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Entrepreneurial f The Premier Magazine For Food Entrepreneurs


December 2018 Issue 30

Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger On Partnership, Change & Opportunities

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Entrepreneurial f Che


December 2018 Volume 3 / Issue #30

Publisher Rennew Media, LLC Editor Shawn Wenner Contributing Editors Sinead Mulhern

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

Contributors Jeff Grandfield, Dale Willerton, Donald Burns, Jim Rand, Chef Deb Cantrell, Philip Kushmaro, Bradshaw Swanson

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 Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Mareya Ibrahim, Silvia Baldini

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

Staff Writers Jenna Rimensnyder, Jay Michael, Marie Reynolds, Chloe Friedman Graphic Designer Rusdi Saleh Cover Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger Cover Photographer Anne Fishbein

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Contents Features


14 Chris Nixon

How Element 112 Creates the Ultimate Guest Experience

44 Silvia Baldini

From Art Director to Chef Entrepreneur

Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger

On Partnership, Change & Opportunities

60 Shaun O’Neale Going All-In With Your Passion

74 Mareya Ibrahim The Business of Natural Products

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Is Catering a Viable Revenue Stream?

10 Is Your Menu Killing Your Sales

40 How to Navigate Social Media Ad Insights for Your Food Business


Tools of the Trade with Fabio Viviani



10 Signs It’s Time to Let Go of Certain Offerings

Start-Up Capital: How to Finance Your New Food Business

86 The Inception Chef: Food Trends Begin with Innovators

90 8 Negotiating Strategies for Reducing Rental Rates entrepreneurial chef



Editor’s Note


’m guessing you feel the same when I say, “Where did the year go?” The old adage that time goes by faster every year couldn’t be more accurate. For us, it’s been an incredible year at Entrepreneurial Chef. We’ve had amazing contributors and connected with the “who’s who” in the industry as they graced our covers and shared intimate details about their entrepreneurial journey. And as we’ve worked to build the best resource for food entrepreneurs in the market today, we’re extremely grateful for the support from both our readers and brand partners. It’s truly been a dream come true. Now, as we look to the upcoming year, our plans are to enhance our editorial offerings even further. With various topics this year – securing capital, marketing, driving revenue, etc. – we scratched the surface in terms of educating, but in the upcoming year, our goal is to dive deeper and provide more actionable advice. Our mission has always been to help food entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses, and we will work even harder next year to help our readers do just that. As the year comes quickly to an end, we sincerely wish you a wonderful holiday season, safe and happy New Year, and look forward to picking back up with you in 2019. Cheers,

entrepreneurial chef



Is Your Menu Killing Your Sales By: Donald Burns


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enu items

Think about your menu. What items are your “hits?” Those dishes that your team just knocks out of the ball every time? That is what your menu should consist of! Too many items lead to what psychologists call “the paradox of choice” –when too many choices lead to anxiety about our choices. So when your menu has too many items, guests get frustrated and tend to go for the “safe” choice. The bad news is that your safe choice might not be a big profit maker.

that are very similar fight

Sometimes what you do not put on your menu is more important then what you do.

or cannibalize each other

for sales. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the first thing he did was ask his team one simple question, “What products would you recommend to a friend?” When he did not get a very clear answer, he reduced the

number of Apple products from 350 to just 10!

Here are some key questions to ask about your menu: • Why do I drive to your establishment? • What do we do better than anyone? • Is my menu in alignment with my brand? • A  re my menu items designed for my demographic or my ego?

You need to be brutally honest on that last one. Too many owners, operators, and chefs design menus purely for their egos. I know. I’ve done it. When I was in my early 20’s, I had that “chip-on-the-shoulder” mindset that many chefs have. I would not allow customers to alter anything on “my” menu. Then the owner had a heart-to-heart talk with me. entrepreneurial chef


He said, “I really need you to be more flexible when it comes to the items on the menu. Here’s why. If the customers are not happy, they won’t come back, and if they stop coming back, I won’t be able to pay you.”

Needless to say, I changed my tune rather quickly. I look back at that experience as an eye-opener that dining out was more about my ego. I started to look at the real reason people go out to a restaurant in the first place. To share food and create memories. When I looked at it like that, it changed how I looked at my identity. Identity is very powerful. We do almost anything to be congruent with the identity we hold for ourselves. I always say be very careful of what follows the statement; I am. It comes looking for you, and your behavior matches that identity. When I stepped back and looked at what I was doing in the kitchen, I became more than a chef. I looked at what I did was “enhance the human experience through a culinary medium.” Creating menus is an art and a science. Knowing what to put on your menu, where to place it and how to price it are common issues many food businesses deal with. I know. I look at 3040 menus a week! Very few have the trifecta of menu design down. 12

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Look at your menu and understand that too many items are causing anxiety is your guests. Too many similar items are cannibalizing your sales. The common mistake most make it that they think since they have the ingredients, they should put it on the menu.

Donald Burns is The Restaurant Coach™. He is the leading authority, speaker, and international coach on how restaurant owners, operators, and culinary professionals go from just good to becoming outstanding. He is a soughtafter advisor in the areas of leadership, branding, social media marketing, culture, operations, restauranteur mindset, team development, behavioral dynamics, productivity & peak performance. His mission: Build your brand. Increase your profits. Strengthen your team.


Add diet and allergen tags, calories and nutrient data to your recipes and menus. Sign up now for the Nutrition Wizard Pro with promo code to receive 20% discount. This is less than $20 a month for unlimited number of recipes.

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Success Story

How Chef Chris Nixon at

Element 112

Creates the Ultimate

Guest Experience By: Marie Reynolds Sponsored by: LibbeyÂŽ 14

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t’s never easy taking the entrepreneurial path, especially in the restaurant business, but Chef Chris Nixon has experienced quite the success with Element 112. Though he admits, it’s a “different ballgame” opening your own place, Nixon combines outstanding service, a comfortable

ambiance, and exceptional cuisine that’s increased covers and revenue for the last six years since opening. One of the defining moments as he struggles to instill a vision into his staff and build culture, was the creation of his four rules. Once in place, everything would drastically change. As we connected with Nixon, we discussed the journey, creating a dining experience over just dinner, and advice for others striving to wow patrons in their own establishments.

First, what was it like taking more of that entrepreneurial path?

We teach our people to make decisions of their own. We don’t want to control their decisions; we want them to make them with the right guiding light.

It’s a different ballgame. You learn a lot about yourself as a chef by having your own place because you’re trying to balance the cost of goods with a dish you want to create, and those two don’t often balance. You find your way through a new world of creating food and finding ways to pay for it.

With a menu that changes daily, how do you maintain consistency for guests?

My biggest agitation was trying to get people to believe in what we were doing as much as I did. Early on, I didn’t know how to do that, but it’s the chef’s job to make sure they do, and that they follow the guidelines for the way you want the restaurant to be run. We do a good job now that we’ve grown and made mistakes.

We work to provide the same food experience every night. On the wall of our kitchen, there are four rules we follow, and that’s the thing that people have come to associate us with. When the menu changes a lot, you’ve got to offer a consistent experience. So, we follow the rules and people come to expect that from the food and not a particular dish. entrepreneurial chef


What are the four rules that Element 112 abides by? Rule one is everything has to be delicious. Flavors, textures, things have to be bold, and they have to complement each other. We want people to wish they had more of something. We don’t serve dishes thrown together because they are “cool” or “neat.” Rule two is there has to be a little sense of wonder in every dish we serve. We want to give our guests new experiences, that’s really important to us. Rule three is each dish has to be inspired by something. It has to be more than just a plate of food – it has to have a story to tell. We want guests to have a dining experience, not just dinner. Rule four is everything has to be beautiful. A lot of restaurants overlook this, but when something’s really beautiful to look at,

We want people to wish they had more of something. We don’t serve dishes thrown together because they are “cool” or “neat.”


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it’s easy to expect it will be delicious. Especially for us, when we get people to try dishes that are brand new to them, we need everything to be beautiful.

Where did these rules that govern your restaurant come from? They came from a lot of frustration. The hardest part of the restaurant, for me, was creating the vision and giving it to the staff. When we started outlining these things, the staff understood me better, and then started executing [against the rules]. Culture is every in restaurants. A big part of being a chef that they don’t teach you in culinary school is you’ve got to develop a culture. We follow the rules extremely close; nothing gets around them. Now, my staff respects them, and if something doesn’t hit the rule, it’s not gonna work – it’s not even a discussion.

