Inside the minds of many of this country’s best chefs and bartenders in 2011
By Francine Cohen

At the end of 2010 as people began to post their holiday wishes and new year’s resolutions on their Facebook walls one trend emerged…2011 was going to be their big year. The year they broke the mold, started a successful business, went off on their own. In essence, 2010 was the launching pad for a whole new (or new and improved) “me” in 2011; and watch out world!

But did it work? “Watch out world, here I come” is a wonderful way to approach life and far be it from us at INSIDE F&B to stomp on anyone’s dreams (if anything, we do all we can to facilitate them), but in all this rush to success we caution you to take a cue from those who take a moment to take a deep breath (thank you Gary Regan, Dushan Zaric, and Aisha Sharpe for reminding us of this) and spend some quiet time with yourself and your thoughts, centering yourself and your intentions and exploring how your goals impact others, and thereby, yourself in the long run.

Throughout 2011 we heard a lot of common themes come up in conversation repeatedly; “why me?”, “why not me?”, “what’s he/she got that I don’t?”, “bro”- representing camaraderie and appreciation for the brotherhood and sisterhood feeling fostered by all toiling together in the trenches of the hospitality industry, “friends vs. colleagues”, and general customer service and good will towards your fellow man, whether he be another service industry pal or acquaintance or a guest.

Sadly a lot of this was conveyed to us sotto voce; with pain behind the words and, even in a couple of cases, accompanied by tears.

While we STRONGLY feel that these kinds of off the record conversations are necessary for the healthy growth of the hospitality industry and we intend to continue to have them and keep confidences (i.e. names remain secret to protect the innocent), there was just enough of a warning sign here that we felt it important to bring this all to light.

And we’re not the only ones. While some folks prefer to stay anonymous with their observations; like the fact that some operators offer up one very pleasant and welcoming face to the customer but that same level of professionalism and civility isn’t extended to suppliers/salesmen, etc. (and that bothers the heck out of them) some, like Bootlegger Vodka brand owner Brian Facquet, are willing to go on the record as saying, “I dislike rude people.”

For every anonymous chef who pulls us aside to wonder why their efforts aren’t getting noticed despite the outstanding food they put out daily there are bartender scribes out there, like Sean Kenyon, who have been banging the drum for a much needed shift from seeing the drinks world through mixology goggles to adopting a service/guest appreciation mindset. There’s also Michael Neff who continues to educate consumers about ways to create and enjoy a better going out experience, and Naren Young’s ongoing effort to break down what he sees as bad behavior and create a more open minded, detail oriented, well versed, and thoughtful hospitality environment. The ultimate “I call bs, this is the Emperor’s New Clothes” voice of them all comes equally from both Anthony Bourdain and Alan Richman. They are wise. Heed them.

Heeding that level of thoughtfulness permeates how we live and breathe. Embracing a new level of consideration can make our grueling workdays seem to skip by like one of those clocks in a movie where the hands go round and round rapidly to embody the passage of time.

After hearing what we heard in the last year, and witnessing the growing pains that accompany the rise of a burgeoning industry, we implore you to take a moment to think about the words you choose when speaking with your vendors, consider your actions when you happily take on a product because the bottle landing on your back bar comes with a nice account spend but then you do little to promote it, and wonder how you’d like to be treated by colleagues and bosses and then treat everyone around you, up and down the line, that way.

While you may not have the money to engage a powerful PR machine to help you sell your message and create the image you feel you need create in order to succeed, remember success comes from within.

You want 2012 to be your big year? Go for it! Just take note of what transpired in 2011 and improve upon that.