make. Back in the 60 and 70’s, there were unscrupulous people who told buyers that they would be guaranteed to make money with their franchise and they didn’t even have a business to sell.

If you’re thinking about expanding your business to two or more locations, franchising is the fastest and least expensive way to grow your business, in the long run. When a business owner chooses to franchise, they are essentially deciding to use other people’s money to expand their business model. For the franchisee or the person investing in the rights to own and operate your business concept in their area, it’s a business with training wheels. When someone buys into your franchise, they have now have a partner and a coach who wants them to succeed. It’s a symbiotic relationship. You supply them with experience, training, and resources that you have used for success and they pay you a portion of their income in return.

The most significant FTC rule that franchise companies have to abide by is having a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). This document must be made available, free of charge, to anyone who is considering investing in a franchised unit. The FDD makes for transparency of the company. There are 23 items that have to be disclosed in the document, and it starts as a boilerplate manuscript and may expand over time for each individual company as they learn the nuances of their franchised model. The document must contain information such as the exact costs to open and operate the concept, whether there is bankruptcy or any criminal convictions in the background of the principals of the franchise corporate offices. entrepreneurial chef


Any and all litigation, for the previous 10 years, against the company or perpetrated by the company must also be disclosed. In addition, a franchise must also list any units that have sold, transferred or failed in the previous two years. Because the buyer has all this information and data upfront, franchising in general, is one of the safest investments someone can make, in my opinion. Do you think that your restaurant has what it takes to be the next big, household name? To get started as a franchise from a legal standpoint, you need to begin with a franchise attorney who will develop the Franchise Disclosure Document with you.

Know the Pros and Cons of Being a Franchisor The advantages of being a franchisor are many. You get to expand your concept for the world to enjoy. You help budding entrepreneurs become business owners so they don’t have to hit the bumps and can avoid the bruises that you endured in the start-up phase. As your company grows, it can make a legendary impact on the franchised restaurant industry and possibly the world. Your current, single unit, today, could grow into an international brand name paying you financial dividends long into the future. Or, at a certain point, a private equity can buy your company giving you enough money to allow you to never have to work again or work only on your terms. Well, that all sounds great, however, if it was easy, everyone would do it. The downside to turning into a franchise is that you won’t be operating your establishment any longer. If you’re a baker, you’ll have baked your last cake. If you’re a chef, you’ll no longer feel rush of excitement brought on by the hustle and bustle of being in a kitchen. Your new role in the franchise company, for the most part, will become sales and support. In addition, some restaurateurs have complained about losing control over the quality of food, presentation 46

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The question is not whether you want to franchise your restaurant or not. It’s a question of what you want your life to like for the next 5, 10, 20 years? or customer service. You must have superior franchise systems to avoid this. For the first five or so years, it’s all about selling franchises. You will need to have a great, solid business model to be attractive to potential franchisees. In addition, you will need a magnificent sales team to sell your dream to others. As you grow, you’re not making money from the franchise fee as that will go mostly toward new franchisee acquisition and the support and training of the new startups around the country. It’s a long marathon to get to the point where the company is surviving on monthly royalties from your franchisees. However, when you get to that maturity state, all that hard work will finally pay off. So, the question is not whether you want to franchise your restaurant or not. It’s a question of what you want your life to like for the next 5, 10, 20 years? Photo credit: Trueffelpix

Tom Scarda is a Certified Franchise Expert. He was the #1 franchisee of the year in one franchise concept and failed in another. The lessons learned from failure is what makes him an expert. Tom is the author of Franchise Savvy. He has helped more than 1500 people figure out if franchising is for them.


Tools of the Trade with Tom Eckert By: Jenna Rimensnyder Corporate Chef of Morph Hospitality, Tom Eckert, resides in the kitchen of Tansuo, Morph’s contemporary Chinese restaurant located in Nashville, Tennessee. Meaning ‘to explore’ in Cantonese, Tansuo serves an exploration of Chinese cuisine reminiscent of China’s night markets and traditional street fare. When Eckert is not running the kitchen, he is transporting mass amounts of ingredients to the next catered location on the ever-growing list of events. Chef Eckert rounded up a list of his top tools that keep him organized and at the top of his game during a dinner service or catered function.