You mentioned experience, so as it relates to that, what are key elements to ensure your guests do have a great experience? First and foremost, it’s our staff. It’s the service they provide, how they talk to people, handle products, etc., our staff is the main deliverer of the experience. Their training and how we go about working with them is number one. The second thing we try to remember is we put customers in an environment. If we are extremely clean, organized, and the environment’s fun to be in, it will open them up to new experiences from new products. The last part is following our rules for food and wine and making sure that those add up to something that’s new and fun for a customer. If you tie all those together, you get a great dining experience.

How do your tabletop products play into the experience? We carry about 50 different plates for 12 dishes, so we look at tabletop products intensely. It’s part of the visual environment we put customers in. It sets expectations when people sit down, and it helps make one of our

There has to be a little sense of wonder in every dish we serve. We want to give our guests new experiences. rules come true – to make sure everything’s beautiful. A plate can go a long way to help with that rule. For example, we have a crystal dish from Libbey for our Passion Fruit Stones. They are white chocolate wrapped passion fruit that we plate with coffee soil, matcha tea powder, and different citrus. When we plate it on the Libbey crystal plate, the plate disappears, and it looks like it’s floating. For us, that plate made the dish really stand out.

Any other examples of how you’ve perfectly paired your tabletop products with a menu item? We brought in a black matte plate from Libbey for a Foie Gras Torchon dish inspired by Prince. It’s a bright pinkish white color that we put purple garnishes with – blackberry preserves, purple basil leaves, beets – and when we put them on the black matte plate it made everything stand out. You [instantly] get this feeling of Prince. It was one of those cool musically inspired dishes for us, and that plate helped us finish it off and make it beautiful. entrepreneurial chef


What’s your process for selecting the right tabletop products? I’m huge on the visual aspect and then the material. What it feels like and what it looks like are two of the biggest things because that’s the part that the customer gets first always. They’re going to touch a fork to eat, so having it be ergonomic and work for a person is usually important and then being beautiful as well makes them want to pick it up. You’ve got to have those things inline, and then also they can carry through themes of dishes. And the most important part at the end is if the product lasts – that’s always huge.

Any advice for aspiring owners in relation to selecting the right tabletop products?

Each dish has to be inspired by something. It has to be more than just a plate of food – it has to have a story to tell. 18

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One of the biggest strains on people opening is cash flow. With a restaurant, you put money out the door constantly until you are open. People try to avoid spending as much money as they want to on tabletop and things, and it’s silly. One, because if you go cheap, you’re going to buy it again anyway because it will break. And two, you’re literally robbing your customer every time. You’re taking away from their experience. Some [owners] say they’ll focus on the food and that’s true to a point, but if you want to be good at everything and have a reliable business that’s sustainable, you need it to be good the first time.

You learn a lot about yourself as a chef by having your own place because you’re trying to balance the cost of goods with a dish you want to create, and those two don’t often balance.

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Looking back over the past 6 years since opening Element 112, what’s contributed to the success? We’re very fortunate; we go up every year in covers and revenue, and it’s because we aren’t satisfied. We constantly try to improve. Even just having that attitude helps us every time. Even when we make mistakes, having our minds in the right place helps us move on. People are often scared to make a change, and we’re pretty fearless, we go for it, and that’s been very helpful for us. It makes us adapt quickly to customer demands, and that’s the type of thing that’s had us grow every year.

What’s a caution you have for aspiring owners before they take that leap and open a place of their own? The best thing you can do is to keep the end goal in mind. It’s really important to know what you’re trying to be and the type of experience the customer will get because that will trickle 20

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down through everything you do. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t work. Rule number one of our management [team] is to begin with the end in mind. It’s something that people don’t take seriously enough, and it’s very hard when there are little problems popping up in front of you, but you always have to keep the end goal in mind.

Everything has to be beautiful. A lot of restaurants overlook this, but when something’s really beautiful to look at, it’s easy to expect it will be delicious.



Is Catering

a Viable Revenue Stream? By: Jim Rand


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o cater or not to cater; that is the question.

When I travel across the country for industry conferences and events, I get the opportunity to meet with restaurant operators and caterers. They typically ask me the same set of questions: “Is catering the right channel to grow my business?” And: “How do I start and grow a catering business?” I encourage them to consider a few questions, which I’ll share with you below. Restaurant operators need to assess their business relative to their particular opportunity. In any venture there are risks and rewards; to clinch success, you need to make a calculated play that considers both elements.

Where should you play? According to Technomic’s 2018 “Catering Insights Program” report, the playing field we call catering is set to make $61.5 billion this year. The large catering market is composed of two main segments: business catering (B2B), estimated to reach $23.9 billion this year, and social catering (B2C), expected to hit$37.6 billion. So, the market is robust, and there clearly are big opportunities in the catering market. Better still for your business, no single company or type of food dominates the market share. No matter what you serve (sandwiches vs. juicy steaks) or how you serve it (pick-up vs. whitetablecloth experience), it’s anyone’s game. Still, it’s critical that you evaluate your menu and service offerings, and make sure they’re suited to the needs and demands of your target customers. For example, if your restaurant has a sandwich and salad concept, then your items like boxed lunches, sandwich platters, and salads for large groups would likely work well in the B2B drop-off catering channel. Conversely, if you offer hot food entrées resembling finedining fare, you might be better off attacking the social catering channel and serving your food in chafing dishes. Maybe this strikes you as common sense; it is. But it’s advice worth repeating. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen food delivery handled counterintuitively. The major blind spots of restaurants and caterers typically include offering food that doesn’t travel well, food that loses its integrity over time as it cools, or offering food that doesn’t meet customer expectations. Ultimately these factors dissuade the customer from placing a repeat order. My advice: be thoughtful and focus on a defined market segment that makes sense for your particular business. entrepreneurial chef


What is your commitment and capability? A catering business, or should I say a profitable and sustainable catering business, should be treated as just that—a business. Therefore, you must write a business plan based on your commitment and operational capabilities. By commitment and capabilities, I’m referring to your time, treasure, and talent. If you choose the path of catering, you need to prioritize all three areas. Regarding time, I suggest blocking out space on your calendar so you can devote yourself to the following: • Thoroughly understanding which market segments to play for (see “Question 1: Where to Play” above) • Studying your competitors in the market • Determining how to differentiate your catering business

If you take the time to consider these steps we’ve just covered (1) assessing where to play and (2) understanding your commitment and capabilities—you can better determine whether catering is right for your business. The opportunity is huge. If you take the right steps and move cautiously, your efforts and persistence will pay dividends.

By treasure, I’m referring to the means to finance and support your catering efforts. You will need to: • Prepare marketing plans and materials • Hire and train a team, if needed • Purchase the equipment and supplies needed to deliver a unique customer experience There is no “free money” in catering—you reap what you sow. Regarding talent, I strongly recommend that you, or a reliable team member, dedicate a significant portion of your schedule (days, weeks) to implementing your plan, and then sustaining it over several months until it is on firm footing. 24

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Jim Rand, Catering Practice Leader at ezCater, brings over 40 years of restaurant-industry experience to ezCater. Prior to joining the company, Jim was vice president of off-premises dining at P.F. Chang’s. From 2007 to 2016, he was vice president of catering at Panera Bread. A respected voice in the restaurant industry, Jim works to provide the very best solutions to help restaurants grow their catering businesses.

Cover Story

Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger:

On Partnership, Change & Opportunities By: Shawn Wenner


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rom their incredible on-air chemistry to groundbreaking restaurants, the dynamic chef duo, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, have been making pioneer moves – for not only female chefs, but food entrepreneurs as a whole. Since meeting in 1978 at Chicago’s distinguished Le Perroquet, as the first women ever to work in the kitchen, their illustrious careers and partnership have lasted nearly four decades.

