Chef Alain Braux: Lessons & Advice from an Award Winning Author
Introducing Alain Braux
With 45 years and counting, Chef Alain Braux has been extremely busy throughout his culinary career. As a Certified Executive Pastry Chef and Certified Master Baker, he’s won various culinary competitions, worked as a counselor, consultant, teacher, and found time to write several award-winning books.
We connected with Chef Braux for some insights and advice on how he’s achieved success in his career, while putting most of our focus on getting advice for authoring books.
Our questions for Chef Braux ranged from advice for entrepreneurs beginning their journey, writing his first book, book publishing advice, writing tips, ways to monetize your writing and more.
Today, we share some of his responses, in his words, to the various topics we touched on during our time with this incredible chef.
Alain’s Best Advice
The Path to Entrepreneurship
A little background first…
I am a Certified Executive Pastry Chef, a Certified Master Baker, an executive chef, a certified macrobiotic counselor, a holistic nutrition consultant and teacher and an award-winning self-published author of seven books (so far). Oh, I almost forgot, I’m also the dishwasher when needed. I have done it all in the food business over my 45 years (and counting) career and then some.
That said, as far back as 10 years old (so my mom told me), I wanted to be my own boss. Of course, like most chefs, I learned my trade from my apprenticeship chef and many illustrious French chefs (read all about it here) during my 10-year learning experience in Europe.
I then worked another 10 years in different positions in America, so I could learn all about my business (back and front of the house) before I took the plunge of owning my own French bakery called Amandine French Bakery & Cafe.
After about 10 years of working very hard in that business, I realized that owning a multiple locations business was not for me. Too many headaches. I still loved my profession as a chef, but I got tired of running a business. I guess it was not in me. I was a chef, not an entrepreneur. I shut it down and moved on.
Right around that time, I became interested in nutrition and decided to study it. It felt like a new exciting path for me. I thought I could combine my experience as a French chef with my new passion for nutrition to make people healthy.
I went back to school (while holding a job) and got certified macrobiotic counselor then received a Bachelor’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition (for more details, please read my profile here). Needless to say that, 20 years ago, not a lot of chefs were interested in nutrition. I was one of the first.
That’s when I started culinary nutritional consulting for an assortment of private clients with food allergies issues (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, raw, etc.), digestive issues (inflamed bowels, Crohn’s disease, IBS, leaky gut syndrome, etc.) and behavioral issues linked to food (ADD/ADHD, Autism) as well as weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, cancer (which I teach to my students nowadays), and more.
Before Taking the Leap
You absolutely have to be a go-getter and self-starter. I always prided myself to be a man of action and a “get things done” kind of guy.
That is what is needed when you start your own business. Even more, than when you are a chef because the buck stops with you. There is no one to do it for you. You’re the boss. Anything goes wrong, you have to find a solution.
When I started my own bakery & cafe, I could do it all, from washing dishes to wedding cakes to bookkeeping, payroll, tax reports and all that needs to be done to run a business, especially when all you have are your own savings.
I never believed in OPM – other people money. My business, my money. I did not want anyone else to control my business and tell me how to run it. We did well, but it was exhausting. I am glad I got out of it and only work for myself now. No more “running a business” headaches for me.
“I never believed in OPM – other people money. My business, my money. I did not want anyone else to control my business and tell me how to run it.”Alain Braux
First Book Inspiration
Right around the time I started my solo nutrition business, a common friend connected me with the owner of Peoples Pharmacy, a small chain of locally family-owned pharmacies with deli counters. He was looking for a chef knowing nutrition to improve the quality of the food served to his clients.
He asked me the create new from-scratch recipes for his gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo, vegetarian/vegan and raw customers. So I did and was also allowed to consult with private clients as well. I worked there for 7 years until I retired from kitchen duty.
About one year into that job, I started a series of seminars on cholesterol and heart disease and how to change your diet to improve your condition. Unfortunately, not a whole of people showed up.
So my boss suggested I write a book to spread the word to a larger audience, which I did. The last 2 years there, he allowed me to work on my GMO 101 book as I was getting rid of all genetically engineered ingredients in our food, groceries, supplements and beauty products.
