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634: Chef Justin Yu on Humility

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Release Date: 07/22/2019

650: Damien Watel on Partnerships and Humility show art 650: Damien Watel on Partnerships and Humility

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

French-born Damien Watel got his start in the restaurant industry at the age of 25 working for his uncle's two Dallas restaurants. In 1999 Chef Watel opened Bistro Vatel, which had an 18-year run and earned Watel recognition as one of the great chefs in the nation, before closing in 2017. Chef Watel's most recent project, Bistr09,  is the ninth restaurant project Chef Damien Watel has undertaken in the collaboration of his wife, Chef Lisa Astorga-Watel.  In addition, The Watels own and operate Bite in Southtown.   Show notes… Favorite success quote or mantra: "It's not about...

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Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Chef/Owner Lisa Astorga-Watel grew up in Santiago, Chile, before moving to Houston, Texas where she attended The Culinary Art Institute. Astorga-Watel's ambition started early wit the opening of her own catering business to cover her expenses while in school. Following her formal training, she served as a private chef for celebrity, Tommy Lee Jones. It was during this time in her career she was able to travel the world developing her pallet and culinary repertoire. It was also during this time she met her future husband and business partner Chef Damien Watel. Together the couple owns Bite and...

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Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

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Israeli native, Ben Poremba moved to St. Louis to earn a BA in philosophy from the University of Missouri. He also attended University of Gastronomic Studies in Parma, Italy. Today Poremba is  Chef/Owner of Bengelina Hospitality Group, the St. Louis-based, award-winning operator of Nixta and Bar Limón, Elaia, Olio, La Patisserie Chouquette, and The Benevolent King. Poremba is a three-time James Beard Award semifinalist in the category of Best Chef-Midwest, and he continues taking the St. Louis dining scene by storm. Show notes… Favorite success quote or mantra: “Food of love for...

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Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Born in New York City, Ben Berg has been in the restaurant business for over 17 years working for upscale steakhouses in Las Vegas, Mexico City, and his hometown. Prior to his career in restaurants, Berg received a Master of Hospitality Management from Cornell University and a B.A. in Art History from Tulane University. Berg would go on to work for The Point, a luxury hotel company voted the #1 small hotel in the country at the time. In 2015 Berg opened B.B. Butchers and Restaurant in Houston, TX. 3 years after the original B.B. Butcher, the Berg Hospitality Group was formed and has scaled to...

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Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

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642: Johnny Carrabba on Community, Family, and Enthusiasm show art 642: Johnny Carrabba on Community, Family, and Enthusiasm

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  After attending college at St. Thomas University in Houston, Johnny began working in the local restaurants owned by members of his family. In 1986 he opened Carrabba's with his uncle, Damian Mandola. In 1993 they entered a partnership with Outback Steakhouse Inc., now Bloomin' Brands. At one point the partnership grew the brand to 247 locations Carrabba currently owns 3 Mia’s Table and Grace’s on Kirby as well as the two local locations of Carrabba’s The Original. Show notes… Favorite success quote or mantra: "Give for the sake of giving, not for the sake of gaining." In...

641: Greg Scheinman on Selecting Restaurant Insurance show art 641: Greg Scheinman on Selecting Restaurant Insurance

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Today we're discussing restaurant insurance. Specifically, the elements that should be in your insurance package, what these different elements cover, and what to consider when selecting an insurance broker. Joining us for this conversation, guest mentor, Geg Scheinman. Insgroup Partner, Greg Scheinman, is a Property and Casualty Insurance Specialist, focusing on middle-market companies in a variety of industries, with a particular focus on the hospitality, retail and fitness industries.…as a matter of fact…many of our past guests are his clients. On top of this Greg host his own podcast,...

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Houstonian, Justin Yu, is a graduate of Houston University and the Culinary Insitute of America, Hyde Park. Yu returned to Houston upon graduation before heading to the West Coast and Europe to stage and further refine his skills.

Yu's first restaurant, Oxheart, opened in 2012 and was named one of America's Top 10 Best New Restaurants by Bon Appetit. It was his work at Oxheart that earned him the 2016 James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southwest.

In 2016 Oxheart closed to make way for Theodore Rex, which achieved similar acclaim. Today Justin Yu is the Chef/Owner/Partner Theodore Rex Restaurant, Better Luck TomorrowPublic Services Wine and Whisky, and Squable.

Show notes…

Favorite success quote or mantra:

"Head down, eyes up, always be humble."

In this episode with Justin Yu, we discuss:

  • Being humble during the come up.
  • How if you show people how bad you want it, you'll get it.
  • Having a vision, and existing intentionally to achieve it. Start acting like an owner and learning what an owner needs to know.
  • How to get the most out of your culinary degree.
  • What it takes to cook at a high-level restaurant.
  • Creating a culture of accountability to achieve excellence.
  • When you catch a team member doing something wrong, giving them the opportunity to self-correct by asking, "Where do you think you are?"
  • How to make someone feel like they're a part of the team.
  • The reality of chasing Michelin Stars.
  • Using pop-ups to get your start.
  • Not working for money early in your career, but working for other assets like knowledge, experience, and relationships.
  • Think of your personal brand and the story you're writing when you're making life decisions.
  • The meaning of humility.
  • Staying lean and scrappy during the early days.
  • Starting small and scaling into your ultimate vision.
  • The impact of partnering with other small business in your community.
  • Being mindful not to work your staff to death.
  • leaning to delegate the small details so you can focus on the big details.
  • The importance of sharing the stories behind your restaurant.
  • How to share the story behind a dish.
  • Why Yu chose to close his restaurant a year after winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest.
  • Surrounding yourself with great people then getting out of the way for them to do their job.
  • Finding partners with the same values and goals who don't directly compete with your personal strengths.
  • How to healthily disagree with your partners.
  • Making sure you take care of yourself and create a culture of taking care of yourself.

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Knowledge bombs

  1. Which "it factor" habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?
    • Sense of calm.
  2. What is your biggest weakness?
    •  Sense of calm.
  3. What's one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?
    • "What food do you love?"
  4. What's a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?
    • Staffing.
  5. Share one code of conduct or behavior you teach your team.
    • "Don't trust anybody. Especially, the Chef"
  6. What is one uncommon standard of service you teach your staff?
    •  Take ownership of everything.
  7. What's one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?
  8. What's the one thing you feel restaurateurs don't know well enough or do often enough?
    • Offer Healthcare
  9. What's one piece of technology you've adopted within your four walls restaurant and how has it influence operations?
  10. If you got the news that you'd be leaving this world tomorrow and all memories of you, your work, and your restaurants would be lost with your departure with the exception of 3 pieces of wisdom you could leave behind for the good of humanity, what would they be?
    1. always have a sense of human
    2. Treat your employees like your family.
    3. Don't treat your employees EXACTLY like your treat your family

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Thanks for listening!

Thanks so much for joining today! Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below!

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Huge thanks to Justin Yu for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!


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