Early on, while pursuing their

With media coverage in outlets like USA

entrepreneurial dreams, they were

Today, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly

admittedly “passionate, fearless, and

and on Oprah, Maury Povich, and the Today

a little naïve,” as Milliken recalls, and

Show, among the most prestigious of awards

despite any challenges and hardships,

for Milliken and Feniger are being named

the duo succeeded in their goal to “call their own shots.” By 1985, after their historic trip south of the Mexican border where they learned new recipes and techniques, Milliken and Feniger would return to open Border Grill. Suddenly, a new standard for gourmet Mexican

the first women to receive the California Restaurant Writer’s “Chef of the Year” award in 1988, and the fourth annual Julia Child Award by the Julia Child Foundation in 2018. And with no sign of slowing down, the awards and honors are expected to continue.

cuisine existed. Since then, Border

In our interview with these two iconic chefs,

Grill’s success combined with the duos

we discuss their fearless beginning, long-

ability to continually push boundaries

lasting partnership, the industry’s evolution,

have undoubtedly cemented their place

and opportunities they believe aspiring food

among the culinary elite.

entrepreneurs can capitalize on today. entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chefchef 27


& QA The

with Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger Thinking back to the beginning as young and eager food entrepreneurs, what was it like stepping out on your own? Mary Sue Milliken: We were young, passionate, fearless, and a little naïve. We knew we wanted to be our own bosses. We had done long hard stints in restaurants learning, and we were ready to call our own shots. It wasn’t terrifying in the beginning, that comes later when you understand the real implications of failure. But in your twenties, the world is your oyster, and you are infallible. Susan Feniger: Growing up in the Midwest, our [parents] sort of taught us both about being good business people. Not intentionally, it was just the nature of how they [raised us]. Mary Sue and I naturally picked up the importance of hard work. In terms of the business part, it was very seat-of-our-pants, but a lot of business 28

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is common sense. We never gave thought to what we might not know. What we knew was hard work and sheer determination, and that happened to work for us. We’ve certainly had our share of failures, but in the beginning, we never even thought about failing, it wasn’t even an option.

We had done long hard stints in restaurants learning, and we were ready to call our own shots. — Mary Sue Milliken

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In looking back, when success started to come, what contributed to it taking shape? MSM: It happened quickly. Literally, in the first year we opened, we were getting write-ups in big publications, and getting a lot of attention. But we were doing something completely new and different that nobody had done before. We were doing global food in a really serious culinary sense but in a casual dining experience. If there was anything that contributed to the success, it was that we were doing something so different, new and exciting. SF: We were definitely not bound by sticking to what was happening at the time. We had been trained in the French kitchen, but without even thinking about it, we added on different [cultural] culinary influences. We never thought about what we weren’t supposed to be doing as a French kitchen; we just were putting out food we loved to eat.


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We never gave thought to what we might not know. What we knew was hard work and sheer determination, and that happened to work for us. — Susan Feniger

What has been a great business and/or entrepreneurial lesson learned thus far? MSM: Getting used to not being in control, and managing expectations. Understanding that life and business are messy, and things go wrong. There are going to be ups and downs, and change is absolutely inevitable. So, don’t allow yourself to have expectations that it’s all going to come out perfectly. For me, it took a long time to understand or believe that fact. In 1985, we opened CITY Restaurant in like two days, and nobody knew the food except for me and Susan. The exhaust fan was broken, everybody was fainting, and it was a complete cluster. At the end of the night, the two of us were slouched down on the floor, and the first thing we started talking about was how we’re going to make it better the next day. We didn’t dwell for a second on what a shitshow it was, and that’s a really valuable lesson to understand. SF: The lesson I’m learning 37 years later is that failure in our business happens. Whatever that means – change, closures, etc. – but it doesn’t deter me from going forward. The most valuable lesson is how to fail and move forward quickly. Because my tendency is to hold on to something longer than we should – I probably pushed for that many times. The smartest thing when something is not working is stopping. It’s a smarter business move than continuing on and hoping it’ll change.

There’s an opportunity for really creative new ways of providing healthy, affordable food along with some kind of human interaction. — Mary Sue Milliken

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You should never think you are going to be the operator who goes into a horrible location and that your excellence is going to suddenly make it a highly trafficked place. That’s just naïve, and a little cocky. — Mary Sue Milliken


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How about any mistakes made along the way that brought valuable lessons?

myself, created a balance which might not have happened [on its own]. Because it’s very easy when things aren’t feeling right to blame it on the other person than to take responsibility for it. But having a partner when you’re going through the tough times makes that tough time so much more manageable and fun. I think when we go through tough times it’s often when our partnership is the strongest.

MSM: Location, location, location. You should never think you are going to be the operator who goes into a horrible location and that your excellence is going to suddenly make it a highly trafficked place. That’s just naïve, and a little cocky. It’s okay to take risks on a location to a point – if you’re a pioneer in a new neighborhood – but when there’s a perfectly good location that isn’t doing well, it’s not always because the operator wasn’t good. [In the past], I believed in certain instances that we were going to make it and that it would be different for us.

ve o m d n la

kly. — Susan Feniger c i u q ard w r o f

SF: Individually, we were each in therapy. Being in therapy, at least for 34

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The most valuable

With a partnership spanning several decades, what has contributed to its lasting success?

lesso n is

how to fai

SF: In our career, and this isn’t necessarily a mistake, we shared the risk. Of course, Mary Sue and I shared it, but we also created LLC’s where we had partners, and we hung on many times out of our loyalty and commitment to our partners to make sure they got their money back. But if I were a young business person starting out, have your risk be more of the effort, energy, and time and not [all] of your own personal money. Certainly, if you put your own money in and hit it big, obviously you make a lot more, but if you lose, the loss is much greater. If I were someone starting out, I would share the wealth, and that helps you share the risk.

MSM: It’s also respect. Having respect for our differences, having respect for each other and what each brings to the table, and always questioning and being curious. And giving the partnerships respect to sometimes question it and ask if it was still working or not, and then going back and deciding yes or no. For us, whenever we’ve hit those bumpy patches in our partnership, we’ve done that and decided it’s better for us to keep trying. We saw enough value, and we wanted to make it. Although everybody wants to be partners, you have to have a certain temperament, and a certain willingness or addiction to collaborate.

entrepreneurial chef


Having a partner when you’re going through the tough times makes that tough time so much more manageable and fun. — Susan Feniger

What’s your advice for those thinking of entering into a business partnership? MSM: Use reflection and introspection to understand what your strengths are, what your partners’ strengths are, and what value each person brings. And you have to [be prepared] to talk about things. If something’s unhealthy, unbalanced, or not working for you, you have got to talk about it. SF: Collaboration is such a huge part, and flexibility. We both have big egos, I think in this business you have to, but if you’re not able to hear someone else who has an opinion and be able to take it in, I don’t know how you could succeed in a partnership. entrepreneurial chef


With having a great company culture – happy employees, great retention, etc. – what has contributed to this over the years? MSM: One of the most important things is we’ve been hands-on with our employees. When they have issues, we’ve been very accessible. That creates loyalty and a commitment from people because they feel they’re connected to the people who own the company. For us, that’s been a big part of not having law suits and

There are going to be ups and downs, and change is absolutely inevitable. So, don’t allow yourself to have expectations that it’s all going to come out perfectly. — Mary Sue Milliken


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having a fair amount of long-term employees. When people feel you respect them and you care about who they are as people, there’s loyalty that comes. As far as retention, people work for more than a paycheck. Operators forget why people want to come to work everyday. It’s for the money, yes, but if they’re going to spend that much time, a third of their week in a place, they need to feel like they’re getting educated, developed and they’re being challenged. People want to be empowered. They want bosses that will allow them to take a few risks and make some mistakes so they can learn. SF: For me, one of the biggest joys I have in this business is the relationships I’ve been able to develop with so many people who have worked for us over the years. I love seeing some of the younger cooks get passionate about the industry and excited to learn and grow, and see them leave and go do something, or even stay with us. That’s been a huge part of being passionate about the businesses, the people part of it. Because of that, people feel that from us. It creates like a second family in our restaurants.

