On the days I take time to slow down long enough to reflect on the accomplishments of our restaurant, I am amazed and so very grateful at what we have been able to create in such a short time with so many strikes against us. It’s no wonder our local hometown bank turned us down for a loan four years ago (that was before I took my first and last 1 hour loan USA) when we began looking for financing. Our idea looked pretty risky on paper. Consider these three scarlet letters.

 

  • I have no culinary training
  • I’ve never owned or managed a restaurant
  • I was 42 years old

In some ways I don’t blame them. Who wants to loan money for a venture to an uneducated person with no experience starting on the back half of his life? You might as well just sign the deal on a car loan so the man with the midlife crisis can go buy his Corvette. They both make as much sense.

I tried to gain some experience by seeking employment at a locally owned restaurant, a national fast casual chain restaurant, and a major international coffee franchise, but my scarlet letter was too obvious, and I was not seen as a viable candidate.

It this point in my life, I knew that the only way I was going to make it in the food business was to aim straight for the vision of owning my own place. No one was going to hire me at my age to peel potatoes and chop onions just to get my foot in the door. For me, it was going to be all or nothing.

What gave me confidence through all this were the intangibles that don’t show up on a resume. My life experience at age 42 made me more mature than when I was 22. My family background, my friendships, my previous career path, and my travel to see cultures of the world that are unlike my own. This was not enough to convince a loan officer, but I knew in my mind I had what it would take to open a restaurant.

I would overcome a lack of culinary experience by reading everything I could find on starting a restaurant. I would hone my skills at cooking by entertaining friends with recipes and ask “would you pay for that?” after they ate it. I figured managing people was going to be the same whether you were in an office or kitchen, so I studied what I could about leadership and organization. Thank you, City Library.

On Aug 6th we will cross the 2 year mark at bread&cup. I think back to all the sleepless nights, all the anxiety, all the waiting, all the wondering if it was going to work or not. These are the things you don’t want to think about, but are important in remembering what it took to get to this place.

So if you are nurturing a little dream of creating something that will allow you to leave a bright little mark on the world, maybe my story can be of some inspiration. I can’t guarantee you will make it, just as I can’t predict the future outcome of my own story. I can’t advise you to take the same path I did, nor can I tell you to make the same choices. But I can advise you to ask yourself this question as you think about how your life was lived:

Can I say, “I’m glad I did,” or “I wish I had?”

To the aspiring chef

One thought on “To the aspiring chef

  • December 9, 2010 at 4:59 am
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    That's a very inspiring post you have there. Everyone should look forward and maintain a good vision of their dream. If their dream is to own a successful restaurant, then they should think of the best ways of starting one instead of contradicting the thought. I remember back then when I had the same problem as yours with financing. Good thing I found a financing company which gives restaurant loans, car loans, payday loans, merchant loans, and all the other types of loans. Good thing that the people there didn't turn us down.

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