Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian distils the entire hospitality industry in just 48 words

“I tell people what they’re doing wrong – isn’t that what we all need?”



Geoffrey Zakarian

Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian jokes. Somehow. The legendary chef and restaurateur spent decades perfecting his craft in kitchens (making thousands upon thousands of diners happier and bigger in the meantime) and continued to apply his culinary genius to best-selling cookbooks, to a restaurant consulting business and to unforgettable shows. to like Chopped, iron boss and The kitchen.

Now he has a new show, Big bet on restaurants, which combines hospitality and business savvy in a competition that will have food entrepreneurs everywhere drooling. Zakarian is giving eight chefs the chance to win a $250,000 investment of his resources to help propel their rising star into the restaurant world. “We really put them to the test,” says Zakarian. “We put them in real business relationships with restaurants, not just telling them to cook, but to cook with a purpose. Cooking with a lot of things in mind, like making a profit, managing the front of house, back of house It’s not easy, and the winner is getting myself, my wife and our company to help them with all those things they don’t yet know how to do.

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As the competition takes place on Food Network (watch new episodes here), Zakarian took a few minutes to sit down and talk food and business in the latest episode of the Get a real job Podcast. The following are excerpts from the conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity. Enjoy your lunch!

Being a restaurant owner is much more than cooking

“Being a great chef doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a good restaurateur. When you’re a great chef – and all of these chefs on our show are really talented – you get a paycheck every week. And whenever your shift is over, you leave and have no responsibilities. You are not responsible for payroll, P&L, HR, personnel issues, heating, electricity bills, rent management, furniture, breakdown of refrigeration, cooling, stoves and maintenance. You are not responsible for any of this bullshit. But as soon as you open your own restaurant, you are responsible. For all that. And you don’t get paid. It’s kind of like this ridiculous equation you have to swallow. But here’s the thing: entrepreneurship is a bet, but it’s the best bet, because you’re betting on yourself. »

A chef never stops cooking

“I have been involved in the restaurant business for a long time, but my passion for cooking has never faded. It’s like asking a musician if he no longer plays the piano. Cooking is what I do. The scale is my piano. I am there every day with my children and I cook every day for the family. I’m still working on recipes and projects and retailing stuff. It all has to do with what’s around the table and in the kitchen. My deep passion for food brought me to this profession in the first place.

Why we need restaurants now more than ever

“Whether you’re a lawyer or a coder, you want to go to the hippest restaurant and you want to have fun. You want to go out and drink. You want to go somewhere where you can forget your stress and just enjoy it. It’s my job. And when I want to go out, I’m the same. I want to have a good time, so I like trying to help these entrepreneurs. I love mentoring, and I myself have been mentored and, you know, pulled out of the mud a few times and learned a lot of valuable lessons. So I want to give back as much as I can, and what a great way to do that with all these great American chefs.

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His advice to young restaurateurs

“If I was starting out as a restaurateur, I’d go after a guy like Danny Meyer – a real guy who’s done this a million times before and can do this in his sleep. I was like, ‘Look, I want to open my own restaurant. I’ll take any deal you’re willing to come up with. Do whatever I can’t do. And if the first one succeeds, we’ll change the deal to the next one. That’s what I’m going to do. I advise people to do it because, look, 10 percent wet is way better than 100 percent dry.

Build a place where people want to be

“Hire people who respect themselves, who have very good manners and who have a sense of urgency. They are the best people. And you can’t teach that. Come to me and say, ‘I’ve never worked in a restaurant before. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I love this job. I want to kill myself.’ That’s a much better statement to me than “I worked at Cirque, I worked at Daniel, I was sous chef here, and blah, blah, blah”. Anyone can learn this trade, because hospitality is very basic. You learned that from your grandmother, didn’t you? Going to your grandmother’s, is there ever a doubt that you will be well fed and cared for? It’s going to be hot, you’re going to have a drink right away, and everything’s going to be perfect and ready when you get there. There is no doubt. And that, in a nutshell, is the restaurant business.

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