With 37 years in the business, what are some of the changes you all have seen for the better in the industry? MSM: Many things; the products we work with are so much better, and the sophistication of the guest is so much better. [Guests] really are urging us to do more and evolve our business all the time. There is also serious consideration for what we do and how it affects public and environmental health. In 1980, no one even cared where we bought chicken. We didn’t know if it was factory farmed or free-range, we knew nothing. Another change that’s been accelerated with the #metoo movement is a bigger emphasis on gender parity and respect. Because Susan and I had been in our bubble, our isolated restaurant group where we call the shots, I was shocked and disappointed to have it come up that our industry – who knows hospitality better than any other

One of the most important things is we’ve been hands-on with our employees. — Mary Sue Milliken

industry on the planet – doesn’t know how to treat their staff, especially women, with hospitality. I’m so happy this has come out and it’s changing, and I’m so disappointed that it’s far too late. SF: In many ways, the Food Network has really energized younger kids to be more serious and passionate about what they put in their bodies. Also, for those young kids that are interested in cooking, it’s elevated being a chef into something that kids are taking very seriously. When we started, you really didn’t see that near as much. The public is also much more aware of what they want, so it’s caused there to be a demand for sustainability. People care more about the environment, and what you as a restaurant owner are doing to protect it. entrepreneurial chef


In your opinions, what are the best (food) entrepreneurial opportunities out there right now? MSM: The need for healthy and affordable food is exploding. People [today] don’t have a lot of time to cook. And as the population expands, and is so connected to their devices, they really do crave human connection. So, there’s an opportunity for really creative new ways of providing healthy, affordable food along with some kind of human interaction. I think people can cash in on it if they hit the concept right. SF: I think small restaurants, at least in LA, where everybody knows each other, and they’re like a home away from home, are [great opportunities].

Start small, make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity, and grow carefully and not too quickly. — Susan Feniger Before someone steps out on their own as a food entrepreneur, what’s the advice for them? SF: First, it’s important to get experience to become well-rounded. I always recommend starting small. The best scenario is you start small and become so busy that people are dying to get in, and you take your time to grow. One thing we learned is when you have a [brick and mortar location], make sure you’re looking at every opportunity within those four walls before you open the next place. We’ve seen many of our peers who have opened a number of places, and none of them did well, and they ended up losing their company. So, start small, make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity, and grow carefully and not too quickly.


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Social Media Marketing

How to Navigate Social Media Ad Insights for Your Food Business By: Philip Kushmaro, Founder PKDMA Inc. 40

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ove it or hate it, everyone is on social media, and, if you don’t have a presence on Instagram or Facebook, you might be in trouble. Being in the food industry, your

social media presence is pivotal to your success. That is, after all, how news spreads nowadays. Secure your username, make it a no-brainer for customers who are trying to find you and then begin implementing these tips to maximize your social media “real estate” when it comes to ads. You don’t want to throw your money away.

First Step: Stock Up On Content Invest in a photographer who can take some stock photos that will keep your feeds vibrant. These images can be anything from dishes to action shots of cooking/plating to products fresh off the line. These images and videos are going to be crucial. You want each piece of content to be quality.

Second Step: Know Your Audience Nailing down these demographics aren’t as tricky as you think. Characteristics can be

managed through the Facebook Ads Manager, and your Instagram “Insights.” There are ways to sniper target your audience. Creativity is sometimes necessary, particularly after the whole FB-Cambridge Analytica debacle, but there is no rival targeted ads system that can compete, which is why Facebook and Instagram ads are incredibly effective. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What kinds of ads should you post?

Introductory Ads I sometimes call these the teaser ads, they are purely to get people to see the brand for the first time. Rather than making this a direct call entrepreneurial chef


to action, the content and copy for these ads are purely to show that you – or your business – is the best at what it does. Whether you are promoting your food truck and have an image of a customer taking their first bite of a colorful menu item, with a playful text reading, or showing off your amazing retro decor with a video of diners having an amazing time at your eatery – it just needs to be to grasp the audiences attention and want to learn more. Most importantly, make sure your logo and name are visible and prominent. We are now at the awareness stage, priming your audience. Marketing psychology 101, it can take a user up to seeing a brand 4-5 times before they can even start to decide. This is just the start of your journey, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get sales from this ad specifically, or right away. The technical targeting for these kinds of ads should focus on awareness and page likes. There are actually options for both of those within the Facebook Ads Manager. Instagram “Insights” also allows you to see profile visits, website clicks, and “impressions” which include likes, shares and follows.

Testimonial Ads Is there anything more important in business than trust between a customer and a business? Here are three examples to get a feel for the direction you need to take to build trust toward your customer base: Authentic Customer Reviews: Avoid paying for reviews, it is transparent when they are fake, and could potentially tarnish your reputation. Instead, do the legwork and interview your clientele face to face. Make the experience candid. This can also be a great way to gain feedback from your customers and make necessary adjustments. Educational Videos: Create educational videos about your product, service or venue. In a healthconscious world, people want to know where 42

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their food is coming from. Show consumers what sets your product apart and pull back the curtain to give them a peak of the magic you make. The idea is to exhibit your knowledge, trust will follow close behind.

Display Achievements: An important point here is not just to be vain about them but to show the community that your product or service is being recognized. After acquiring your image and video content, you can begin to target the same kinds of people you did in the awareness stage but make sure the focus is on people that are in the consideration category (which an option in the Facebook Ads Manager). Utilize the comments section in the ads to create engagement to build your reputation in the community.

Call to Action Ads These are the ads that explicitly alert your foodie audience to come and eat and/or buy. It is important to target the ad to people that have already gone through the priming and educational process, rather than those who don’t know who you are or haven’t built trust with – yet. To capture this audience, Google “How to set up FB re-marketing ads.” These ads will have the highest return on investment because they are targeted towards an audience that knows who you are. This psychological trick is backed by marketing science and will reduce your costs per acquisition.

Loyalty Ads Geared toward previous customers or those who have interacted with you or your business in the past.

If I have learned anything from my nine years working with businesses, it is that creating content can be the hardest part - not loading them to the ad manager and deciding how to target. Facebook and Instagram have truly worked on making the experience as intuitive as possible.

Here is where you give discounts, referral prizes and promotions of that nature in an ad form. Get creative – get people to print something out, take a selfie with your hashtag as part of the promotion, push them to not only follow your account but also tag a friend in the comments to enter to win. In the end, you want these ads to create a conversation. You want these people to keep coming back – and if you can generate some free advertising by word of mouth, why not?

Be thankful that you aren’t trying to do this a few years back when the cringeworthy power editor was the tool you needed to use.

Individuals that should be targeted for these ads are ones that have left their emails after leaving a review or have reached a thank you page on your site after reserving a table at your restaurant. This is where the re-marketing pixel is key. Re-marketing pixels are a piece of code that tracks engagement and lets you target ads depending on which pages the user was on.

If you haven’t created social networks to promote your business by now, hopefully, this article has motivated you to take those steps. These ads can promote your business to an untapped audience within minutes of setup. Stock up on content, and get ready to change the way your market your business. Check in on your insights and adjust accordingly. Good luck!

Test Your Hard Work with an A/B Test Now that you’re in the phase of running ads, it’s time to test their strength. Just because one stock image is your favorite, doesn’t mean that it is resonating with your audience, so make sure to cast a broad net and then begin to narrow your scope. You can’t know which ads are the strongest without testing them. You should always have ads that are competing against each other to see which brings in the best results. Keep chipping away, and you’ll get the hang of it. If you’re not up on the trends, Instagram and Facebook ad technology will run your ads and begin to weed out the ones that aren’t as powerful. Trust the process.

Digital Marketing Ambassador and the Founder of PKDMA Inc., Philip Kushmaro, goal is to consult and educate business owners and marketers on all aspects of digital marketing. Almost a decade of experience and over 350 different companies are proudly a part of his portfolio. Whether you are a boring b2b or a b2c trying to break through in a very saturated market, Philip has the tools and knowledge to help anyone conquer the internet. entrepreneurial chef


Success Story

Silvia Baldini: From Art Director to Chef Entrepreneur

By: Jay Michael Sponsored by: Le Cordon Bleu


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Born and raised in Turin Italy, Silvia Baldini’s love for food was as strong as her family bond. By 17, she moved to California to attend


the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and upon graduating, she headed to the Big Apple

for an advertising career. Working her way up to Art Director on the iconic Madison Avenue, Baldini’s love for food pulled her from an award-winning career into the throes of the kitchen.

ollowing her education at ICC in New York City, Baldini attended the illustrious Cordon Bleu in London. There, she would receive a level of education she merely dreamt about with handson training and instruction. After graduating, Baldini would begin working in Michelin-star kitchens in Europe and eventually launch her creative food group Strawberry and Sage. Now, as the co-owner and founder of The Secret Ingredient Girls, her passion for food and wholesome ingredients has merged with wellness and beauty. As a culinary authority whose work has been cited in publications such as Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Parents Magazine, Saveur, Martha Stewart, the New York Times, and more, we connected with Baldini to discuss her entrepreneurial journey and advice. entrepreneurial chef


& QA The


Silvia Baldini

After a successful career as an Art Director, what prompted your decision to change careers?

What was the experience like attending Le Cordon Bleu in London?

