After ascending to general manager of Chef Thomas Keller’s acclaimed New York City restaurant Per Se in 2009, former maître d’ Anthony Rudolf was learning on the job. “I knew how to run the dining room and I knew how to run service, but from a financial standpoint I did not know how to run the business,” recalls Rudolf, who felt fortunate to have a support system that allowed him to learn. But he knew many like-minded peers who did not have such a luxury. After he left the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group in 2013, Rudolf created Journee, a club that unites education and networking, and cultivates a sense of community in a profession where it can be hard to get a leg up given the long hours and isolation inherent in the restaurant industry.
Journee opened its 3,000-square-foot community for restaurant professionals (the physical space is called the Co Lab) in Manhattan’s Flatiron District on June 20, 2015. It has produced a meeting space, conference room, library, and classes that have been recorded for an expanding online education forum through its Journee TV site. Fees are $1 per day for membership and start at $8 per month for access to journee.tv. It serves as a culinary school and networking arena for people who cannot afford to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Journee also has the Co.Create division, which allows it to work on unusual promotions with major brands, the first being a quick-serve café in New York City that features a menu crafted from Kellogg’s products. Rudolf would like to bring Co Labs to Chicago, San Francisco, London, and other cities. “The Co Lab is meant to connect people locally, to bring together the community, and from that we bubble up all the content that takes place there and share it on journee.tv,” he says. As of July, Journee had nearly 800 members, and within the first week of its launch that same month, journee.tv had more than 1,000 users accessing dozens of online classes. The plan calls for four to five new classes per week. Educators have included Christina Tosi, Jonathan Benno, Enrique Olvera, and Camilla Marcus Siegel. Rudolf reports that the club’s median age is late 20s to early 30s, and the overall range spreads from age 23 to 60. J.D. Nasaw, dining room manager at famed Eleven Madison Park, began using Journee’s facilities and services when it opened. Nasaw says Journee’s membership fee is “insanely generous. The way I pitched it to my friends is even if you’re taking none of the classes and are barely using the space, if you go to Starbucks or a coffee shop five times a month, you could go to the space and get that coffee for free and that would pay for your membership.”