ICE’s Culinary Management Instructors are seasoned industry professionals who are still active in the industry, working on their own projects while teaching classes at ICE. With such a wide range of experience between them, we decided to ask Julia Heyer and Vin McCann to take a closer look at some of the trends and culinary businesses we keep hearing so much about. This week, they discuss the need for a passion for food in the business.

Vin McCann
This week, I ran across an Associated Press article online that touted the passion that drives the tireless entrepreneurial drive that powers growth in our business. Unfortunately, I found it pretty insipid because it fluffed so many food biz/restaurant start up issues that it was more suited to the entertainment industry than food service. I did like a bit about a woman in Cincinnati whose “passion for food” prompted her to start a catering business but found that “working so many nights and weekends was tough on the family,” so she focused more on “marketing partnerships,” blogging, website interactivity and videos. Ain’t that the rub? A significant portion of the restaurant and food service business is so full of “passion” that nobody really wants to live it; they just want to opine on it. The phenomenon has led to a series of satellite bubbles gravitating around the core activity of making and serving food and beverage for profit.

Julia Heyer
That isn’t a case of passion — it’s a case of “not enough passion.” It’s thinking something sounded like a good idea until one encountered the reality of body-pounding, social life–ending realm of day-to-day restaurant operations. She did not have the “bug” as an old boss of mine called it. That virus, where you love the energy, the life a place takes on, the food and drinks being created, the community, taking care of people, and yes, the PASSION of it all around you. Why else would many professionals — chefs, managers and service pros alike — put up with the long hours at non-hedge-fund-level compensation? They have the passion. They have the drive. They want it. THEY have got the BUG. She did not. And that’s okay (hey, I love working ‘regular’ hours these days too). You don’t have to have the passion for this work. I am just not sure why so many believe they do?

Vin’s Response
As there is love and puppy love, there is passion and there is infatuation. Food and drink are fun. The entire human race enjoys them daily. They delight us. We associate them with comforting and celebratory good times shared with family and friends. Nowadays they are inextricably linked to our individual health and societal well being. It’s easy to confuse a great interest in either with a career direction. After all it’s only an inexplicable brain synapse that transports a person from “everyone loves my brownie recipe” to “I want to open my own bakery”. As we have said in these pages, the industry has been unduly glamorized. It is a great way to make a living but, like calves’ brains, the restaurant life is not for everyone. Sorting the “thrill of the throw-down” from the workday grind of the business is part of our mission at ICE in both the management and culinary divisions.

Julia’s Response
Agreed. While I clearly don’t mind swinging that baton at the glamorizing industries surrounding the restaurant business, how about we strive for the productive and proverbial high road: Let’s take Vin’s observation a bit further and offer our input to aspiring restaurant/food entrepreneurs, students and other lovers of the industry. Ask us your questions about the business. Want to know how to create a concept, assess a location, what to tell your designer, how to price that specialty cookie or whether you really need a lawyer for the lease with your best friend’s cousin twice removed (YES!)? You’ve got questions. We will have answers! While you might not love all of them, we promise we won’t discriminate between love and puppy love.

Vin’s Final Word
Keep in mind that just because you love vegetables doesn’t mean you should be a farmer!

3 Comments

  1. What is your opinion on hiring a consultant to access a day to day operation??

  2. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “access”. If you mean spending some time to observe the operation as it cycles through its regular routine, a second set of uninvolved eyes can provide useful feedback. This is particularly true if there are either qualitative or financial performance issues.

  3. Oops! Meant to type assess…..

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