The work was creative, exhilarating and nonstop – I threw myself into advertising. It was before computers; we were still doing things by hand. Women were just starting to get into the force, and there were no big women art directors yet. The hours were brutal with deadlines, traveling all the time and photo shoots. I grew professionally, won awards, but was exhausted. I had a gnawing desire to tackle something food-related – I dreamed about opening a food market like the ones in Italy – and I decided that was it for advertising, I wanted a career in food.

I’ll never forget the first day I stepped into Le Cordon Bleu and got to wear my first white coat. It felt like a dream come true. Starting a new career in your late thirties can be scary, but my experience at Le Cordon Bleu was outstanding. I loved the professional approach of the teachers. Every class had the same structure; 3 hours of demo session and 3 hours of practice. The head chef demonstrates several dishes, and afterward, you have your chance to reproduce them. The process is very demanding but hands-on, and it gives students a chance to learn techniques and work in a truly specialized environment.

Be a tank. Zero in on a passion and follow through.

It was my first insight into a real kitchen environment where I had to get something ready on time no matter what, and it really showed me what a proper restaurant setting was like. There is no other school in my opinion that can prepare you to be in the culinary world as good as Le Cordon Bleu.


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How did the education at Le Cordon Bleu prepare you to enter the industry? Going to Le Cordon Bleu was the first step to prepare myself to become a true chef, and it opened many doors in the industry. It’s not only a great place to get a specialized education, but it’s also a place to connect with like-minded people. It gave me a chance to network with the best in the business. Being at Le Cordon Bleu was very mind opening. I learned about discipline, techniques, respect, and dedication. It’s great to have a passion, but without hard work, dreams do not turn into reality. Le Cordon Bleu was an accelerator for my new career.

As you begin working in the industry, what helped you to find your culinary voice? Finding my culinary voice was the hardest part of my career switch. A chef without a clear style will not succeed. Having a point of view 48

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Finding my culinary voice was the hardest part of my career switch. A chef without a clear style will not succeed. Having a point of view is crucial. is crucial. After Le Cordon Bleu, I worked in all sorts of kitchens and apprenticed with many great chefs. I got to work with Ottolenghi in his small boutique store, and then the London Ritz. I worked every station chopping, cleaning, peeling shrimp until my hands would bleed, it was brutal work, but I was fascinated being in the belly of the kitchen. Finally, I went on to build Strawberry and Sage, my catering and event company that now evolved into a consulting company. I wanted to cook my own food. I always believed in cooking wholesome food with beautiful ingredients, and I like to create dishes with Mediterranean roots. I believe in elevating my cooking by always using fresh and locally sourced materials. In the end, it became clear, the only way to cook what and how I wanted was to build my own business. Starting my own company gave me a chance to explore my culinary vision more clearly and to morph into whom I am today.

Start, Grow & Monetize Your Food Blog

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Was there a point in your career when things really began to take off? If so, what was this period and what contributed to the success?

where we share our passion for food, cooking, and wellness. We sell oil, vinegar, and wholesome products. It became an overnight success. We ship nationally, we have a warehouse, distribution in local stores, and we are working on private lines for corporate clients and institutions including the Stamford Museum and the Perfect Provenance.

Going to Le Cordon Bleu was no doubt the first step toward a successful career. Hard work and tears followed, and then I was lucky enough to be cast for Chopped on the Food Network. Winning Chopped gave me a jolt of energy and lots of visibility. My career took off then, and I got to work on better projects and to focus more on building my business.

We are on a mission to make the world a tastier and healthier place. We believe that great food begins with wholesome ingredients. We choose only the freshest and most interesting harvests and seek premium oils from different regions in the world. Creating and successfully growing these cretingredientgirls.com has been a dream come true. In a way, TSIG has spun from my original idea of having a European food market, except it’s not a brick and mortar, and it thrives online, for now.

When did you decide it was time to pursue more of an entrepreneurial path? I reached a time in my life when I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I was done with the corporate world. As a starter, I worked in other chefs’ kitchens to gain experience and understand all the different aspects of a food business. I wanted to learn about purchasing, stocking, employee management, training, and how to run and build a proper kitchen – understanding the laws and the rules that regulate the industry. Frankly, the cooking part is the easy part of being an entrepreneurial chef and owner. After years in other people’s kitchens, I finally felt I knew enough to start my own venture.

That led you to launch The Secret Ingredient Girls, right? Yes, I met my partner Alina while she was running her chain of boutique olive oil stores and we bonded. Together we launched thesecretingredientgirls.com, an online store 50

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Always stay ahead of the trend with an eye on the past.

Let’s use the power of technology to build something valuable. It’s time to take responsibility as chefs and food entrepreneurs.

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Being involved with several business ventures, what’s a lesson you’ve learned in relation to being a food entrepreneur that you can share with the audience? Always stay ahead of the trend with an eye on the past. Make sure your products taste good because in the end taste is the most important component of a food business. Always make sure you listen to your costumers. Understand what your audience needs.

Our society has a lot to gain by learning to cook with better and more wholesome ingredients.

For example, the health and fitness industry has received a surge in recent years, especially as the public becomes more aware that more than two in three adults are considered to be overweight in the United States. This has created a strong need among Americans for healthier food options – and food startups are taking the helm. I’m very in tune with wellness and the need for cleaner food.

Any business mistakes made along the way that brought a tough lesson? I make mistakes every day. However, I have learned to be humble and ready to shift tactics and take a step back when needed. Rome was not built in one day. I also believe we are the sum of the 5 closest people we choose to surround our self. So, I choose whom I take advice from very seriously.

What are some of the things you’ve done that contributed to your personal brand being established? Each of us individually is a brand. The way we present ourselves, the way we dress, talk and interact with others are components that morph us into our personal brand. I try to be consistent in the way I present myself, and I stay true to my beliefs. Everyone knows I’m a chef, a very talkative woman, an activist with a fierce sense of humor, and that I believe in eating clean and good tasting food. I don’t believe in diets, I believe in good ingredients and home-cooked meals. I’m bullish about staying true to myself and about building a brand that represents the values I believe in. Each block I put down contributes to creating my brand. It’s important to stay on the right path and not grab the low hanging fruits, but aim high.


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I’m bullish about staying true to myself and about building a brand that represents the values I believe in. entrepreneurial chef


What’s on the horizon for you in the coming year? I’m working on growing thesecretingredient girls.com. We want to partner with more likeminded brands – small and large. I also want to get out there and meet the people behind the ingredients we buy – to have a personal relationship with the artisans and producers. We definitely want to implement a giveback program and offer more seminars and tasting. Our society has a lot to gain by learning to cook with better and more wholesome ingredients. Finally, I have my eyes on more TV projects, writing projects and a book on wholesome ingredients. I’m tired of all the glossy Instagram nonsense. We need to eat better and stop gawking at greasy pictures of bacon on social media. Let’s use the power of technology to build something valuable. It’s time to take responsibility as chefs and food entrepreneurs. I believe a company can be profitable and decent. 54

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Listen to the people that made it in the business now and before you and follow their steps. In relation to food entrepreneurship, what final advice, thoughts, or insights do you have for the audience? Be a tank. Zero in on a passion and follow through. Be ready to step back and be respectful and humble. Have fun. Look around and always be aware of what’s new. There is so much more to this industry than tattooed sleeves! Spend more time with friends and family and traveling to discover different cultures and different approaches to cooking. Listen to the people that made it in the business now and before you and follow their steps. Be a decent and compassionate leader.

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10 Signs

It’s Time to Let Go of Certain Offerings By: Chef Deb Cantrell


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hen you first started out in business, did you offer people whatever they would buy? Just to get your business off the ground? I used to offer it all – cooking classes, meal delivery, private in-home cooking, grocery store tours and pantry makeovers to name a few. Before I knew it, my business had turned into a smorgasbord of offerings. I realized I was confusing my buyers with all that I did, and I wasn’t communicating how I could really solve their pain points.

A lot of times this happens because someone says “You know what you should do?” Or a client at one time asked you for something special and you figured that other people might like it too. Or maybe you just wanted to offer it because it sounded fun.

