Kulinary School is a community that brings foodservice professionals and food lovers together to teach, inspire and challenge one another to continue to push the boundaries of the foodservice industry. Join us on our journey as we sit down and interview restaurant owners, chefs, and everyone else in the foodservice community. You'll hear the story behind these people and discuss current events in the industry that answer your questions and inspire you.
Chef Bill Bracken, cofounder and culinary director, of Bracken’s Kitchen is my guest this week on the podcast. Chef Bill has an incredible story from growing up in Kansas and discovering his passion for food, winning a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America and moving to the west coast. Living in California, Chef Bill worked for multiple luxury hotels and restaurants while receiving many awards and recognition along the way. Fast forward to today, Chef is taking what he learned from his experience to serve hot and nutritious meals to those in need. Check out this week’s episode to hear how the Bracken’s Kitchen team is changing the lives of families in Orange County, California.
Amanda McAllister is the Director of Capital Purchasing for Red Robin. In the episode, Amanda shares her journey, experience with food growing up, why she decided to work at Red Robin and why she is still there today. We also discuss the dine in guest experience, off premise and third party delivery, the emergence of new brands, sticking to what you’re good at, attracting younger people to the industry and she gives advice to her younger self who is getting ready to get started working in the foodservice industry.
Celebrity Chef Jaime Laurita is my guest this week on the podcast. Jaime has an incredible story from attending the Culinary Institute of America, working for catering companies, traveling the world with top celebrities and rockstars to his newest venture as Creative Director for The Middleby Corporation. In the episode, Jaime talks about his love for music and entertainment which lead him on a quest to find the coolest job in the world. He shares stories from the road, working in a chaotic environment, putting on a show and how he stayed energized while making sure the artists were happy and focused. He talks about his experience on the road and how that helps him bring that same energy and atmosphere to your home experience with Middleby Residential and working with the top brands in the world.
Shawn Lange, co-founder and President of L2F Inc., is my guest this week on the podcast. L2F is a company that focuses on creating opportunities for people with robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. In the episode, Shawn shares the story of L2F and how in 2016 they made a strategic decision to focus on the foodservice industry. We discuss initial challenges with robotics in the foodservice industry, misconceptions about robotics in foodservice, automating the back of the house to create a better front of the house experience, improving customer operations and better work environments for employees, extracting useful data and how L2F is changing the foodservice industry.
(This episode is available on all major podcast platforms)
Erik Oberholtzer, co-founder of Tender Greens, is my guest this week on the podcast. Tender Greens is a chef-led kitchen serving seasonal and responsibly-sourced food to improve the way people eat. In this episode Erik talks about his upbringing and how he fell in love with food and the foodservice industry. He shares the story of Tender Greens and the early days of how the concept came to life, he shares some early challenges, being able to adapt, expanding from CA to NY, he gives advice to anyone who is considering opening a restaurant and my favorite part of the discussion: he talks about what gets him out of bed in the morning. He talks about transforming lives and having a positive impact on the world.
(This episode is available on all major podcast platforms)
This weeks guest is Otto Othman of Pincho Factory. Born and raised in Brazil, Otto moved to the States in 2001. It was during a family BBQ where he and his cousins had some liquid courage and talked about opening a restaurant. Two days later, his cousin called him and asked if he was serious about the restaurant because he was already looking for restaurant space. So, it looked like they were opening a restaurant. There was only one problem, Otto had only worked in advertising and his cousin had little restaurant experience.
With $77,000 to their name, the Pincho team was going to open a restaurant. The idea was to create a kick ass menu that was simple, had 8 menu items but the food was perfect. After a few months of testing menu ideas Otto’s cousins called him on Tuesday and said they needed to open on Saturday because they only had $6.27 left in the account. With no team, no employees, no training, they decided to open. On Thursday, Otto threw his birthday party at the restaurant and found a couple of employees to train and get ready for the opening on Saturday. They watched YouTube videos and reached out to anyone who would give them the time of day to ask advice on how to open and run a restaurant. After hours of YouTube videos, social media posts and reaching out to invite everyone they knew, they opened the restaurant with 400 guests and the rest is history.
