As a celebrity chef who appeared and hosted a variety of Food Network programs, Robert Irvine requires little introduction. A powerhouse, both in physical stature and culinary depth, Irvine continues to build a legacy predicated on empowering people through food and fitness.

In a recent interview for Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine, we captured a side of Irvine seldom seen – that of an entrepreneur. With a wildly successful name brand and ultra-productive lifestyle, we asked his advice on topics such as generating new ideas, evaluating business opportunities, patterns for entrepreneurial success, productivity routines, and even touched on personal fears and sacrifices he’s faced to date. Below is a snapshot of the full interview featured in the April issue of the magazine.

1. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur? Whether yes or no, can you share your thoughts on the matter?

Successful entrepreneurs got that way by distinguishing themselves. They come up with creative solutions to everyday problems, put a major spin on something tried and true, and took risks.

My advice to entrepreneurial chefs is to pick one unique thing that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t. Then, identify what steps you need to take, and evaluate your position each step of the way.

Ask yourself the tough questions and do the work to ensure that you are differentiating yourself, still relevant in your industry, and most importantly, maintaining your reputation.

2. How do you generate new business ideas?

It sounds counterintuitive, but the best way to start with ideas for new business is to narrow down the scope. The best advice I can give to entrepreneurs hoping to be great chefs is to pour your values and personal experiences into your cooking. This will help you identify a signature style that is unique to you. Look at your background and everything that has made you who you are. Stay true to yourself and the way the world will identify you will be genuine. Then start to incorporate that into the business you’re building.

Some values that I always incorporate into my businesses include supporting our troops, my passion for healthy eating, and of course, creating delicious food. Any new business ideas that don’t involve one or more of these key values is probably not a great fit.

3. What is your process for evaluating whether a business venture will be worth your time, energy, and/or money? To follow up, are there red flags you look for when evaluating an opportunity?

The first thing I want to know is if it fills a need. Every potential venture has to either create something people need, or enhance something people already are using. If it doesn’t satisfy one of those two requirements, chances are the idea will fail. No one is looking for someone to reinvent the wheel.

I think the biggest red flag for me is if the idea seems easy. If it’s easy, it can be improved more. Nothing worthwhile was ever achieved with little effort.

4. What was one of the most challenging times in your career and how did you push through this period?

I think the most challenging time is that first time you realize, as an entrepreneur, you are taking a leap of faith without the benefit of a safety net. That moment of realization is simultaneously empowering and challenging, and forces you to realize that it is up to you to find and make your mark and achieve success. For me, hard work and tuning out distractions while remaining focused on the near and long term goals I identified when I started out are what helped me get through it.

5. If you had every aspiring entrepreneur in the culinary industry in front of you, what advice would you give them about pursuing their business goals & dreams in the industry today?

One of the most difficult things to do as an entrepreneur, especially in the chef world, is understanding the subtle difference between when to stick with something, and when to walk away. Many people will say ‘never give up!’, but a crucial part of being a successful entrepreneur is being able to adapt.

Once you get into a groove and things are going well, there is always a temptation to ride it out as far as you can possibly go. The danger here is the possibility of stagnation. It doesn’t take much for being “in a groove” to turn into “stuck in a rut.” Everyone has a different threshold. Trying something brand new is an exhilarating challenge that forces you to grow in ways that you can’t foresee before you take the leap.

Shawn Wenner

As the founder, after a decade in culinary education I decided to fuse my favorite topics in this corner of the web - education, entrepreneurship, & culinary arts. Join the growing community of culinary entrepreneurs and I hope you enjoy the site!

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