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Chevy Suburban

We do a lot of catering, and my suburban can fit enough food to feed 1,000!

Google Calendar

We have an amazing marketing department that keeps it updated, so I never miss any events or happenings with the restaurants.


This app is a collaboration software, and it allows me to keep up with all of Morph’s different restaurant kitchen teams. entrepreneurial chef


Winco Large Plating Spoon This is my go-to plating utensil. I’ve used the same one for 10 years.

Lavex Industrial Nitrile Gloves These offer a tight fit and are easy to put on.

Japanese Wa Petty

I use this knife more than any other does. It’s compact and can handle a lot of different jobs. 50

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Steve Goodson Knife Roll

Steve customizes each roll specifically to fit your knives. Great quality and look awesome.

Joule Sous Vide

Easy to travel with and fits in my carry on.

Double-Sided Sharpie This is a must. I use the thick side to label food and the thin side for taking notes.

Yeti Cooler

When doing a cooking event, there’s no better combo than the Joule Sous Vide and a Yeti.

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Success Story

Mike Cordero:

How to Scale & Maintain Authenticity By: Marie Reynolds


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s a Bronx native, Mike Cordero was making New York style pizza’s at age 13 in a local pizza shop while mentoring under the iconic Italian restaurant figure Vittorio DiVivo. By 18, Cordero landed a position as a line cook at the famous Sardi’s restaurant and worked his way to headline cook, working directly with the owner Vincent Sardi Jr.

At the age of 20, Cordero was given the opportunity to oversee Italian Delight’s expansion into new territories and immediately took over as President of Operations. As President of Operations, Cordero was instrumental in positioning Italian Delight in highly visible, profitable venues including shopping mall food courts – a relatively new concept at that time. After Italian Delight was sold, Cordero team up with Master Chef Sergio Castilloni to pursue his dream of opening a fine dining Italian restaurant, Bravo’s. There Cordero worked closely with Chef Castelloni to create authentic Italian cuisine. After the success of the original Bravo’s, Cordero decided to open five more Bravo’s restaurants in the Washington Metropolitan

area. Eager for a new challenge in 1995, Mike sold four of the locations to his partner and only kept the Bravo’s location in Fairfax to serve as his home base. After visiting restaurants across the country, Cordero discovered a Brazilian steakhouse in New York, fell in love with the cuisine, and after months of consulting with a Brazilian chef Cordero chose Malibu Grill’s location in Falls Church, Virginia. Malibu Grill has been profiled in the Washington Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Restaurant News, Restaurant Magazine, Restaurant Institute, Restaurant Hospitality Magazine and on CNN as being the “hottest” new steakhouse in the United States. And Cordero was quoted as being one of the new trendsetters in the Washington metropolitan area.

From Latin Fusion to Tapas, Chef Cordero has taken his culinary visions to their highest level of success. As the Executive Chef and Owner of A-town, Barley Mac, Bronx Pizza, Don Tito, Don Taco and Primetime Sports Bar, Cordero is always on the move, defining and exploring new trends. And we had the pleasure of connecting with him to capture some pointed insights on building, growing, and scaling his success in the food business. entrepreneurial chef


Q&A The


Mike Cordero


What’s helped you achieve such high levels of success in the food business? My success comes down to my staff. I would not have been able to increase new business opportunities without having a great team.


What was a major business mistake you made early on that brought a tough but necessary lesson? In my twenties, I had 42 pizza restaurants from the East Coast to the Midwest. While the growth of the pizza chain was successful, my focus permanently shifted from the substance and quality of each individual venue to the company’s expansion. I made the mistake of grow54

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ing the chain too fast away from my home base. I should have focused more on the local units.


Can you describe the Mike Cordero “stamp” you have and maintain at your establishments? I always strive to make the best and use the highest quality ingredients to set myself apart from the competition that has similar demographics.I’ve worked with an interior specialist, Yvette Irene, at all of my restaurants, and she incorporates what she calls an “approachable design” aesthetic. While each of my restaurants may differ in concept and cuisine, we like to place an equal emphasis on entertainment, functionality and delicious food. The creation of my MACNAC Hospitality group has garnered and maintained a reputation in Northern Virginia for growing quickly and for offering fun, upbeat dining and nightlife experiences.