This episode is packed with a ton of great stories and messages. In the episode Otto shares the (hilarious) story of Pincho, he talks about checking your ego at the door, finding great mentors, having passion for hospitality, knowing what drives you, supporting the community, never doubting yourself and dreaming big!
This weeks guest is Corey Nyman of The Nyman Group. Corey grew up in the industry. He started working in the industry at 12 years old doing menu development for Saks fifth avenue cafe in New York City. He’s worked for restaurants like Wolfgang Puck and opened restaurants for Bobby Flay. He’s worked for nightlife groups and for Hilton and Hilton Restaurant Group. Corey shares how he was instantly drawn to the noise, the business of a kitchen and how it operates like a symphony. How he would take his vacation time when working in restaurants to help his father open other restaurants.
In the episode Corey shares his thoughts on the foodservice industry and how he’s seen it evolve over the years. He provides a ton of information, tips, and stories for restaurant operators to help them better run their operation. As Corey says, “Know what you know and know what you don’t know.” Hire talent, don’t overspend, over budget so you are not under capitalized, get as much experience as possible in different roles, and set yourself up for long term success are some of the many topics we discuss in the episode.
This weeks guest is Nate Weir, Director of Culinary at Modern Market. Modern Market is a fast casual concept based out of Colorado with a mission of serving amazing healthy foods to as many people possible. In this episode I sit down with Nate to hear him share his story of growing up in Haiti eating fresh and healthy foods, how that carries with him today and helps influences his decisions. He shares the mission of Modern Market and how they aim to make healthy options affordable and approachable for your average person. We also discuss the importance building a great team and having employees that believe in what you’re doing, how Modern Market trains their staff, transparency in the restaurant industry, how they are able to use seasonal menu items to their advantage, rolling out new programs and at the end of the day you’re only as good as your team and the importance of developing your people.
From stand up comedian to coffee shop owner. This weeks guest is Jeff Clinard, owner of Bear Coast Coffee in San Clemente, CA. In this episode I sit down with Jeff to discuss why he made the transition from stand up comedian to coffee shop owner, where to start with a business plan, following his 5 year plan, the work he put into getting the experience, what he does in the community, how he’s able to break down large overwhelming tasks into small manageable steps and maybe most importantly, not being afraid to reach out to people and asking for help.
In this weeks episode my guest is Melissa Graham, founding Executive Director of Purple Asparagus. Purple Asparagus is a non-profit that educates children, families and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Purple Asparagus believes that all children and families deserve good health and a healthy planet and that the health of both is promoted by eating a diet high in produce.
In this episode I sit down with Melissa to discuss her story and why she decided to leave her job as an attorney to start Purple Asparagus to educate children and families of Chicago about the importance of a healthy diet. In the episode Melissa shares the early days of Purple Asparagus, challenges for a new non-profit organization, learning a lot by trial and error, never saying the word no in order to get your name out there, and at the end of the day it’s all about the ‘Aha moment’ for the kids and making healthy eating fun.
In this weeks episode we have Chef Kelly Mullarney joining the show. Chef Kelly started working in the restaurant industry in his early teens and hasn’t looked back since then. His work has taken him all over the world from Asia, to Europe and North America for many different restaurants and projects. Chef Kelly is the founder and chef for Bruxie Waffles. In 2011, Bruxie was the #2 most yelped restaurant in the country.
In this episode I sit down with Chef Kelly to discuss the importance of maintaining great relationships with your vendors, getting feedback from bloggers and food writers in the early days, marketing more when things are going well to continue momentum, hiring the right people, taking care of your employees and guests, and never taking success for granted.
This weeks guest is Chef Andres Dangond. Chef Andres Dangond was born and raised in Colombia where he began cooking in his family restaurant at 14 years old. His culinary work has taken him from Colombia to Spain, Chicago, Los Angeles and has been fortunate to work for some of the best restaurants and chefs around the world. Now in Los Angeles, Chef Andres is cooking up some of his own projects.
