If you ever wonder what it takes to be a good chef, I would explain my journey like this. I believe the path to great food is not as much a matter of sheer talent as it is being a collector of great ideas.

I am proof that you can open a successful restaurant without experience or culinary training. It was for this reason that I was encouraged by many to take another route. Some suggested getting experience first by working for an established company or starting a smaller operation to see if I could do it or not. While I appreciated the validity of each point of view, they were not true to my original vision, which was inspired by one compelling Idea I held in my mind for over eleven years before ever attempting to do anything with it.

The recent movie you find everyone talking about is Inception, a mind-bending thriller on my same list as The Matrix. In an early explanation of the premise, Leonardo diCaprio’s character asks, “What’s the most dangerous virus in existence?” suggesting that an idea, once formed, has such ruling power that it cannot be rooted out. I found this to be true from personal experience. My idea of creating a place of conversation and reflection through the service of simple food and drink led me to rearrange my entire life, to risk my house, my entire life savings, and my current career path, all because of something I had never physically encountered other than with my own mind’s eye.

Yes, I believe in the power of ideas.

I refer to myself as a person who is Idea Rich and Money Poor. I have more ideas than cash lying around, but better to be this, because an idea provides much better motivation than money. Your work ethic does not improve just because you got a raise. Most likely you got that raise because your performance demanded it. I know that’s how I decide when to boost pay.

Before opening, when I worked those 18 months at my worst job ever, it was the Idea that kept me from getting mired in the clay of a mundane, direction-less existence. In my mind, I had places to go, and I could not stop until those destinations were reached.

Money didn’t take me there. The Idea did.

Inception