New York City
Chef/Owner: Enrique Olvera
Chef/Partner: Daniela Soto-Innes
How they do it: At Cosme, chef/partners Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes believe in a new generation of cooks who understand that the fundamentals of cooking are important, but that cooking is not a profession, but a lifestyle. As the industry evolves, they hope more chefs will also focus on building relationships with their cooks, and the importance of culture and team-building.
Steal it: The best kitchens are happy kitchens.
Owner: Martha Hoover
Chef: Tyler Herald
Pastry chef: Jason Bridgewater
How they do it: Café Patachou built its culture on the premise of being radically different and radically better. “We work daily under the guiding principles of being a bar-setting company that values quality of product, quality of customer experience, quality of employee experience, with a critical eye toward sustainability and commitment to community,” says owner Martha Hoover.
Steal it: Be more and do more—profitability can exist without the exploitation of the people who make success possible.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Owner: Ashley Christensen
Chef: Ashley Christensen and Lauren Ivey
Pastry chef: Britny Stephenson
How they do it: Ashley Christensen’s name has become synonymous with the new kitchen culture in the industry. At Death & Taxes, the chef/owner starts by trying to bridge what has been an industry divide between front and back of house. “The open kitchen in our restaurant definitely contributes to that mission, and creates an environment in which our kitchen team interacts with guests along with our service team. Everyone is an active and direct participant in creating a unique guest experience,” Christensen says.
Steal it: Put it in writing—outline the company culture and expectations for respectful behavior.
Owner: Carlie Steiner and Kevin Tien
Chef: Kevin Tien
Beverage director: Carlie Steiner
How they do it: The team at Himitsu is motivated by creating unforgettable experiences for guests while acting as an incubator for back-of-house and front-of-house professionals who want to grow in the industry. “We want to make a difference by not shying away from social decisions as a business, but rather embracing them and feeling good about the business we run,” says co-owner and beverage director Carlie Steiner.
Steal it: Build your team and support your team.
Charleston, South Carolina
Owner: The Neighborhood Dining Group
Chef: Sean Brock
Pastry chef: Katy Keefe
How they do it: Culture is the sum of its parts: the people. “For a positive working culture, you have to start with the people you bring in to your organization. Who are they? What are their personalities? We thoroughly get to know them and hire people that we know have the write mindset to be a part of a great company culture,” says David Howard, president of the Neighborhood Dining Group. “We owe that to the current employees.”
Steal it: Actions speak louder than words—lead by example.
Owner: Dominique Crenn
Chef: Dominique Crenn
Pastry chef: Juan Contreras
How they do it: Atelier Crenn chef/owner Dominique Crenn has become famous for her heart, and it shows in her restaurants, where she knows that people are the secret to everything. “I believe humanity is at the core of it: I cannot achieve anything alone and I must empower my team to be able to rise to the occasion,” Crenn says. “If these values resonate through all of the staff, I can trust that they will maintain the standard and maintain an open mind.”
Steal it: The time for pointing fingers has passed. Be the change.
Established: February 2016
Owners: Katrina Jazayeri and Joshua Lewin
Chef: Joshua Lewin
How they do it: Juliet was an early adopter of gratuity-free in the Boston area. Staff is paid on a single pay scale with profit sharing for all. The entire team is trained to understand the health of the business through profit and loss statements and empowered to enact initiatives to improve it. “Juliet provides access to a strong foundation of training with a focus on true career growth and opportunity, for everyone,” says chef/owner Joshua Lewin.
Steal it: Don't go it alone. Share your experience, compliment your heroes and mentors, invest in the success of those around you, and those working with you.
Owner: Peter and Kathy Fang
Chefs: Peter and Kathy Fang
How they do it: When owners Peter and Kathy Fang sought out to run a restaurant, they knew it would be different. The duo is involved in every aspect of the business. “We not only manage front of the house, but also back of the house. And we are a father and daughter team. Naturally the ‘family dynamic’ that is present in the business makes our staff feel more like a family than a business,” says Kathy Fang.
Steal it: Ensure you set the right environment for your employees and try to think of them as family.
Owners: Terry and Teresa Wilson
Chef: Teresa Wilson
How they do it: Being a woman-run restaurant allows Sala & Betty to create an environment that cares for employees and guests on a personal level, says Diana Salazar, general manager. “We are able to focus on the strengths of our co-workers, not their weaknesses.” While kitchens have a reputation of being fierce environments, Salazar says working at Sala & Betty is an opportunity to learn and build confidence.
Steal it: Value individuals who want to learn and are willing to try.
Owner: Stephanie Izard and Kevin Boehm, and Rob Katz of Boka Restaurant Group
Chef: Stephanie Izard
Pastry Chef: Nate Meads
How They Do It: The team at Girl & the Goat believe restaurants are all defined by three things: Food, hospitality, and design. The alchemy of Stephanie Izard's amazing food, warm hospitality, and Karen Herold's timeless design are the secret sauce. When it comes to staffing, education has always been of paramount concern, but it’s the emphasis on the enjoyment of the work that translates to guests. “Keeping it joyful is an active pursuit and your guests can feel the energy,” says Kevin Boehm, co-founder of Boka Restaurant Group.
Steal It: Hire leaders with great core values; it’s more important than technical skills. “start with a good heart and teach the rest,” Boehm says.