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How do you keep branding consistent at all your establishments?

Whether I am opening a taco, sushi, or American restaurant, I try to team up with a chef de cuisine that has experience in that particular style of cooking. Design and entertainment also play a major role in my branding and go handin-hand with the menu concept. My customers have come to expect a “wow factor.” At The G.O.A.T., we have smoke-box drinks, and that wow factor complements the ambiance with over 50 TVs and an arcade. Creating something special and unique is something I strive for at all of my locations. I like to keep some form of consistency in my menus across the board. All of my restaurants use my homemade marinades, sauces and my hot sauce label Bronx Tale. We also sell Cordero Wines at each establishment. We have a

strong Millennial following, and our specials really appeal to them. We offer extended happy hours, half-price menu items, live entertainment, bottle service and DJ giveaways. For example, bottle-to-table service allows guests to avoid standing in line at the bar.


With the plethora of ventures in the past few years –Barley Mac, wine label, hot sauce, The G.O.A.T., new concept Rockwood – how do you manage overseeing everything? If you’re interested in growing your businesses at a rapid pace, you need to take on managing partners. I always say I’d rather own a small piece of the bigger pie. I used to feel the need to be 100 percent present, but I learned that taking on partnerships helped my employees be successful. When they’re successful, it allows our company to grow faster.

Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.


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While each of my restaurants may differ in concept and cuisine, we like to place an equal emphasis on entertainment, functionality and delicious food.

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I like to keep some form of consistency in my menus across the board.


How do you evaluate new business opportunities before committing and moving forward? There are so many young entrepreneurs taking the dive into the restaurant business. Some of them make it, and some of them fail. I love taking over existing restaurants. Before I move forward, I evaluate the existing restaurant’s demographics and research a cuisine and host of specials that fit the area’s market. 58

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For those who aspire to diversify in various ways from a business standpoint like yourself, what’s your advice for them? My advice for anyone that’s trying to get in the restaurant business is to go work for a successful small or medium-size restaurant company where you can gain lots of experience in lots of areas. Knowing and understanding all aspects and levels of the business is crucial. Lessons that you learn and advice you get from early on in your career will stick with you and determine your next move.


What do you look for in a business partner? Also, any red flags you look out for?

Having a business partner means you are establishing a long-term relationship with this particular person. I look for the following: integrity, passion, heart, and hustle. The ultimate thing I do to look out for red flags is to evaluate this person’s passion and hustle. Before I move forward with a business partner, I ask “would he or she be able to give you 80 hours per week to make the business successful?”


What do you look for when hiring individuals to join your management team? Also, any red flags you look out for?

I would not have been able to increase new business opportunities without having a great team.

When looking for people to join my team, I ask them where they would like to be five years from now. I do that because I like to invest my time in people that have long-term goals. A red flag for me is finding people that want to join my team for the sake of a paycheck. That usually means they’re not in it for the long haul. In order to build a great team, everyone needs to be on the same page.


For those dreaming of scaling to multiple locations, what’s your advice for them? My advice for those dreaming of scaling to multiple locations is to set up their own very own SWAT team. Use your best personnel to grow into multiple locations. You have pre-established trust and security in their work and understand that they deliver. Why start with a new team? entrepreneurial chef




Having scaled food businesses, what’s the hardest part about going from one to two locations and then two to several?

If you were to start all over from scratch right now, what food business opportunity would you pursue today and why?

Having experience opening multiple locations after my third restaurant launched, I learned that I needed to take the best of the best from each of my restaurants and not start from scratch with an entirely new team. I needed to have a great sense of trust in my managers and employees. I created what I call a SWAT team to open any future restaurants. The SWAT team consists of the best managers and chefs, and I call them in when opening a new location. They go in for four weeks and do a hardcore training with individual employees.

If I were to start over right now, I would not be bogged down to one concept as I was with my former pizza chain. The restaurant industry is an ever-changing business that requires you to keep up with new cuisines and new concepts. I feel tying yourself down to just one concept does not give me the leverage to own five different restaurants in a two-mile radius as I have now.

If you’re interested in growing your businesses at a rapid pace, you need to take on managing partners.


