Chef Bernd Mueller: Lessons & Advice for the Aspiring Culinary Consultant
Introducing Bernd Mueller
With a stellar career that has taken him across the globe, Chef Bernd Mueller sat down with us to share his experience and lessons he’s learned along the way.
As someone who’s cooked for dignitaries and royalty, been honored with awards and designations, and works to push the industry forward each day, Chef Mueller gave us some great insights.
With his experience as an executive chef and culinary entrepreneur, our questions were targeted to find out lessons he’s learned throughout his career, building up his consultancy practice, advice for aspiring consultants, and his version of a “recipe for success.”
Bernd has a great story to share, so let’s get started!
Bernd’s Story & Best Advice
I was born and raised in Germany and my years of apprenticeship and learning Culinary Arts and Science culminated in a Chefs Apprenticeship Degree (Bachelor). After, I then started the mandatory two-year military service in the German Army.
After completing service, I entered the culinary workforce as Commi de Cuisine and Chef de Partie. It took me from highly regarded three-star hotels and restaurants in Germany, to an intense cooking hiatus through France with Paul Bocuse in Loyne and Roger Verge at the world renowned restaurant Le Moulin de Mougins.
I’ve held various positions with prestigious international hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton International, Princess Hotels, Opryland Hotels, National Hotelera, Posadas de Mexico/Holiday Inns and Omni Hotels.
At the same time, I’ve cooked for world leaders and dignitaries including U.S. President Ronald Reagan, former President George W. Bush Sr., and Mexico’s former President Miguel Aleman where he was named designated Private VIP Chef at his Residency in Chapultepec and Satellite. And even Mexican President Lopez Portillo, Luis Echevaria, Germany’s President Walter Scheel, and Costa Rica’s President Ordube. Last but not least, I’ve cooked for His Royal Highness Prince Turki Abdul Aziz-Al Saud from Saudi Arabia.
Through tireless activism of promoting the culinary trade, I’ve been all over the world. Some of which were with Omni Hotels’ sponsored Wine and Food Symposiums in Argentina, Spain, & France, and culminating with a guest appearance in 2009 at the legendary James Beard House in New York City.
I was part of the ACF Delegation that traveled to China with Martin Yan in 1993 to conduct hands-on cooking sessions. I completed Marriott’s Chefs Excellence program at the CIA New York and Greystone – Napa Valley, California and I’m fluent in English, Spanish and German.
What I’m most proud of in life is my marriage to Martha of 45 years and how we met in Mexico City at the Olympic Games in 1968, which I call lovingly: A Love Story “A Gold Medal in the Making.” And secondly, my family consisting of two daughters, Myriam and Ingrid, and beloved six grandchildren.
My company, Mueller’s F&E’s, is a Culinary Consulting Company founded in 2001 in Orlando, Florida. It specializes in assisting new openings of hotels, restaurants, country clubs as the troubleshooting development of any aspect of the hospitality industry.
Also, we provide assistance in kitchen design, cooking classes and executing private events. We are eager to assist any business venture in the development of new concepts as they change from their old concepts. We help in the development of staffing guides and budget instructions and assistance. And even in team building sessions and menu development.
My upbringing was under the watchful eye of my parents and grandparents. In particular, my grandparents owned one of the most well-known Hotels, Hotel Weigold, in South Germany.
My grandfather was Patriarch and ran the Hotel in the same way he lived his life – full and energy and believing nothing was impossible.
Early in age, I was inspired watching him rebound after a devastating Second World War. That was the moment I knew there was something waiting for me, I call it destiny.
My grandmother became the Matriarch of the family after my grandfather died. She was the one guiding me to get into the hotel industry. She was a highly educated woman from Estonia/Russia with an unbreakable work ethic.
It was instilled in me to follow my dreams because “life is too short to be little,” so make it big and memorable.
“Make sure you have a vision & dream and then set a goal. Those two things go hand-in-hand and eventually will get you to the promise and of opportunities.”Bernd Mueller
Early Career Lessons
Make sure you have a vision & dream and then set a goal. Those two things go hand-in-hand and eventually will get you to the promise and of opportunities.
Drive on the positive in whatever you do in life and learn from your mistakes, but don’t ever dwell on the past, use it as a learning device to get better in your pursuit of excellence.