Often the chefs and culinary business owners that I coach in an honest effort to make money, have so many different revenue streams that their potential customer has no idea what to buy from them, so they just don’t. I worked with a chef a few years ago that when I asked him who his ideal client was, he said, “Anyone who lets me apply fire to food.” I completely understood where he was coming from, but this was not serving him well. There is a principle that I teach called the “Power of One.” This simply means that when you concentrate on one thing or even a few things and do it really well, people will buy from you. For example, In ‘n Out burger sells burgers and fries. Not sweet potato fries, not chicken sandwiches. Just beef burgers and fries. Their customers go to their restaurant for something very specific. When you have too many offerings, it often dilutes your core offerings, and you end up making less money.

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When you’re able to focus your time and energy on marketing one or two core offerings, then you can truly start building a strong base of revenue and clients around those. Letting go of an offering is hard, but here are 10 signs that it might be time to say goodbye: • It’s beneath your growing fee structure •

Work is not challenging

• You’re in an area that is no longer growing •

You don’t like it

• Very few people buy it despite everyone saying they wanted it • Takes too much time for the return on investment • Doesn’t fit with your company values or personal beliefs • Not within your strategic and long-term plan •

It cheapens your brand

• You simply don’t want to offer it anymore Do you have a better idea of what you need to get rid of? Keep? Great. Now have the courage and do it. Sure you might lose a few clients at first or have to slowly phase them out, but in the end, it will be worth it because now you can start attracting the types of clients you want to serve and start making more money in those areas.


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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.

JANUARY 10-11, 2019




Mastermind with seasoned culinary business owners in a community of support Experience the same success that other Sharpen participants are raving about - like consistency of income, building a stellar team and more effective marketing to name a few! Walk away with your very own step-by-step blueprint that you can implement the day you return home to catapult you into 2019




Success Story

Shaun O’Neale: Going All-In With Your Passion By: Shawn Wenner


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efore venturing into cooking, Shaun O’Neale was a DJ in Las Vegas for 18 years. As he explains, a prominent part of

life in Vegas includes the crazy nightlife but also the amazing food and restaurant scene. Because of that last one, getting into the food world happened fairly naturally. With a vast collection of cookbooks, dog-eared and well worn, it’s safe to say O’Neale was recipe obsessed and keen on experimenting in the kitchen. Transitioning from DJ to chef made sense. Afterall, as a DJ, work involves mixing other people’s creations to create a new work. Chef work is similar: a chef takes ingredients from the farm, the produce and meat suppliers and turns it into something special. In our interview, O’Neale shares the details of his journey. entrepreneurial chef


Q&A The


Shaun O’Neale

What prompted you to try out for MasterChef? It was my friends. Being a DJ, you’re a little bit of a reserved person. You deal with so much in the nightclubs that you kind of push people away. The way that I showed love was to cook for my friends. It was my friends who knew what I could do in a kitchen, and they pushed me to take this MasterChef adventure. As far as the experience, it’s by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done.

Having been a DJ, you obviously had to put yourself out there, did you see that as an advantage on the show? Absolutely. There is a little bit of a starstruck moment when you see Gordon Ramsay. But in Vegas, I was deejaying parties for Michael 62

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Jordan, Justin Timberlake, and I did Playboy parties every year. As a DJ, have to lose that starstruck moment or that sense of pressure. I wasn’t really as blown away as I may have been otherwise. I mean, obviously, it’s Gordon Ramsay, one of the most famous chefs on the planet. That can throw you off your game alone. Then you throw the pressure of competing for a quarter of a million dollars. My experience as a DJ definitely played a role in keeping me calm.

What you’re looking to do may not always be there, so my biggest advice is to find a way to create it.

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What surprised you the most after the show ended? How much work it’s going to be. No offense to anybody else who has ever won any of these types of shows, but I feel like a lot of people that I’ve talked to went home, thought they were going to be overnight successes, and that’s just not the way it happens. I have experience knowing that you have to hustle every single day because maybe someone a little better than you is coming up behind you. We had to stay relevant and in the public eye. We’ve booked over 80 events in nine countries. I just got back from my 326th day on the road. When my cookbook was released, we knew we had to stay in the public eye and stay on the road until we could finally open a restaurant in Vegas with an established fan base to make it successful.

No offense to anybody else who has ever won any of these types of shows, but I feel like a lot of people that I’ve talked to went home, thought they were going to be overnight successes, and that’s just not the way it happens. 64

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What does “stay relevant” look like on a granular level? Is this you reaching out to events or promoters? My wife does all my bookings. I gave her a list of about 50 big events, and it was us reaching out to them. Luckily, we had an amazing launchpad with MasterChef, but nobody’s going to reach out to you even with that win under your belt. So, it was us testing the water, sending emails, and introducing ourselves. I’ll be completely honest: for the first six months to eight months, as long as my travel and my expenses were paid, we would do anything. It was really us busting our asses for the first six months and taking a lot of free stuff and unpaid shows. But this year, those same shows are coming back and paying [thousands] for a couple of days to appear.

Not every day is going to be a glorious great day, but tomorrow you have another shot to get out there and kick some ass.

What was it like taking that initial spotlight and creating a “brand” with business opportunities?

When companies reach out with opportunities, how do you evaluate whether to take the opportunity or not?

It was tough. We heard a lot of no’s. It was really about staying focused. So many people get close to success and give up because it’s too hard, or they’re not making the money that they need, but having that launchpad and winnings helped us push through. We don’t take the freebies anymore. Obviously, charity stuff comes in, and I’m more than happy to do that all the time. But it was really just staying motivated to push through some of those rougher times.

First and foremost, it has to be something I’m interested in and something that fits with the way I think about food. If I’m not excited about it, then there’s no really no point in getting involved. I don’t want to give anybody halfassed work. I want everything that I do to be top quality, and the only way that’s going to be is if it’s something that I believe in. I really need to feel strongly about the brand and know that they put out a quality product. I don’t want to put my name or this reputation that we struggled so hard to build on anything that’s going to be subpar or lackluster.

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Were there any moments when you dealt with challenges or frustration? As far as challenges, it’s really about looking in every possible corner to find people who are interested in seeing what you have to present. We’ve done a lot of events where we’ve actually created a food demo situation for them. For some of the women’s shows, they never had a platform like that before. What you’re looking to do may not always be there, so my biggest advice is to find a way to create it. Nobody’s going to do anything for you in this day and age, so you really have to get creative to promote yourself.

I don’t want to put my name or this reputation that we struggled so hard to build on anything that’s going to be subpar or lackluster.

What have you learned about personal branding to keep all of this alive? The biggest thing is the relationships. I’ve gotten a lot of work by word of mouth because I built good relationships with people who throw events. We’ve stayed humble and helpful when they have questions or when they need help. That’s a big thing is building relationships.

With your book, My Modern American Table, can you share how this came to be? Actually, it’s part of the prize package for winning MasterChef. The time frame was pretty short because they have to be on schedule to promote it on the next season of the show. I literally had about four months to write the book. I was in my kitchen 14 to 18 hours a day. I spent all my savings because I hadn’t got the winning check yet since the show was airing while I was writing the book. I literally got it done the day my finale aired. It was a pretty crazy experience, but I’m so proud of it. It came out so beautiful. The extra time and money really gave us a great product. It really helps to approach these events with a product. We’ve developed a great product in the book, and it has paid off pretty well.


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Nobody’s going to do anything for you in this day and age, so you really have to get creative to promote yourself. entrepreneurial chef


I’ve gotten a lot of work by word of mouth because I built good relationships with people who throw events. I assume you were at least working with a publisher for the book. Did you have an advance or anything like that? Not at all. We worked closely with Abrams Publishing. It was great to have their knowledge. Every recipe got tested about five times before it was guaranteed a spot in the book. They had a photographer who was absolutely incredible. It felt like he was climbing inside my brain. It was weird for me having a stylist because one of the things I really enjoy, and that helped me to win MasterChef, is my plating. I’m really particular about the style of the plate. But again, it was like they were both inside my head.

Are there any personal success philosophies that you hold close that have helped you get to where you are today? It’s always been perseverance for me. That’s the one thing that people always tell me that they respect about me. It’s always just never stopping. Not everybody’s going to love you, 68

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especially in the social media world that we live in today. One of the things that does get under my skin is seeing negative reactions to things online. I guess if I did have a mantra would be an old Shakespeare quote that said “love me, I’m in your heart. Hate me, I’m in your mind.” On the work ethic side, it’s really just persevering. Not everyday is going to be a glorious great day, but tomorrow you have another shot to get out there and kick some ass.

