What does it take to build a successful restaurant business? Food & Wine magazine's "Best New Chefs of 2010" weigh in.
Jonathon Sawyer, the chef-owner of the Greenhouse Tavern, the first nationally-certified green restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, has weighed several expansion opportunities, but so far held back on signing a new lease. “We hire heavy in the kitchen, so we’re set up to expand,” he says. “But we’ve been looking for properties for about eight months, and we’re not in any hurry. We don’t want to make a move just because we’re popular now and have it be the wrong one. We’ll continue looking until the space fits our concept.”
Last year, Alex Seidel purchased a farm where he grows fresh ingredients and raises livestock for his Denver restaurant, Fruition. “It’s about having an understanding of where your product comes from,” says the chef-owner, who has developed a seasonal menu that features classic American comfort food. “Owning the farm has been inspiring for our kitchen staff,” he says.
Missy Robbins, who runs two branches of A Voce in New York City, makes it a goal to hire younger individuals with less experience, and she often promotes from within. “There’s a lot of ego in this business,” she says. “But are you going to be fun to be around for 14 hours a day? It’s one thing to have someone who can execute your food, but another thing to have someone who’s willing to learn to understand you and contribute to what you’re doing. It’s great to have someone who can add some humor in your daily life.”
Clayton Miller of Trummer’s on Main in Clifton, Virginia, says he recruits individuals who want to be a part of the culture and the culinary vision he’s created. “For me, the resumé itself is maybe 10 percent of it,” he says. “I always invite candidates to come in and work with us for a couple of days. It’s not so I can look over their shoulders and watch them cut an onion. I try to be as open and honest with them as I possibly can so they have all the information they need to decide if they want to be a part of this.”
Roy Choi fuses Korean and Mexican flavors in the galley kitchen of Los Angeles's celebrated Kogi BBQ's gourmet food truck, which has become a viral sensation on Twitter. “Our first set of customers were transients, runaways, hookers, and drunks,” he says. “Tacos were looked at like the gum on the bottom of your shoe, but now it’s the sexiest thing around. People really started to react to these flavors. In America, it’s extremely hard to get food on a spontaneous level other than fast food. I feel like we’re part of a cultural revolution.” —Peter Vanden Bos