ICE offers a one-of-a-kind year-round series of lectures called Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs, during which a wide range of successful culinary business leaders and luminaries share their expertise with students and guests. On Tuesday, Principal of AvroKO Hospitality Group, Dan Rafalin came to speak about his experience opening two of New York City’s most successful restaurants, Public and Double Crown.

Rafalin knew from the time he was five or six years old that he wanted to be in the restaurant business, saying, “I loved everything about it. The place settings, the food, the interactions with the waiters. I just took it all in.” After culinary school, Rafalin went on to complete a master’s degree in food management at NYU. He worked as a financial and business analyst for the Clark Wolf Company, a restaurant consulting firm. He said, “It was great. I learned a lot about opening all kinds of restaurants. And the whole time I was just playing with other people’s money.”

After a few years consulting, Rafalin was itching to do something more. He combined forces with Adam Farmerie of award-winning design firm AvroKO to form AvroKO Hospitality Group and begin working on opening their first restaurant — an idea born on the golf course. Adam’s brother, Brad Farmerie, was working as a chef in London and the two brothers needed someone to handle the operations side of the business to create their dream restaurant. Rafalin joked, “I went from having a job and a dream, to having nothing but a dream.”

Rafalin recounted how they created their own restaurant from the ground up and the lessons he learned along the way. “First off, don’t fall in love with anything. Otherwise you won’t be able to change and adapt as necessary,” he said recounting how difficult it was to get from writing a business plan to running successful restaurant. He closed by reminding the audience that the key to the restaurant industry is hospitality. “Hospitality is the key to everything. We aren’t just serving dinner, we’re creating memories.”

For the next lecture in the Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs series, President of Stonyfield Farm, Gary Hirshberg will come speak about his experience running the world’s leading organic yogurt producer. Sign up online!

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