You mentioned thinking about a restaurant. What do you see as the next step for you guys? I’m really focused on this restaurant. We’ve already got some awesome investors lined up, so I’m finalizing business plans right now. I want to have a home base where people can come in, and I can feed them both my crazy ideas and the classics. Right now in the chef world, everybody wants to have that restaurant group where they can have their different concepts that give them freedom. So, I would love to have a little quick-serve place, and then a tapstyle place, but first and foremost, we’re going to focus on what really reflects me.

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.


Seed Money

Start-Up Capital:

How to Finance Your New Food Business 70

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ou’ve put in your time in the kitchen, working for

some pretty cool and talented people. You figured out a lot of things about the production side of the food services business. It is clear to you, now. “Food runs your life,” and that’s the life you want. And because you are hardworking and love what you do, inevitably, you start thinking, “it’s time. I’m going to start my own place. I’m going to work for myself, build a team, be successful. I’m going to do it!” Then in a sobering moment you wonder, “Just how am I going to make this work?” My job as a Business Advisor is to help entrepreneurs figure out how to plan for and achieve the business success they are after. Whether it’s as a nascent restaurant start up or growing a small food packager selling to a national grocery chain, if chefs are to successfully commercialize their creativity and talent, they need to start thinking about how their business will operate and make a profit.

Everyone needs a business plan From the beginning our conversations I tell the business owner-operator with whom I am working to “start with the end in mind” – that is, each of them needs to look at the whole picture and decide what they want to achieve. Their end game needs to be defined in a way that allows them to measure the results they want and create a realistic timeline for these achievements. Then working together, we can determine the best way to move in that direction. The best tool for this work is a business plan. A business plan is a calculated, written out, well-considered set of decision that can be used for many things. Most importantly it outlines how the owner-chef will organize and implement his or her ideas to be successful. It outlines what the chef’s company will sell to attract customers away from their competitors. It define show the business will serve and feed them food they love, at the right price, in the right place, and in the right way so they will allow his business to generate the positive cash flow it needs to succeed.

The business plan can also help aspiring chefentrepreneurs raise the money she needs to open their doors and stay open while their business grows into a profitable enterprise. entrepreneurial chef


The right funding for the right stage It is important to recognize that borrowing money for any start-up business works just that same as borrowing money for a business that has a long successful track record. First – the owner/borrower must be creditworthy. Know your credit score. Next, I discuss with each owner whether there is sufficient collateral to secure the money they want to borrow. Collateral is a secondary form of repayment for the lender, should the borrower be unable to pay what they are obligated to pay month to month. And third, it is critical that their business plan show through realistic financial projections, that the start-up can generate enough revenue to cover all expenses, pay back the loan and have excess cash available to pay the owner, and on which the business can grow. As we work through the decisions about menus and markets, the front of the house and the kitchen, we talk about what amount of cash they’ll need to launch and how they will spend it. Start-up chefs typically need funding for equipment and machinery, fixtures and furniture, inventory and distribution cash on which to operate early on. Most likely a new business will not be able to obtain a mortgage (own the building), so most often we focus on rent and other occupancy costs such as utilities, as part of their monthly costs of doing business. At the end of the day how much a business needs to open its doors depends a good deal on the type and size of the start-up. In any event, the entrepreneur chef will want to spend time researching and calculating the costs to start and operate their business and determine where these funds will come from. A good rule of thumb for financing a start-up business is: the owner will need to contribute 20% - 25% of the total required costs to open and operate his business while it builds sales. 72

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If their calculated total costs are $100K, the owner will need to pony up $20K - $25K as their part of the capital requirements. The math is easy. Finding the cash is harder. Luckily there are options for chef-entrepreneurs.

Since start-up businesses are inherently risky, banks, as a rule, shy away from lending to them. There are organizations which support and encourage job creation and business start-ups, however. Coastal Enterprises (CEI) in Maine, for example, is such an organization, a non-profit impact investor and community builder, with a mission among other things to help create good jobs. Whether you are starting or expanding your business, you will need business savvy. You know your stuff in the kitchen. You have a dream. It’s time to develop your business plan and get the help and financing you need to succeed.

Bradshaw Swanson is a Certified Master Business Advisor and Center Director for the Maine Small Business Development Center at CEI, in Brunswick, Maine.


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


Success Story

Mareya Ibrahim:

The Business of Natural

Products By: Jenna Rimensnyder


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rom professional chefs to home cooks, it’s important to know where your produce comes from, and more importantly, the process from harvest to plate. That’s where nationally recognized food safety and clean eating expert, Mareya Ibrahim, comes in. Ibrahim is the CEO and founder of Grow Green Industries, Inc. and patented co-creator of the eatCleaner®, eatSafe™ and eatFresh™ line of all-natural and organic products that offer cleaner, safer, longer lasting produce. The start-up was co-founded with her father, Dr. Ibrahim, a Colorado State University Emeritus Professor and Ph.D. in Environmental The award-winning entrepreneur, Health Science. chef, author and inventor shares her knowledge of all things health The product line has conscious through her book, products, been making waves blog and column “The Fit Foodie,” in Edible Orange County Magazine. on national outlets Accolades of her work include the including USA Today, World’s Best Technology Gold Prize, Food Network, and the Disney iParenting Award, and Ibrahim was a finalist for Inc. The Wall Street Magazine’s Newpreneur of the Year Journal. Award. With appearances on Recipe

Rehab, eHow.com, Livestrong.com and various news outlets, Ibrahim is out to show the world her dedication to public health and wellbeing. In our interview, we discuss how Ibrahim created, marketing and grew her product line. entrepreneurial chef


& QA The


Mareya Ibrahim

Where did you initially get the eatCleaner products created? Our line of eatCleaner products has always been manufactured in FDA-approved facilities to ensure the highest level of safety and quality. We use three different co-packers, all of which have been recommended by fellow experts in the field. We looked for safety, quality, and ability to manufacture at least on an organic line for our products that are certified organic. It was important to me that the facilities were near me, so I could meet with our co-packers if we had an issue to jump in and audit it – I like to be really hands on.

What’s one mistake you made when getting the product first created? Underestimating the cost to bring it to market. When you’re high on an idea and think you’ve 76

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created the next best thing since sliced bread, you assume you’re just going to strike a match and the world will catch on fire. But 9 times out of 10, it doesn’t work that way. Make sure you are properly capitalized because so many ideas die without enough fuel to properly launch.

Who are your specific customers and how did you get sales early on? At Grow Green Industries, we service both consumers and food service/processors, so B2C and B2B. We exhibited at the Natural Products Expo and immediately got exposure to thousands of people. We started with reaching out to friends, friends of friends, and leveraging the power of social media. We also got our products into major retailers like Albertson’s, Stater Bros and Whole Foods. Then, we joined business associations specifically related to fresh produce and began the introduction process.

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We started with reaching out to friends, friends of friends, and leveraging the power

our affiliates get out what they put into it. We want the testimonial from our affiliates to be authentic, and as of right now, we have about 2,000 that we’re working with.

of social media.

What did you wish you knew before embarking on this venture?

What are the marketing efforts like right now to drive sales?

The importance of knowing just how much money is needed to properly capitalize a company and grow strategically. But, I can say I know how to be patient and resourceful – and that is hugely beneficial to any entrepreneur.

A lot is word of mouth, media and PR. We also participate in consumer events and leverage the incredible power of testimonials and influencers on social media. We participate in large-scale B2B events and promote our products at trade shows. By influencers, I mean affiliates that have used our product and want to share it with their following on social media. For our affiliate program, we offer a 25% commission for it to be a win-win. That way,

Starting a company is not for the weakhearted. As an entrepreneur that is looking to launch a new product or service in the industry, what you’re offering must bring value to consumers’ lives and be sustainable. It is really important that when you decide to launch, that you’ve done your due diligence and make sure you can produce for the long run. Ask yourself, what you want out of it? When you answer that, then you can chart your roadmap.


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As an entrepreneur that is looking to launch a new product or service in the industry, what you’re offering must bring value to consumers’ lives and be sustainable.

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Is there anything you would’ve done differently to have been better prepared for the venture? No, because I truly believe there is never a ‘perfect’ time or strategy. I’m now seasoned with tears, and sweat equity, and money can’t buy that.

