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Aspiring Restaurateur Needs Advice

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hello Chef Talk,


I have worked in Restaurants my entire life.  I have been a GM twice and have worked every position in the industry.  I am not new to restaurants and now after I worked so hard all these years to get out of restaurants and into the field I got my degree in I am strongly considering opening a restaurant. I have a few questions and as I am in the beginning stages of research I keep finding my way back to this forum I thought this would be the place to ask the questions I am in the dark on! 


First off I want to open an Asian inspired restaurant...but I am absolutely not Asian.  Does anyone have any thoughts on this or ethical points I need to consider more? I have been a general manager in two very ethnic restaurants where I was not that ethnicity and it was a constant question that I always responded with," No I am not ____ but of course the owner is!! Now I am putting myself in a position where the answer will just be, "nope, I am just passionate about the food...." (insert a big shrug here)


Second, I am not a chef and I did not grow up eating this type of food and there is still a whole world's worth of stuff I still would like to know.  Need to know. That said I am not an idiot and I am not new to restaurants.  I have done extensive research at home, and on paper, on the menu I am interested in preparing however I still know I will need a chef.  At what point do I seek out hiring the right chef for my vision? Do I hire a menu consultant first? Is that pointless if I know my menu but not the exact recipes? Especially since it is a specific type of ethnic food I would like to serve do I just walk around China town and ask around? I should mention the type of restaurant I would like to open is very light on cooking and very heavy on prep!


Basically I am at this point where I know I want so and so sauce or so and so item but I can recognize I am not talented enough to make it as good as I expect my future restaurant standards.


Any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated. 

post #2 of 5

First let me answer your ethics question as I see it.  I don't see an issue with a non-Asian person opening up an Asian restaurant, at least from an ethics standpoint.  There might be some people that won't come to your place because of that point, but chances are its because they don't believe that it could be "authentic" if owned and run by a non-Asian.  That's on them not you.  To put it in perspective let me ask you this; if you were planning on opening an Italian or French restaurant would you even be asking this question?  I know many Italian and French places owned by people with no French or Italian ancestry in their background.  I know plenty of Mexican places owned by non-Hispanics.  How is this any different?  It's not.  There is no ethical issue.  Again while I don't see an ethics issue you might, at first, run into a creditability issue as some people, due to their pre-conceived ideas, might think a place owned by a non-Asian might not be "authentic" enough.  But, put out great food and that issue will disappear pretty quickly.


It sounds like you have a really strong vision of what you want your place to be and a really good grasp on what you think you want to serve.  Personally, I think, for you, a menu consultant is an expense that you don't need.  As for how to seek out a chef, that one is a little harder to answer.  If you have friends in the Chinese community then I would start getting the word out to them and see if they know of anyone.  Find out who some of the distributors and talk with them and see if they know anyone looking for a change.  Normally I'd say go into places and try to check out the talent and maybe poach someone, but that can be difficult in the more ethnic places as these often tend to be family owned and run, so the relationships run much deeper than in other places, but it might be worth it to check it out and talk with some of the owners.

post #3 of 5

I agree with Pete on the ethics issue. There isn't one. 

I believe you should go visit the country whose food you want to cook. Visit for a week or two, longer if you can. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. 

Despite not being a native, You will have much more credibility with the general public if you have actually traveled to the country. 

The chef you hire, the customers who are from that country and any so called experts among your customers, will all have different ideas on what is authentic. Visiting that country will enable you to form your own opinion on what is authentic. Along with regional differences, there will be authenticities based on family tradition, individual preference and product availability. The only way to clarify much of this is to visit. If you make good connections, return visits will be easier. 

    You might check with an accountant. As this is directly related to your future business, part or all of it may be tax deductible. And of course if nothing else, you get a great vacation. 

post #4 of 5
Originally Posted by JesseRM View Post

 Do I hire a menu consultant first?. 


From your post, it is not clear if you intend to cook or to run the place.  No successful operator does both.    Like Pete, I see no reason to hire a menu consultant, and like Chefwriter, I see every reason to go the Asian country of your choice and really study the food there--the produce, the ingredients, the people who grow it, the people who cook it, and what qualities the locals judge the dish on.


You hire your Chef at the precise moment of no-return: The day you sign the lease.  That doesn't mean you can't keep "tabs" on your chosen chef, or other key people before this day.  Your Chef will need the time from the day he gets the keys to the kitchen to the day when you have customers walk in to:


-Design a menu that agrees with both you and him(her), agrees with the kitchen constraints and dining capacity, and that agrees with the quality and quantity of ingredients you are able to get. The menu is the key to basically the whole operation, everything is planned from that.


-Most health dept's now require a haccp plan and sample recipies before a business license is granted.  This will take some time.  Best person to do this is the Chef.


-Costing out the dishes and writing recipies so all staff can make them.


-Choosing suppliers


-Getting his/her crew together.  You reserve the right to hire whom you want, but the Chef chooses who he/she wants you to meet.


-Buying eqpt. small wares, etc.


If your estimated opening date is 2 years from now, you'll do fine.  Go on your trip, keep an eye on the real estate market, and keep on meeting up with potential employees.   

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #5 of 5

Let me just say it will be very difficult for you to tap into the Chinese network.


Also what do you mean by "Asian inspired?"  Is it closer to Jojo and Chin Chin or are you looking at a three wok line?

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