Top Management Tips For Entrepreneurs From Iron Chef Marc Forgione
It’s hard enough to make your bones in a professional kitchen — but when your father is the iconic Larry Forgione, chef of The American Place, making a name for yourself can add an extra layer of challenge.
Chef Marc Forgione remembers starting his cooking career at 16, always dodging the idea of nepotism and the inevitable label of “Larry’s kid”. “I tell everybody, no one will ever understand what it’s like to grow up with somebody else’s name,” he told me in a recent phone interview. “I never had a day where I could relax in my life in a kitchen, because it was never ‘Oh, that’s Marc, just another line cook.’ But it made me have to show up every single day, It sharpened my skills, and it made me better.”
At a certain point, Forgione took the first steps on his own path to finding his own culinary style and identity. He headed to Europe, where he could work on honing his skills without any familial shadow. “I just wanted to go cook, without being Larry’s son, or son of owner, or all the other nicknames I’ve had over the years. And that was great, they could have cared less who I was,” he laughs.
Now, Forgione is chef/owner of Restaurant Marc Forgione and American Cut, and co-owner/partner of Khe-Yo, as well as the youngest winner at the time when he won 2010’s season three of Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef at 31 years old.
I chatted with Forgione by phone while he was on tour with his latest partnership with NFL Lifestyle‘s “This is how you fan” campaign about how he built his brand, mistakes he made along the way and tips and lessons for young chefs.
On opening restaurants
Between his experience in Europe (including working with culinary boldface names such as Laurent Tourondel and Michel Guérard), Forgione estimates he had been on the opening team of 15 restaurants by the time he was 29. “I’ve had the blessing or the curse, whichever you want to call it, where I ended up opening just about every single restaurant I’ve ever worked at,” he says. “My recommendation would be if you really want to open your own restaurant some day, try to make it so that you go open a restaurant with someone else, as many times as you can to piggy back on their experience.”
Although the customer knows about opening day headaches, where the chefs have to be a jack of all trades, and learn everything on the go, what the customer might not see is that those headaches start months, sometimes years, before opening. “There’s so much that goes into it, you’d be shocked, especially as the person at the top,” he says. “You’ve got to make every decision: where this goes, where that goes, how far apart are the tables going to be, who is making the tables — even before you get to the food. It’s a long, long, long list,” he says.
On mistakes and management
One of the hardest won lessons for a new restaurateur is the ability to delegate — something that Forgione learned along the way. “I think when I opened my first restaurants, I tried to do way too much myself,” he admits. “The hardest part in the evolution of becoming an entrepreneur was realizing (a) it’s physically impossible to be everywhere at once, and (b) when you do get to the place where you’re going, to just push people aside and do it yourself, it doesn’t help. It actually hurts.”
In order to effectively manage, Forgione strongly believes that one of the steps he had to take was gaining confidence in his own skills and happiness with himself. “At a certain point, you’re now in charge of a lot of people, and the only way you really can do that is if you’re comfortable with yourself. And that’s not with work, but with life,” he says.
Forgione has told media outlets in the past that when talking to his chefs, he cuts them off when they say they work for him, preferring them to say that they work with him and each other. Many entrepreneurs find that the move to management means a distancing from the hands on daily routine and a change in their role. For Forgione, that move also meant shifting to a teaching role. “You have to be comfortable in your own skin — being comfortable training somebody, instead of doing it. And that’s what people don’t realize,” he says. “There are people who are very talented at cooking, for who it’s almost easier to make a tomato salad, than it is to teach somebody how to make a tomato salad.”
It’s also difficult for chefs to allow errors in the fiercely competitive and perfectionist nature of the kitchen — especially since, in the fine dining sphere in particular, consistency is key.
“The hardest part is just having to stand aside and say ‘You know what? Let these guys figure it out’,” says Forgione. “Sometimes you watch mistakes happen, and you watch things fall down, but you have to be patient for the process, because if these guys can’t pick themselves up right now, how are they ever going to learn?”
Read more about Marc Forgione’s tips on brand building in part two of this article, Chef Marc Forgione Talks About Building A Brand
artikel by :forbes.com