The Writing Process
As in anything else in life, you have to have the passion for it, and the time. Most chefs are so busy with their long working hours, they don’t have the time to write a book. I was lucky to have a 40 hour work week and weekends off with my job at the time. Not many chefs have this benefit.
You should know that before that, I had never written anything in my life besides recipes. I was a high school dropout, English was my second language, and I never took writing classes. I was just passionate about sharing my personal experience on how I dropped my cholesterol levels by 10 points in one year by using diet only, not drugs.
I started writing, hired a food journalist as my editor to correct my Frenglish and Voila!, my first book: How to Lower your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food. Through that process, I discovered that I loved to write and share my knowledge and since that first book, I wrote six more. See them here.
I write as if I was sitting across your kitchen table and helping you understand your health condition.
I love to teach and transmit my knowledge, and this is one of the many ways I communicate with my 30,000+ followers: my blog, multiple articles on other sites, 50+ articles on LinkedIn, editor of the Low Carb Magazine and co-host of the Low Carb Paleo Show.
An Entrepreneurs “Recipe for Success”
As much as I’d like to give you an “easy” recipe, if you are already a chef, you already know that “easy” does not exist. You got where you are now by the sweat of your brow. The only advantage of writing over kitchen work is that you can do it in an air-conditioned office!
To be honest, as in a kitchen, you are a writer or you are not. Passion for sharing your work and hard work will get it done – and a little money. Nothing else.
If you are a great chef but have not yet been approached by a publishing house, I highly recommend self-publishing your book.
Because you will have complete control over your work (no pesky editor to “correct” any words that might not please their readers), how your book is laid out and more importantly, you receive much higher royalties for your work for life and can even pass it on to your children.
Typically, you receive 10 to 15% royalty from your publisher and sometimes, it takes one year to get paid. With self-publishing, you receive 45% (hardcover) to 80% (eBook) royalty, and you get paid monthly.
What’s not to like?
Knowing this, I created a new business as a self-publishing consultant. I help chefs write the book they always dreamed of publishing.
What I offer can go from the very simple – publish your already written and fully formatted book to an international book distributor, to a much more complex project – writing with you, editing, photography, interior, and cover design. I get my fee upfront and you, the chef, get all the royalties (from 45 to 80%) for the rest of your life and pass it on to your children.
My first project, Canton Flair – Recipe Design, Traditions and Culture in China by Chef Nicolas Vienne just won Best Chinese Cookbook in the world. If you don’t have the time or expertise to publish your own cookbook, feel free to contact me through my website.
“I write as if I was sitting across your kitchen table and helping you understand your health condition.”Alain Braux
As in everything else in life, hard work, and dedication. I had to learn to write in my second language, learn to format my own books, and finally learn to self-publish them. Trust me, it’s a steep learning curve.
After I write my books, I have to submit them to multiple book competitions to receive awards. It’s a lot of work that only passion in your own project will help you see it through. There is no easy way through this.
To help chefs interested in self-publishing, I wrote a series of articles on LinkedIn titled “So, you want to write your own book?” I give a lot of professional tips there if this what you want to do. Make sure to read all four articles. If it sounds too daunting, you know now how to reach me. I am here to help you.
Monetizing Your Writing
If you worked hard and are media famous, by all means, let a publishing house put the book together for you. But what I would like to make clear is that your book(s) are another form of marketing for the rest of the world to discover you.
It can also be a great way to bring a lot of new customers to your restaurant. Your reservations will increase, and your clients will want to come to your restaurant to get you to sign their book.
Ask your accountant, but I suggest you deduct all your publishing expenses as marketing expenses the same way you would expense any other marketing effort like your website and newspaper advertising. You get to write your dream book tax-free. How about that?
Marketing Your Books
To me, marketing is the most difficult part of my book publishing business. It takes a lot of efforts (and money) to create a social media following.
I post articles and recipes every single day (not always mine) to keep my following interested. Once in a while, I insert an ad for my books.
Of course, if you have the means, you can hire an agency to help you get the word out, but they can be expensive and do not necessarily do better than you can do on your own.
What you need is press coverage, and if you already have a restaurant or work for a large operation, you can use their marketing budget to support your book. It’s all to their advantage to push your book. It will fill your restaurant’s tables.