Pursue your dreams with passion to the fullest and don’t ever listen to the naysayers.
Characteristics of a Great Chef
Great executive chefs are great orchestrators who recognize every instrument (position) in the kitchen.
They are a great judge of people’s character and never shy to lead in the most adverse situations.
It’s important to not ever doubt yourself, recognize your calling and limits, and be genuine with fellow employees.
Let them know you care about them for their value and appreciate them.
An Entrepreneurial “Recipe for Success”
Go with your instincts and listen somewhat to you parents, it worked for me. Get a great basic education and spend quality time with quality people which know more than you because it’s contagious.
Leave your comfort zone before you graduate and develop a plan of continuous education. Move to foreign countries, learn languages and the most important of them all, learn critical thinking.
Remember, the real successful people do not expect handouts, only a way out to become unique and exceptional. And one final word of caution, there is no entitlement given, you have to earn it.
And here’s the Credo of Dreams: “Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true.”
Becoming a Consultant
What inspired me most in life is being coastally challenged, re-inventing myself, positive reinforcement to stay motivated, and reminding myself there is much work in front of all of us.
We have to be willing to move, even if retirement is facing, your life is still an open book with so many chapters to be written.
Consulting for me is purely providing an added service to businesses with ongoing problems and challenges. It was the natural move after retirement from a full-time job.
My advice is to stay busy until your mind and physical health can’t afford it.
For me, retirement is out of the question.
Consulting Best Practices
After your introduction, you might show them your portfolio (this will always ignite interest and curiosity).
Rule number one, listen to what the client has to say and make notes in front of them. It will definitely convey the notion you take them seriously. Get the client to believe their project is the most important thing in the world.
Rule number two, it’s their wish list, not yours, so don’t be forceful in convincing them of rapid change. Keep in mind, you are the solution, not the problem, to resolve the clients’ issues. They hired you to guide them through the process of change, which is always problematic and sometimes painful.
Be genuine and sincere and tell them what they need to hear about your company. And don’t talk about money/fees right away, it takes the feel-good away.
The financial part will slowly but surely become part of the conversation, just remember timing is everything.
Once both sides agree on the condition, make sure a contract is signed. Always have something in writing.
“We have to be willing to move, even if retirement is facing, your life is still an open book with so many chapters to be written.”Bernd Mueller
Finding & Securing Clients
Long before you get involved in consulting, have a list of contacts established of professionals you dealt with through you career.
Remember, you can’t do it alone. You need experts in assisting you along the way, even if it’s just some reliable professionals from within the industry.
It made a huge difference in my consulting life (having a list of professionals).
Don’t spread yourself too thin and don’t take too many projects on at the same time, please, one project at the time.
Social Media Marketing
For me, I’m a staunch supporter of LinkedIn. No day goes by where I’m not blogging with someone from around the globe.
Advertisement, contacts, and exchange of ideas is basically the lifeline of LinkedIn. After the motto, “no stone is untouched,” let people know who you are, what you’re up to, and where you want to go.
Twitter and Facebook are not my cup of tea.
And one more thing, if you are not busy with consulting projects, LinkedIn is a great outlet to share and fine tune your writing skills about anything, including management and personal experiences relating to the common causes. Don’t sit at home and vegetate, make yourself useful and share with society your talents.
Building a Consulting Practice
First, make sure you have the mental capacity to be ready to understand consulting. It’s like getting married over-and-over again with all kinds of clients. Some are not always the easiest people to deal with, so take it one step at the time and don’t rush for the financial gains.
Once you sign up for a consulting project here are my four basic rules:
- First, gather all information relevant to the project.
- Secondly, make a written assessment to the ownership.
- Third, recommend the changes.
- Fourth, execute and implement what you agreed on with ownership.
It’s a business where you’re building business partners for life.
All my consulting projects were three months at the time. You learn the ropes as you go. There’s no handbook for consulting, it’s purely built on relationships and hard work.
Remember, building any new business is a lengthy process and takes time and patience. Make sure you surround yourself with the right people, so you don’t waste any time.
Keep your goal in focus and make it something teachable (white board, flow chart, team building sessions), so you get the buy-in from everyone on your team and don’t deviate.
Stay the course and keep aiming high.
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