I come from a long line of culinary professionals. My great grandmother owned a small diner and my father was a corporate executive chef that specialized in hotels & resorts.
They told me at an early age that it was “in the blood”. Back then my response was. “I want a transfusion!”
I grew up working the line in a classic run French kitchen. I often thought that hell would be like that. Extreme temperatures, the yelling and plates thrown at me. I am still able to recognize the high pitched sound of a B&B plate flying at my head. I still have scars from mishaps with knives and a mental image of the perfection of service when everything just seems to come together. When you truly are in the zone…time slows down and everything seems clearer.
I thought that I wanted to get as far away from the restaurant industry as I could so I did what any 18 year old would do who wanted to get away. I joined the US Air Force. In basic training a Staff Sergeant came in and talked to us about Pararescue Teams. Jumping out of airplanes and helicopters, scuba diving, mountain climbing and they train you to be a paramedic too! Sign me up. I soon realized that the kitchen work I thought was hell, was a sweet dream compared to what I just gotten myself into.
My class started with about 84 eager men ready to prove they had what it took to be the very best. Two years of training later and only 10 of us stood there on the stage to accept our coveted maroon beret. I learned a lesson that has stuck with me to this day…“When you are going through hell, keep going”. -Winston Churchill
After 4 years of military service I returned to get a degree in Marketing at the University of Miami. I actually started to miss the restaurant work I dreaded years ago. I started working with high caliber chefs, I mean world class! One mentor who I still cherish to this day is Jay McCarthy. One evening over tequila he explained what being a chef was very simply.
“You are a chef! Your food gathers people around the table to celebrate life’s greatest memories. That is a huge responsibility.” After that I have never looked back. What I do is an honor and I respect that. Now I teach that level of understanding to others and that is a blessing.
The 3 Reasons I Do This…
Reason #1 I Have Been There
One of the greatest turning points in my life occurred when I opened my first restaurant a small 50 seat Southwestern Bistro back in the 1990’s. I poured my heart and soul into that place. I thought just by opening the doors that crowds of people would flock to the restaurant and I would be a huge success. It did not start out that way. Instead we struggled to stay afloat and there were times when I could not even pay myself. I had a one year old daughter and my spouse (at that time) was working as a teacher. We lived in a very small one bedroom apartment and had to put her crib in a utility closet. I thought I was a failure.
Then I had a revelation that I had a DUTY to my family, restaurant staff and local economy, rather than as something that may or may not happen to me or just hoping that tomorrow might be a better day. I made a commitment to take action and turn it around! I read every book I could get my hands on about business development, marketing and restaurants. I would stay up sometime to 3 am reading, doing internet research and taking notes. Get up at 6 am with my daughter and then go and open the restaurant and work lunch and dinner getting home after 10pm.
Then, I started to apply these new tools and techniques to my restaurant. It did not happen at first, however I started to see more and more reservations. Within six months I was booked solid on weekends and started to pick up more catering business as well. One Valentine’s Day I had to turn away 140 people, we were that busy! I started to be able to make a decent salary within two years after opening.
I sold that concept and opened an even bigger restaurant down the street because NOW I had a system for restaurant success. The new restaurant had a custom designed open kitchen cooking island suite. It was like going from driving a VW Bug and upgrading to a Porsche. With the new tools I had on marketing, we quickly grew to 2.2 million in sales all within 4 years. A far cry from not being able to take any salary, to having a team that could execute my vision for restaurant excellence.
We all start a restaurant for different reasons. I was a chef who wanted to show off my food. The problem was that one element will not make your restaurant successful. If you have great food, but your service is terrible, the guests will try it once and then never come back. If you have great food and service, however if you cannot your manage costs you’re in trouble too. I learned at the school of hard knocks and I want to share with you my system for developing real restaurant success.
Reason #2 I Am Obsessed With Excellence
The Japanese created this word based on the work of W. Edward Deming. It is a philosophy that is embedded deeply into their culture. “Constant and never-ending improvement”. I really like that concept. Since I first heard of it, I have incorporated it into my life.
Everyday I strive to constantly improve myself, my fellow humans and the world around me. It has become a core value that drives my life. Funny thing about core values, most people do not know what theirs are. If you asked 10 people what their core values are….I would estimate that 1 would probably know and the rest not so much.
Striving towards excellence has been a foundation theme through out my life.
Reason #3 I have A Passion For Restaurants
This is where it all comes together…I love the restaurant industry!
Even through the crazy hours and all the issues that plague the business…we build a brotherhood and bonds with people that we hold onto for the rest of our lives.
I became The Restaurant Coach™ to help restaurant owners, operators, and culinary professionals get the most out of their business, career and life. I have made mistakes along my path and if I can help another by showing them tools, techniques and tips that might just make their journey a little easier, then it was all worth it. We all have the ability to play to our natural strengths, to be successful (whatever that means for you) and most important…to be happy.
To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.