Chef Malcolm Mitchell knows how to find an opportunity. Mitchell has turned his love of food and cooking – developed while serving in the Navy – into TV appearances and a highly marketable personal brand. After launching a successful personal chef business, Mitchell catapulted his career into the public eye and hasn’t stopped since.
Mitchell took some time out of managing his two restaurants in Baltimore – Ryder’s and Butchers Hill Society – and planning a third, to speak to us about the importance of looking under every rock, building a foundation for your brand, and how to maximize a TV appearance. In this snapshot – the full interview is available in the February issue of Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine – Mitchell spoke to us about how a Craigslist ad led to three restaurants in Baltimore.
Like any true entrepreneur, Mitchell is constantly looking for opportunities. While Craigslist might not seem like a place to find work for someone like Mitchell, one ad led him to have an ownership stake in three restaurants in Baltimore, including Ryder’s and Butchers Hill Society, with another in the works.
Instead of seeing Craigslist ads for chefs as inapplicable to his business, Mitchell specifically instructed his business manager to respond to those types of ads. “That’s an opportunity for me to get my foot in the door because, while they probably won’t be able to afford me to come chef over there,” Mitchell explained, “they might be able to afford me to do some consulting.” One particular ad on the Baltimore Craigslist site was seeking a chef to oversee a kitchen. Mitchell’s business manager responded to the ad, and sent over a press kit.
Although the ad poster stated that Mitchell was probably too big for the kitchen he had mentioned in the ad, he wanted to meet as he had a few other projects he was working on. Mitchell traveled to Baltimore and was presented with a great space, with two more spaces being built out. The man suggested partnering up: if Mitchell helped him open the first space, then Mitchell could have the other two. “Now, that does not happen often,” Mitchell recalled happily.
Mitchell’s current business partners – who are in the real estate business – also have another space opening up. A 40,000 square foot area, it’s the location of Mitchell’s next project, a brewery, where Mitchell hopes to do whole animal butchery and make his own hotdogs. “It’s going to be a really fun place,” Mitchell told us, “and all this happened from a Craigslist ad.”
On the surface, it might seem like an overnight success – getting three locations in one meeting – but Mitchell will be the first to admit that “it’s been a grind.” He recalls cooking dishes he didn’t want to, because he needed the money, and the free events he did for non-profits and charities. “That’s part of marketing,” he told us, “it’s not paid but of course I’m going to do that, because every single person that came to that event and paid $500 for the dinner is a potential, future client. I want to be in front of them, I want them to see me, I want them to know about me and give out business cards.”
For the entrepreneur thinking about entering the culinary industry, Mitchell has encouraging words: “in the end, it’ll be worth it, but you have to keep moving and shaking every tree branch you see and overturning every rock. Sometimes you’re going to find a pot of gold, and sometimes it’ll be a copperhead snake, but you have to keep looking.”
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