The traditional classroom and I never meshed. As a 15-year-old, the last place I wanted to be was sitting at a desk in front of a chalkboard, and yet, I had no problem learning things in the thick of a busy service, clearing dishes as a busboy and dishwasher at Flap Jake’s. Ever since those first years as a teen, there was never a doubt in my mind that my future was in restaurants. My path seemed clear: culinary school à server à manager à operator.
But after 20 years of working in this business and operating some of the best restaurants in the world—including iconic establishments like Per Se and Jean-Georges—I began to feel lost. It wasn’t simply the long hours or the stress of operating on thin margins. No, it was a much deeper sense of disorientation, one that could not be relieved by a night off or a long vacation. There was something else pushing me in a new direction. I no longer felt motivated by our guests’ needs and desires. Instead, I found myself wanting to spend more of my time helping my peers.
It became clear that my life’s mission was no longer about making consumers happy, it was about empowering ambitious restaurant professionals to do what they love on their own terms.