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Photo credit: John Robinson


Join us to end childhood hunger in America. NoKidHungry.org

The Palate


It’s Not All Just In

Your Mouth By: Christine Matheson Green


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Taste. For chefs, a great sense of taste would appear to be essential. How can you create great dishes without that ability to judge the flavor palate of any dish?


hile it’s used as a metaphor for our choices in much more than food, taste, the palate and its preferences are fundamental to our survival. The chef to a Dutch queen many years ago complained that the queen had, “a palate of stone.” How sad for her? To not have the joy of experiencing something wonderful as she ate? Dinnertime is one of the things we all look forward to if we have a choice. A friend of mine from Vietnam insists that the obsession with food and taste now is because it’s the last bastion of choice – a real choice that we have left to us. If that’s the case, then bring on the feast. As a chef for many years, I’ve been fascinated by, as long as I can remember, our sense of taste. How does it work? Is it the brain? The nose? The palate? The tongue? The ears? All of the above, it would seem. And Gordon Shepherd, a neurobiologist, tells us that the brain draws on all the senses to unite a ‘flavor image’ that stays in our memories.

Who knew? If you are a chef, or simply an avid cook, you might like to do a taste test with your staff or friends. Place a dish or piece of food in front of them, take notes, and watch the show. And it begins with: 1. A  nticipation: it’s memory that gets those saliva ducts working, as it activates the dopamine reward centers, jolting us into wanting what’s to come. In other words, we salivate because we anticipate. That’s pretty simple. 2. S  ensory beginnings: We know our brains are pleasure-seeking, as well as threat defensive, so as we move the food to our mouths, we take in the colors and shapes, and the smells. If the food passes those tests, and the memories they evoke are pleasant, we’ll usually move on to step 3. 3. S  ounds and feelings: Chewing tells us if the texture is good, or bad, (too hard and our teeth tell us!) and then the taste buds kick in their tuppence worth: sweet, salty, sour, bitter or umami? entrepreneurial chef


4. Going deeper: The volatile chemicals that come off the food as we chew and swallow are actually carried into the nasal cavity from behind as we exhale. Quite the opposite of what you’d expect, really. And while you may think the taste is in your mouth, the main receptors come from the back of the nasal passage that builds our taste and flavor memories, ready for the next chew. That’s how it works, basically, and the antipathy we have towards bitter foods was programmed into us for survival – sweet is good (lactose from mother’s milk is sweet, so we are primed from birth don’t you know?) and bitter? Could be poison. So the latest research on taste tells us that our taste sense is more complicated than our vision. But, and it’s a big but, science still hasn’t fully unpacked the sensory machinery that controls our palates and tastes.

As a chef, have you produced a dish that you think should be spectacular, yet, just misses the mark somehow? Perhaps, look to your palate and the flavor spectrum that you’re offering. Go right back to those caveman instincts and investigate why a dish doesn’t work. It might surprise you. It’s interesting that Master Chef always includes a blind taste test at some point in the competition, and very few contestants pass 64

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with flying colors. And the confusion on some of their faces may be comical, but it shows how complex the flavor spectrum is, and perhaps we all need to do more blind taste tests to sharpen up those taste buds and memory. Fish have taste buds like us, but in surprising locations of course – catfish have zillions on their whiskers allowing them to seek food in murky water. Pretty handy if you are a fish. If taste is the basis of everything we do in the kitchen, why then is taste and how it works rarely taught in culinary school or apprenticeship courses? Barb Stuckey teaches “The Fundamentals of Taste” at the San Francisco Cooking School, and her favorite example is the making of a barbecue sauce: while most ingredients are expected, tomato sauce, paste, sugar, honey, liquid smoke, and paprika, it’s the bitter additives like coffee, cocoa, bitters that add the real complexity to the sauce and balance it out to make it the palate-pleasing condiment it is. Instant coffee? An ingredient that is used sometimes to balance out a dish, but could be used more often perhaps to add a much-needed fillip to an otherwise heavy sauce. What about salt? We have learned to love salt, and if we’re served low-salt dishes we complain – really. It’s tricky, while manufacturers are pushed to reduce the salt content of products, the public will always choose the saltier foods. Why do we like salt? Because we need it. Especially if we’re in hot and humid climates where we sweat often, losing precious mineral salts that need to be replaced to get our bodies back in balance. And sugar – the big daddy of them all that’s been vilified endlessly as the reason for our obesity and ill health? Well, we go back to birth and the fact that we are born with a sweet tooth. Giving a child sugary sweets alters their mood, quickly and easily. So how to get around that? I’m a baby boomer, and sweets weren’t a panacea, but a rarely indulged treat. These days, babies are fed sugary juice in bottles, something that never would have happened

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?