In this episode we discuss some topics that run deep into the culinary industry. Chef shares his own experience and thoughts on being persistent to get a job in a restaurant. He also shares his thoughts on going to work for the chefs you admire, constantly asking questions and being a student, the misconceptions of the glamorous lifestyle for young aspiring chefs, his thoughts on culinary school and what advice he would offer to his 14 year old self who is looking to get started in the restaurant industry.
Passion, innovation and self awareness are some of the many key traits the Syal family posses. This week I’m joined by father and son team, Raj and Neil Syal of Rockfire Grill. As soon as Rockfire Grill opened their doors a couple of years ago the people started pouring in and so did the recognition. Rockfire Grill quickly earned a name for themselves in the community.
In this episode we discuss how Raj and Neil were able to open three locations in just twelve months, how the entire family gets involved in the business, exceeding the expectation of customers, menu innovation, and how they are able to take closed restaurants and have success opening a Rockfire Grill in the same location.
This week we change things up with my good friend Dustin McLaughlin. Dustin has seen many sides of the foodservice industry: he’s worked as a bartender and server in restaurants, cafes and nightclubs. From here Dustin transitioned to start his own clothing brand, worked at an advertising agency and most recently you can find Dustin creating content as a free lancer for artists, festivals (food and music), restaurants and food blogs.
I asked Dustin to come onto the show this week to give a different perspective in the foodservice industry. In this episode, Dustin shares his story and we dive into his experience working on different marketing campaigns, how to utilize social media and understanding analytics, ROI of social media, and how to leverage social media. We also discuss how to work with free lancers to create the content you’re looking for, finding the right person to create your content, if advertising in print is still a good idea, and authenticity is key.
Giovanni Barajas of Los Cotijas Taco Shop is the guest in this weeks podcast. Los Cotijas first opened in 1988 by the Barajas family. Giovanni’s father opened the restaurant, did not speak any English, and found a way to connect with customers and deliver a great product. It wasn’t always easy, Giovanni’s family put it countless hours, days and years of work, eventually earning the reputation of Orange County’s best fish tacos.
In this weeks episode Giovanni shares his experience starting off in fine dining and how he is able to carry over that experience to the fast casual segment, taking over the family restaurants and being able to retire his parents, operating two locations, the growing trends of social media, creating family atmosphere in the community and having the right people around you.
This weeks podcast guest is Jon Scoggin, owner of Mojo’s East Coast Eats in Downers Grove, IL. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, Jon wanted to bring his hometown eats to the Chicagoland area. He quit his corporate job and went all in to open Mojo’s. After being opened for only one year, Mojo’s was voted Chicago’s Best Cheesesteak.
In this episode, Jon and I cover A LOT. We discuss the challenges of being a first time restaurant owner, learning as you go and trusting in yourself, testing third party delivery, the positives and negatives of yelp, and maybe the most important lesson: get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This weeks guest is Paul Montenko, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Stacked Restaurants. Paul started his working career in accounting and made the jump into the foodservice industry by taking over a small pizza joint and turning it into BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. Paul grew BJ’s Restaurants into the brand that it is today and moved on to a new adventure to start Stacked Restaurants. Stacked Restaurants is an emerging chain in California that offers burgers, Mac n’ cheese, pizza and salads through their advanced ordering system that lets guests customize their dining experience.
In this episode I sit down with Paul to discuss his experience being the first restaurant to introduce the iPad ordering system for customers, not only getting involved in the community but getting involved for authentic reasons, opening his first three stores in five months, getting the right team around you and if you don’t have the experience go out and hire the people who do.
In the first ever episode of the Kulinary School Podcast our guest is Andy Nguyen. Andy is the definition of restaurant entrepreneur and is making huge waves by changing the way we think of the foodservice industry. Although he has only been in the foodservice industry for four and a half years, Andy has ten different concepts with over 40 locations. Maybe his most recognizable brand is Afters Ice Cream. Afters is a forward thinking, millennial driven, anti-corporate lifestyle ice cream store with over 20 locations.
In this episode we sit down with Andy to discuss social media, the importance of food bloggers/influencers in todays world, overcoming obstacles, not being afraid to try new ideas and being authentic in your business. Listen to the episode to hear Andy's story and how he has grown Afters Ice Cream from one location into a lifestyle brand that it is today.