Chef Chris Hill: A Journey to Entrepreneurial Success by Failing Forward
Introducing Chris Hill
Chef Chris Hill is an entrepreneurial chef, best-selling author, and public speaker who has built a personal brand and garnered over 100,000 fans across the globe.
He’s the type of entrepreneur you cross and take a step back wondering “how does he do it all?”
Not only has he achieved personal success, but he’s helped countless others along the way. He’s received appreciation for guiding some through “challenging periods in their life,” for “keeping them inspired” in their career, and some have even called him the “chef whisperer.”
In our interview with Chris, our question ranged from his lessons early on as an entrepreneur, facing & working through adversity, building credibility, writing his book (Making the Cut: What Separates the Best from the Rest), advice for entrepreneurs, and more.
Today, we hear from Chef Chris Hill, in his words, as he gives his best advice on the various topics below.
Chris’s Best Advice
Initial Entrepreneurial Lessons
The idea of starting a company is exciting. You take it off the ground, make it happen, and your dreams are coming true. And then you quickly realize, well, this is work. It’s going to be a lot of work that’ll take a lot up front. Working, working, working every single day so that “hopefully” down the line, I’ll be pretty successful.
Early on, I really realized what it meant to be a hard worker. I was sometimes working 20 hours a day and just giving everything I had to this thing, hoping that it would work out.
Now, I didn’t get paid for the first 3 years [in my restaurant], so it was really about being patient, which up front I wasn’t.
If I had to do it all over again, I’d tell myself, “it’s going to be okay,” and “it’s going to work out.” I’d make sure to focus on playing the long game because nothing of any value really happens in the short term.
For me, I never really felt like giving up was an option. Not that things were ever easy, it was just that I’d invested so much already, and I believed in what I was doing. I’ve always been the type of person that’s going to figure it out.
When I moved to Virginia, I worked in restaurants in the kitchen. I didn’t know how to run a kitchen, but I soon had to learn quickly.
When I started on TV, I had no clue how to do TV.
I’d give a couple of TED talks, but I didn’t know how to do that. I was scared. I really didn’t know how to do any of that kind of stuff.
I’ve always had to figure it out.
That’s the mentality I think is really important, especially in the kitchen. At times, when I didn’t know how to make a certain dish, I tried enough times, learned from my mistakes and then figured it out.
“You have to maintain the mindset that if you keep doing the work, keep putting yourself out there and being generous, it will all come back in the end.”Chris Hill
Facing & Overcoming Obstacles
I’ve given talks a lot about the dip. There’s going to be challenges and struggles along the way. It’s always going to be that way, but you keep going knowing that’s what’s required for the project to work.
You have to maintain the mindset that if you keep doing the work, keep putting yourself out there and being generous, it will all come back in the end. I think once you get some success, you’ll be able to appreciate those early days so much more.
I’ve always just been very resilient.
Also, you can only control so much. For me, I try and take that whole idea and mindset into the kitchen. You can’t control if a customer is going to walk in the door, if the dishwasher is running late or doesn’t show up, so you can’t get so stressed about it and keep harping on it. You just have to say, “Okay, we can’t control this, so what’s next?”
That’s always been my mentality.
Before Entrepreneurs Leap
I would say first; it takes baby steps to start working your way there.
If you’ve heard of Jeff Goins, a friend of mine, he wrote a book called The Art of Work. It’s about finding your calling, and he talks about how it’s not a leap, it’s more about building a bridge from one place to the next. It’s like, “Okay, I’ve worked at this one place. I want to be over here. What are the rungs along the bridge that I need to lay in place to make that work?”
Another piece of advice is having a clear understanding of business. You can have a good, or great idea, but if you can’t make any money from it to pay the bills, well, that’s not going to work.
It’s important to understand the market as well. With those components, and with building a brand for yourself, once you go on our own you’ll have a little steam behind you. The wind in your sails so to speak.
An Entrepreneurs “Recipe for Success”
It’s about knowing yourself and having a strong sense of self-awareness. Just like building credibility, you have to know yourself and then build a brand around yourself.
Next, being resilient and give it all you’ve got along the way.
Keep going until you feel like it’s not working or until you can’t do it anymore. And even then, keep going. Keep giving it everything, every day. Make sacrifices along the way and do what you can to make it work.
How to Build Credibility
Everyone should realize that when you’re just starting out, you don’t have credibility. It’s common sense, but people forget this and struggle with it. It’s something you have to nurture along the way.
For me, that meant working in restaurants and learning what it took to be a chef. I definitely wasn’t a chef when I started running kitchens but quickly learned.
Ultimately, I wanted to be that fine dining chef, but I wasn’t in a fine dining establishment. So one day, I sat back and asked, “how can I build a brand around myself where people now I can do that stuff?” That’s where I started the whole “bachelor kitchen” concept. Where even though nobody knew my name at the time, I started creating a brand I thought people would connect with, and that would help build my name.
I don’t think that works for everybody. I think it worked for me at the time.
At the end of the day, I think most people can build pretty good credibility from networking, whether on social media or in person. I think people can do it through being generous with their time through events in their local community.
You just put yourself out there as much as you possibly can and keep being persistent. I definitely think it’s important to really understand who you are and get in touch with this as you build credibility. Whether it’s for your brand personally or restaurant, whatever you’re going to represent, you have to know who you are.
Early Stages of Writing
I think it’s kind like cooking at home. If I’m cooking at home, even if I’m not cooking for anyone else, I’m still going to do the best that I possibly can. Make something interesting and give my all into it.
When my first article went viral was one of the happiest days of my life. I was with my girlfriend driving, and it was starting to go viral. Every time I pressed the button on medium, it would be like 300 new views. That day got almost 100,000 views in just one day.
It was kind of like all this hard work paid off I guess, but at the same time, I started because of my love for writing. I think that’s an important part.
It’s important to know because a lot of people are not in it for the right reasons. If you’re not in it for the right reasons, then it won’t work. You have to love doing it, whether something more comes of it or not. And if so, great.
If it’s all about getting to the top of the mountain, that uphill journey seems like and strenuous and tiring and hard and challenging, versus, “Hey, you know what, I’m not there yet so I’m still enjoying my way up the mountain.” It’s still a great view.
“If you’re not in it for the right reasons, then it won’t work. You have to love doing it, whether something more comes of it or not.”Chris Hill
Process of Writing a Book
You know, it was a bigger priority than I anticipated honestly. I was thinking, “oh it’s like streaming together 10 blog posts,” but it’s heavier than that of tying everything together. It’s about making sure everything works together for the audience, which is actually a lot of time.
The research part was up front, you know interviewing people and then the actual writing part came after. My girlfriend didn’t understand how you sit down at the desk and talk about the muse. Sometimes she [the muse] shows up and sometimes she doesn’t. You still have to try and find a way to crank out the work, though.
Regarding the time aspect, it’s kind of like having the whole “crush it” mindset after hours. It’s like the quote “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”
I’m always pushing myself to the next level, trying to keep bettering myself, so I work to put myself in a better situation for tomorrow and the next day.
If you’re trying to write a book or you want to write a book, find or create a schedule for yourself.
For me, I’m very regimented. I go to the gym every day. I have work throughout the day and then work on social media as well. I don’t have any kids, so that saves a lot of time. I have a couple of hours block every night where I know it’s the time where I’m working on writing or promoting.
I think a lot of people don’t have routines; they don’t have a process.
Finally, finding a way to make things consistent, has been valuable. Especially in the industry where it’s challenging.