17,500+ students 211 public high school teachers 168 schools 5,000+ industry partners

Mentor or hire a student Donate products or equipment Support our programs and scholarships Host a fundraising event

@CCAPInc For information or to get involved: contact us at info@ccapinc.org, (212) 974-1711, or visit www.ccapinc.org Founded in 1990 by Richard Grausman

back then, and the children are paying the price with badly decayed first teeth. First teeth! Beat that. And the amount of sugar that is in fast food is ridiculous, and I guess more people need to be aware of that, though I have a theory that the obesity epidemic is in large part due to the massive amounts of food that people are eating these days. The quantity of food served in a single portion has grown alarmingly over the past 50 years and is totally unnecessary for survival. Then load that with salt and sugar, and you have a perfect storm for our poor overloaded digestive systems. What does this mean to chefs in restaurants? That yes, your customers like sweet, they like salty, but they also like texture and flavor that is complex, even challenging. And it’s all in the back of the nose. Really. When I was cooking, I could tell if a dish was ready or not simply by the smell – if it smelt right, then I knew to leave well enough alone. What hits you first when something’s burnt? It’s bitter, isn’t it? Bitter is the burnt flavor that whacks you and tells you not to go there.

Research says that we should avoid burnt foods – they’re carcinogenic, so perhaps that warning bitterness of charcoal is there for a very good reason. And there’s a difference between a warm caramelization that’s taken place and a black, burnt, bitter piece of food. 66

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I often tell the story of an old alcoholic chef I worked for decades ago, who seemed to always burn everything, and just added cream and never stirred the bottom of the dish. I could taste the acrid, bitter flavor without doubt, but customers would still eat it. Go figure! As René Redzepi at Noma, Heston at his Fat Duck, and Adrià’s sons in Spain endlessly push the boundaries of taste, flavor, and texture, I do wonder where it will all end? Do we really need to eat ants or crickets? There’s a kickback now to natural, unfussy food for some, while others stretch the limits and keep trying to reinvent the wheel. I think I agree with Marco here: “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you can always paint it a different color.” And my advice to young chefs? Don’t lose sight of the main objective: to make a profit, and good, tasty food. If you do the latter, the former should follow. Remember too; if you haven’t got a good sense of taste, then perhaps you should look at another career. Just saying. Photo credit: John Takai

Christine Matheson Green has been owner/chef of 10 successful restaurants, two cooking schools, and now writes about the industry and interviews chefs on her blog, www.justthesizzle.com. She has also just launched a global chef support site, www.offthehotplate.com aimed at reducing the carnage a high-pressure industry and poor conditions have created. Her motto? “Don’t tell, don’t bleat, just do!”

Business Practice


How to Get Customer Feedback (& Why It’s Important)

By: Deb Cantrell


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ave you ever sent a survey to your customers? Did you know what to ask? Did you know the perfect time to send it and how to present it to them so they would actually respond?

Whether you are a survey pro or never sent one in your life, sending out a survey is critical for any business to succeed. I once saw a quote that said “a satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all,” and boy is that true. If you don’t ever ask for feedback, how do you know if your customers are happy or not and what needs improvement? Of course, you’re never going to make everyone happy – especially in the food industry – but you can certainly try. Sending a survey is definitely that first step to taking your customers’ temperature, so to speak.

Creating Your Survey We create our client feedback survey through a custom form we build in our email system (Infusionsoft). When someone submits this form, the answers are automatically sent back to us and stored in their contact record for us to access at any time. If you don’t have a fancy email system that can do this, there are plenty of third-party platform options like Survey Monkey – although I don’t recommend using the free version. The important thing with whatever platform you choose is that you can connect it to your email system, so you can store the data and that your forms look nice enough to entice people to fill them out.