Do your research

to figure out if your profit margins to

make and market your product can pay your bills. 80

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What’s your advice for a food entrepreneur trying to create a similar product? Do your research to figure out if your profit margins to make and market your product can pay your bills. Understand your target audience and their psyche. Find your URL before you fall in love with a brand name (it might not be available, or ridiculously expensive). And ask yourself, “Do I love this idea enough to live and breathe it for (at least) 5 years, grinding it day in day out?” If the answer is yes, and you’re pretty sure your idea and story are unique enough, you may be onto something.

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?


17,000+ students 191 public high school teachers 179 schools 2,000+ 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


Tools of the Trade with Fabio Viviani

Celebrity chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Fabio Viviani has been a star on the rise since winning Fan Favorite during Season 5 of Bravo’s Top Chef. Vivani continues to win over viewers with recurring guest spots on platforms such as Good Morning America, The Talk, and The Chew on ABC. With Italian concepts spanning from California to New York, the culinary personality is constantly on the go as he expands his empire. In 2018 alone, the Chef has been rigorously working on opening restaurants in Tampa, Detroit, Washington D.C. and Oklahoma City. Viviani shares his top tools and brand lines that are necessities in his home, kitchen and travels – including an exciting project he’s launched recently.


entrepreneurial chef

Picnic Time Heritage Collection

Every item in this collection is a must-have for me. I really like the Salad Bowl, and Margherita Pizza set and the dark wood finish looks damn good in your kitchen!


DOPPLE is my latest project. It is an app and video platform where you can digitalize your knowledge and make it available to anyone. I get asked the same questions a lot, and there is simply not enough time in the day to personally answer every question in a meaningful way. The DOPPLE video platform allows you to answer a question only once and never again.

KitchenAid Electronic Scale

I’m a grams guy. I have no problem with using other forms of measurement, but personally, I think that weighing things gets the job done quicker and cleaner. It’s also nice if you are trying to stick to a strict diet and need to portion your food. This is great for baking, measuring your morning coffee, or maybe being specific if wanting to try your hand at some intermediate gastronomy. entrepreneurial chef


Clear Ziploc Bag KitchenAid Stand Mixer

I use this all the time for making pasta, and the pasta attachment is a necessity.

Fabio Viviani Wines I like red wines, usually Chianti. I have my own winery, and I drink Fatty Pope and Fabio Viviani Wines’ Cabaret or Red Blend.


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My son, Gage, travels with me a lot. When traveling with kids, bring a Ziploc bag. All you have to do is put your iPhone in the Ziploc bag, seal it and pin it underneath the tray table lock in front of your airplane seat, so you create a makeshift television stand. It works like magic with Gage!

Lavazza Coffee

I drink ten espressos a day to work as much as I do. Espresso is an all-day remedy to any stressful situation. Growing up in Italy, Lavazza became part of my family, and it remains an important aspect of my personal and professional life today.

Bialetti Cookware

I’m very happy with all Bialetti products and use them on my YouTube show, “Fabio’s Kitchen.” Bialetti is one of my favorite Italian brands. A good quality, nonstick pan is a must.

Viking Appliances

Viking makes the highest performing, best-looking appliances. entrepreneurial chef



The Inception Chef:

Food Trends Begin with Innovators In Collaboration With: The following food 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. 86

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Bottarga An Italian delicacy made with salted, cured fish roe. It’s typically from grey mullet or bluefin tuna and known as Mediterranean caviar or truffle of the sea. It is grated over dishes as a flavor enhancer.


Why It’s Trendy: More affordable than caviar, bottarga can add a salty, briny kick to anything from pasta to pizza to salad.

13% 4%


Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Consumers Know It

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Tried It

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Galangal The root is related to ginger and tastes similar, but with a sharper, almost peppery taste. It’s widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine, adding a bright flavor to curries and soups.


Why It’s Trendy: Innovative operators are adding it to other parts of the menu, such as unique cocktails. It is often sold frozen or powdered, making it an accessible, unique-yet-familiar ingredient operators can infuse into Thai-inspired soups, sauces, or simple syrups.

11% 4%



Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Consumers Know It

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Tried It

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Bagna Cauda


A traditional Italian winter hot dish or dipping sauce. Its ingredients include olive oil, melted butter, anchovies, basil, garlic, and occasionally truffle. Why It’s Trendy: It’s used to dip an assortment of raw or cooked vegetables such as cardoons, artichokes, or fennel. Though some diners may balk at the idea of eating an anchovy dip, when used sparingly anchovies add an umami richness that complements the slow-cooked garlic.

11% 4%


Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Consumers Know It

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Tried It

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Commercial Leasing

8 Negotiating

Strategies for Reducing Rental Rates By: Jeff Grandfield and Dale Willerton – The Lease Coach


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Entrepreneurial chef tenants should not be afraid to negotiate assertively on the rental rate. So why do restaurant tenants have such difficulty in this area? Frequently, the answer is a simple unawareness of market rental rates (or the “going rate”) in an area.

Let us explain. Suppose the leasing agent or landlord wants you to pay $25 per square foot on new lease space (or even on a lease renewal). However, you know that every other tenant in the building is paying rent ranging between $18 to $20 per square foot. Armed with this information, you would have no difficulty justifying your negotiations, would you? Entrepreneurial chef tenants often mistakenly believe that the agent or landlord wouldn’t dare ask for more rent than the space is worth. Consider, however, that the landlord is paying the leasing agent commission not just to lease the space, but to lease it for the highest rent possible - and to the best tenant available. Commercial landlords justifiably want to maximize the return on their real estate investments, which is entirely acceptable. Here are eight strategies for lowering the rental rate on commercial leases:

Talk With Other Tenants You can learn a lot about the landlord’s property management practices, how tenants are treated, how approachable the landlord is and so on by approaching current tenants. Tenants will often tell you whether they plan to stay or move, if their rent is excessive and other inside information only existing tenants know about.

Shop Around Even if you’re in love with one property, conspicuously seek out other options as it pays to create competition for your tenancy among several landlords in one geographical area. Leasing agents and landlords will often soften on asking rental rates when they realize you have sought out leasing options. Remember that you are the customer. Don’t hand the landlord your tenancy on a silver platter – make him/her earn it. entrepreneurial chef


Let the Landlord Offer First It’s much easier to negotiate when you see the business terms on paper. Suggest that the leasing agent or landlord e-mail you the Offer To Lease. Typically, the deal will never get worse than the first Offer or Proposal presented so you can measure your negotiating progress by comparing where the deal started and where it finished. Frequently, the first Offer is padded with room for negotiation – so never accept the first Offer outright.

Flinch No matter what rental rate you’re offered, flinch a little. Act surprised that the rent is so high. Frequently, the agent’s first offer is made to test you, to see exactly how you react. If you look visibly relieved or even pleasantly surprised by how reasonable the rental rate is you can be sure it won’t come down.

Ask For Justification Question what other tenants are paying, specifically those who have recently moved in or renewed their leases. This is called the prevailing rate. When you learn that a tenant is paying $25 per square foot, don’t stop asking questions there. Inquire about the incentives they received. How many months of free rent or how much tenant allowance money did the landlord give the tenant so they would agree to pay $25 per square foot?

Wait to Counter-Offer When you receive the leasing agent’s first Offer to Lease (or lease proposal), don’t counter-offer right away. If you have no fear that the space will be leased to someone else, it can often work to your advantage to wait a few days. Even let the allocated response time lapse so you can counter-offer on your terms. Agents know that tenants can be influenced by artificial


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deadlines that are just that – artificial. When making your counter-offer, you can do so by way of a separate letter stating your terms, or by changing the original document, initialing the changes, signing it and sending it back.

Walk Away From the Table If, after receiving the landlord’s most recent counter-offer, you determine the terms will still not work for you, advise the landlord or their agent you are going to take some time to consider it further or explore other options. We have effectively done this for our clients and seen the rental rate drop by more than $10 per square foot from the landlord’s original asking price.

Offset Rent With Incentives Sometimes the landlord won’t budge on the rental rate. This is not the end of your negotiations. Frequently the landlord will concede other incentives such as free rent or more tenant allowance dollars in order to achieve his/her rental goals. If you can’t bring the rent down can you get the incentives increased?

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.


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Profile for Rennew Media

Entrepreneurial Chef #30 - December 2018  

What will you learn from our featured guests? + Chris Nixon: How Element 112 Creates the Ultimate Guest Experience + Mary Sue Milliken & Sus...

Entrepreneurial Chef #30 - December 2018  

What will you learn from our featured guests? + Chris Nixon: How Element 112 Creates the Ultimate Guest Experience + Mary Sue Milliken & Sus...