Advice that has stuck with me is to keep perspective. It is very easy to catastrophize events and situations. Look at each angle and make an informed decision.
I believe all of the awards are whole restaurant awards, there is a focus on simplifying the accolades to a chef or person, but this is not accurate. Restaurants are complex entities and everyone is important to the success of it. I should probably do a better job of feeling accomplished in our many highlights and awards, but they are not what drive me. I feel the best about watching people grow, watching them have more impact, knowing that we all accomplish more because of how we all work together.
Operating restaurants during COVID-19 showed me a lot. It was a very vulnerable time, one that questioned our industry's value to the country. In the end, it pushed me further towards the meaning of everything we do.
I am very close to my chef team, the boundaries of work and life are very blurred. It works for us because we believe in investing in the whole person, which includes their outside of work life. I have an hour meeting with each CDC and Corporate Chef each week to check in on their progress and goals. It is just as critical as the restaurant goals.
I knew this profession was right for me when I was 17 and deciding between law, international diplomacy or restaurants. I couldn't see myself in the others as much as restaurants, they just spoke to me more.
When Covid hit and closed our restaurants we sought out ways to keep going. We provided 10,000 meals a week for the Ausitn Independent School District. We were very proud of this and did it delivered and packaged for $5 a meal. it felt impossible prior to the pandemic, but we were able to take on this challenge and cook thoughtful food on a budget.
Moving to Austin was a huge career move. It was us challenging a larger market from a much smaller one. We believed in ourselves, but knew this would be the time to take on a new challenge.
I am probably not great at maintaining a healthy work/life balance, but I love what I do and that allows health for me. I think passion and mental health are aligned. We do work hard to manage our managers' hours to 50-60 hours a week, allowing them to be successful in and out of work. We also have our cooks on four longer days to have three days off.
Since the beginning of my career in hospitality, I stayed in the same organization for years, I truly have had two major employments. With this longevity I built trust and influence. I also continued to be given more and more responsibility. In a time where it is traditional to move, I believe it shows up more impactful to be with a workplace for a longer period of time.
When hiring, I look for passion. I want to work with people that push our team and bring energy.
Constantly look to improve and not being defeated by adversity.
To keep our team motivated, we have many different programs including stages, PTO, time for inspiration and travel trips, but mostly it is empowerment.
Impact inspires me to continue to work and excel - we want to be impactful in our industry.
Today is different than when I started, today my inspiration often comes from life. I look for ways to bring energy to food or life. This may come from flavor, how it is received or how it impacts the dining experience.
To continue to educate myself, I have found myself traveling a lot and I still eat out incredibly often.
In order to do my job, I can't live without Service. I still need the thrill of it, it is something that brings me life and energy. I have been doing this for 23 years and I still crave the energy of service.
For self-care, I smoke a cigar to relax, it is rare I have an hour to sit and this keeps me still for that time.
I listen to the podcast "Hidden Brain". I love learning and it is a great way for me to think about non-industry things that often apply.
As cooks we have a responsibility to the product we serve. That means utilizing the whole animal, finding uses for byproducts, and avoiding the trash can. Someone worked really hard to get you that product, work just as hard not to waste it.
Always seek out learning opportunities. Read. Travel. Eat. Listen. Stage. Do whatever you can to learn from others. Even if it is just 50 miles outside of your normal day, it makes a difference. Inspiration can be harder to find while in rigid routine.
Help out your team. When one person goes down the entire team does. We are a family, we celebrate wins and comfort each other in loses. This extends outside of the kitchen.
Challenge your palette. If you like sweet, try sour or salty and always, always, explore bitter.
Fermentation is controlled chaos and everyone needs a bit of chaos in their life. It is a great excuse to play with food and control your waste.
Just like a restaurant, farming isn’t a specific formula that works perfectly each time. To create a relationship you need honest communication and you need to show you are willing to support them. Some of my best relationships with farmers have come out of brainstorming together.
Be confident enough to put yourself out there but humble enough to listen.