Research shows that people are 3x more likely to respond to surveys that are directly embedded into your email, so make sure the forms you create can be placed right in the email, not just linked to another page.

Length of Survey & Reason for Creating The most important part of the survey is knowing what questions to ask and how many. Research shows that you should generally not ask more than 10-12 questions. People have short attention spans and don’t have a lot of time or patience to fill out a lengthy survey.

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Before even asking your customer to fill out your survey, you need to answer a few questions yourself to put their minds at ease: 1) What’s the purpose of this survey? (i.e., We want to see how you’re enjoying your meals) 2) How long will it take them? (i.e., Take this short, 5-minute survey) 3) What’s in it for them? (i.e., So we can better serve you or entry for a gift card) You can include this information at the beginning of your email to help them better understand why you are asking them to fill it out and how it can benefit them. The specific questions you choose for your survey will completely depend on the type of service/product you offer.

Types of Questions • Scale: On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with our customer service? • Yes or No: Would you recommend us to a friend? • O  pen-Ended Questions: How could we improve your experience?

• U  psell question: Would you be interested in (enter product here)? These are questions that will help you gauge their interest in adding things to their service or purchasing more products from you. Make sure you only ask necessary questions, or else they’ll get bored.

When should you send surveys? Every email list is different (we all have different target markets), so there is really no time that will work perfectly for everyone. The best way to find out what day and time to send one, is to look at your email reports and see what day/time people are opening your emails the most. Is it Thursdays at 4 pm? Sundays at 8 pm? For us, it’s usually Thursday around 7 pm. Do a split test and send out the same survey to two different groups at different times and see which one gets opened the most. Then you’ll know the best time is moving forward. If a client hasn’t filled out a survey yet and it’s been a few days since I sent it, I schedule a reminder email a few days later letting them know we’re waiting for their response.

How often should you send a survey? We send our client feedback survey just once – 3 weeks after they start a meal delivery service with us. However, we always ask for feedback over the phone/personal emails as well since I offer a personalized meal delivery service where I work more one-on-one with clients. You can certainly send a survey more often, but I wouldn’t send more than one every quarter, if that. If you send too many surveys, your clients will get tired of filling them out and stop answering them altogether, so make sure they serve a purpose and that you’re not just sending one to send one.


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How do I get people to open my survey? A subject line goes a long way and will help determine if they open your email or not. Grab their attention right in their inbox (I would avoid the word “survey” in your subject line). The best type of subject lines for surveys: Personalized with their name in the subject line – Deb, tell us what you think! Ask a question – What did you think? Emphasize the benefits – We want to bring better meals to your table You can include a contact’s name in your subject line through most email systems like MailChimp, Infusionsoft, and ActiveCampaign, etc. Put a little personality/brand into it! Of course, just because you have a great subject line doesn’t guarantee they’re going to open it, but it’s a start.

What’s a good response rate? This totally depends on how well your subscribers usually responds to your emails. However, on average, about 15-20% of people you send surveys to will open it and only about half of them (like 10%) will actually fill it out. Some responses are better than no responses, right? If you aren’t getting any responses, you might try offering an incentive. I saw one not too long ago that offered to put me into a drawing of a $100 Sephora gift card if I filled out a survey about a conference I went to. The bottom line is, at the end of your day you can only do your best. Personal always works best, so if you are aren’t getting responses after all of this, pick up the phone and give them a call or send them a personal email. Sometimes speaking to them the “old fashioned” way is the most efficient. Photo credit: Everything Possible

Chef Deb Cantrell is an award-winning, bestselling 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. entrepreneurial chef


Success Story

Barbara Pollastrini:

The Life & Advice

of a Private Chef

By: Chloe Friedman Sponsored by Le Cordon Bleu


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orn in Rome, Italy and educated at Le Cordon Bleu, Barbara Pollastrini is an Italian chef who spent countless days and nights cooking her mother at an early age. With a passion for fine arts and love of cooking, Pollastrini intertwines these to conceptualize and present her beautiful dishes. As Pollastrini says, “A great meal is like a work of art. It should be pleasing to the eye, as well as the nose and palate.”

After attending Le Cordon Bleu and earning her diploma, Pollastrini began teaching culinary arts privately. With ambitions to one day host her own television show, she moved to Los Angeles and began working as a private chef. Without formal business training, the lessons brought about while working for herself were tough at first, but she would find her stride and become a sought-after chef who received many requests. When she’s not working for clients, Pollastrini is active in cooking competitions. Having recently competed in the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama that hosted thousands of professional chefs and home cooks vying for a top prize. In our interview with Pollastrini, we explore the beginning of her career as a private chef, the mistakes she’s made professionally, her advice for building a great network, and why being your best advocate is the key to entrepreneurial success. entrepreneurial chef


& QA The



Barbara Pollastrini

Where did your passion for food and cooking come from?

Growing up in Rome, I was inspired to cook from my mother, starting at an early age. Her special ability to cook wonderful meals using very few ingredients was something that always impressed me. She trained me all her life in [cooking], and I learned to love food from cooking together with her. As I grew up, I loved seeing friends come to our house and enjoy my mother’s food and I dreamt one day I would do the same in my house. I started learning more and more about cooking and decided to [attend] Le Cordon Bleu, and I’ve never stopped cooking ever since.


What was it like attending Le Cordon Bleu?

It was my first real experience with [professional cooking], and it was amazing. I knew how to 74

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cook, but they refined the skills that my mom taught me. I met amazing people and enjoyed every single day.


How did your education prepare you for the industry?

First of all, they taught me how to respect the ingredients. [Prior to that] I cooked with ingredients, but I didn’t really know what it meant to “respect” them. They taught me to use the best of the best ingredients. Also, I learned to respect the client or customer since each individual has different needs. In general, respect was my first lesson. They also taught me to learn from my mistakes in the kitchen and rely upon my passion. Even when things went wrong, they taught us how to turn the errors into an amazing dish. I learned that my passion was the key to a successful outcome. With this cultivated passion, along with my culinary education, I felt like I could travel the world and have the skills to pursue my dream wherever I may be.

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After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, what was your first professional job?

several cuisines at once. Second, you need to be a very respectful, always. Third, you need to learn how to be part of the family without interfering. It is important to remain professional and not to take criticism personally.

It’s not easy work [laughs]. First, you have to be really prepared. As a private chef, you [must] be able to cook 76

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Be un


In relation to working as a private chef, what’s important for others to understand about that world?

ique and cre ativ e

It was a challenge because everything was new. I was not business oriented, but I learned how to save money and time [along the way]. I even learned about hiring [people] and treating them as I wanted to be treated, and that was helpful. It was an amazing experience working independently. In the beginning, I had several clients, and then one client made a big offer, so I decided to work [solely] for them.

For me, it was staying in one particular job for too long. I became very comfortable in a position in which I had a lot of potential, but no flexibility, which led me to start to lose sight of my dream. Therefore, I would suggest that one always checks to see if what they’re currently doing is contributing to their ultimate goal.

wa y


Becoming a private chef and working for yourself early on, what was this period like?


Any professional mistakes along the way that taught you valuable lessons?


A friend asked me to teach cooking classes, so I decided to study to become a professional cooking teacher. After obtaining my certification in Milan, I started to teach at a cooking school. After teaching, I started a catering company and did this for a little bit and then moved to Los Angeles to become a private chef and pursue my dream of creating a cooking show.

t a h st

u shine. o y ke a m


What’s something that helped you grow your private chef business and career overall? Building amazing relationships with colleagues. [To be successful] as a private chef or anything, you need to build a [network]. For me, in LA, there are not that many Italian chefs, so without building good relationships, you can miss an opportunity. [At the same time] it’s important to help your colleagues. I’ve been offered jobs that I’ve [passed along] to colleagues that I’ve trusted to take the work. I’ve had a rewarding career as a private chef, and I am thankful for earning the respect of the community. Additionally, I have always stepped outside of my private chef business to compete in various international cooking competitions in order to challenge myself in different settings outside of my job. While I am grateful to have earned international recognition, I would say that these experiences have really broadened my career and have helped me to learn from others and grow personally.

When you know what you want, and you work for yourself, it’s easier to make choices to get you where you want to go.


How do you manage your time to ensure you’re highly productive and efficient? It’s not easy working for yourself and even working as a private chef. I worked for several years for 12 hours a day, and it can be complicated. For me, I wake up early and make a plan – that’s most important. I create an agenda for everything I need to do. And then I work to get it all done in a timely fashion, so I can have a few moments for myself.


What would you say is the most rewarding thing about working for yourself? For me, it is about the independence to choose the projects that will contribute to my personal goals. It is important to me that I have [control] over my career. When you know what you want, and you work for yourself, it’s easier to make choices to get you where you want to go — in my case; it’s about creating my personal brand. entrepreneurial chef


I would suggest that one always checks to see if what they’re currently doing is contributing to their ultimate goal.


What’s been the hardest part about working for yourself?

When you work for yourself, you have to be your own best advocate. It can be a big task to market your personality, brand, taste, and style all at once without having the backing of a big company. It takes a lot of hard work to create your personal brand all by yourself — but it’s not impossible!


What would your advice be for somebody that wants to be a food entrepreneur today? Be unique and creative in ways that make you shine! It is important to have a good attitude always and never stop learning. For me, I never stopped studying so that I could constantly think about new ideas. I try to keep up with the latest trends in food, brainstorm with other inspirational chefs, and try new restaurants. You always want to be on top of the game in your career. Photo credit: Andrea Hausmann, Barbara Pollastrini


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Commercial Leasing

Buying vs. Leasing Space:

Pros & Cons

for Chef Tenants By: Jeff Grandfield and Dale Willerton (The Lease Coach)


entrepreneurial chef


s we explain in our new book, Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES, the most common reason commercial tenants lease space instead of buying a location is because of availability – or a lack thereof. 95 percent of all commercial space is for lease and not for sale.

If you are in an enviable position to purchase property, there are several opportunities available to you: a business condo where you occupy the one unit, a strata title unit, small strip plazas or centers where you’re now a landlord to other tenants as well, or standalone buildings on a small parcel of land. Major factors that impact this decision for the average chef tenant are the long-term commitment of purchasing a building and the ability to obtain the financing. For those commercial chef tenants able to purchase, here are a few pros and cons to consider:

Pros: Paying a mortgage is better than paying rent. Lease payments last for the entire duration of your lease, but your mortgage will eventually be paid off. Often, your mortgage payment may be very close to your rent obligation. In most cases, you will gain equity in your property. Over the course of time, your property may double – or even triple – in value. This increase in value is in addition to the value of your business contained within the property. You’re in charge. You don’t have to deal with the hassles of a landlord or property manager.

Cons: There may be some sacrifice on location, because many of the prime locations may not be available for purchase. If you’re vacating an existing location with regular customers, leasehold improvements, and fixtures in place – you may be leaving a great opportunity for a competitor to move into your location. Being in charge is a con as well as a pro. When you purchase property, you’re the one responsible for all repairs and maintenance that a landlord would normally handle. entrepreneurial chef


When making the decision to purchase or lease commercial space, don’t make the decision to buy simply for the sake of owning real estate. Only consider purchasing a space or property if you would be prepared to lease that same location anyway.

Also, when deciding to purchase or lease, remember to think outside of the box. What we mean here is consider all opportunities – both conventional and unconventional. We live in an “anything goes” or “whatever works” society and that philosophy often applies to business locations as well. A major restaurant chain located near our office went under, and the freestanding building was quickly snapped up by a group of doctors for new office space. A former residential property can be converted into a hair salon or massage clinic. Another tenant moves in where a fitness facility failed and so on.


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There are both conventional and unconventional opportunities for every business industry. Perhaps a trophy location will make sense for your restaurant? This is a specific unit that outshines all the other spaces for lease or purchase in a property because of its prominence and visibility. Trophy locations do not sell or lease cheaply; however, for some chef tenants, having a trophy location can make their practice far more conspicuous. But do all chef tenants need to be located in the same type of buildings? Of course not. You need to evaluate every type of building or property that is available because its unique qualities can represent the 20 percent advantage you need to be successful over your competitors. For a copy of our free CD, Leasing Do’s & Don’ts for Commercial Tenants, please e-mail your request to JeffGrandfield@TheLeaseCoach.com. Photo credit: Sergey Ilin

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



Are you in?

To get your company involved, visit ChooseRestaurants.org/Apprenticeship



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