I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.

-Lou Holtz

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the 1500+ subscribers a question:

“What Would You Ask A Master Chef About Your Business Or Entrepreneurial Goals?”

Within a matter of hours, there we plenty of responses and questions!

What you’ll read below are questions – not all, but a good amount – from the community and answers from Master Chef Klaus Friedenreich. They were done in “quick-fire” fashion to get to as many as possible.

As a quick note, who exactly is Klaus Friedenreich?

Well, his full-length interview and advice for culinary entrepreneurs will be featured in the upcoming issue of Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine but in short:

  • A Certified Master Chef with the American Culinary Federation.
  • A Two-Time Culinary Olympic Gold Medalist.
  • A Southeast Region Hermann G. Rusch Chef’s Achievement Award Winner.
  • Owned & Operated Restaurants.
  • And outside of all the other many accomplishments in his career, he’s an outstanding chef and all-around great guy!

I hope you enjoy reading his answers and leave any comments you may have below!

Despite the long ongoing efforts to raise the pay scales in the food industry, why do so many restaurants offer minimum wage jobs, unpaid “stage” opportunities, painted as “experience opportunities?”

It comes down to expenses. If you want to pay employees more, the prices have to increase in the restaurant or expenses need to go down, but the latter is not likely most often. There are low-profit margins in restaurants and it makes it hard to pay more.

It’s important in the beginning that the owner of the restaurant calculates all expenses as accurately as possible, negotiate good pricing for the lease or building, maximize inventory, etc. If this can be accomplished, the owner can afford to pay more, but most people are not in that situation.

Why is being “overworked” and “underpaid” sold as a badge of valor?

The percentages and margins dictate what’s going on in the restaurant. For those who are overworked and underpaid, they can always leave to find a better fit, and in some cases, this may be best for them. But it’s all about how the business is run.

There was a place I worked at where cooks were paid very well, worked 5 days per week, 40 hours, had 2 days off, and it was because of how the owner ran the business. The business was profitable, managed very well, margins were good, and employees were happy.

How would you attract passionate cooks and FOH to endure the long hours and stresses of the F&B industry?

You have to respect them and their time. And even the owner/chef needs time off. The owner/chef shouldn’t be there 7 days a week, grumpy, yelling and demanding.

The culture starts with the owner/chef. They are the ones that create the environment. If they are stressed, the cooks are stressed. The attraction and loyalty are based upon the leader.

What motivates you when you’re burnt out?

When I became burned out, I sought change. It was change that motivated me.

You may be experiencing several reasons for being burned out, whether not being recognized or working too much, something is causing the burnout. You must determine what is causing the problem and make a change.

Don’t stay in the same situation thinking it will change on its own.

I have a successful restaurant but have been working on expanding my second restaurant, am I being selfish as a chef in working toward more exposure and competition in the chef community? I wonder if the entrepreneurial self and chef self are at odds sometimes?

Yes, the entrepreneurial self and chef are definitely at odds sometimes.

I don’t think it’s selfish. People have a natural desire to want to expand. One of the best ways to do this is to have people you trust from the first restaurant working in the second restaurant. If you don’t have people you can trust, watch out. You can’t be in two places at the same time of course.

How can I find a dedicated, but silent, investor? Or how can I find investors period?

That’s a dream situation [silent investors] and very difficult to get. I think it can only be done by building your reputation and following and becoming known for your trustworthiness – all in a big way.

It’s not easy finding investors. It’s a very hard process.

If you don’t have investors and you want to start a business, I would say to just start small. Begin out of your house if that’s what you can afford. Then you build your reputation and clientele. See if you can keep your clients – if they come back – and grow from there.

Too many people think they need investors to start, but they can start small and grow. I’ve seen many people start small. Even as small as a hot-dog stand, which can grow to a food truck, and then can grow to a restaurant.

For a specific product I want to product, what is the best way to allocate my financial resources so I can market my product and sell my product?

First, determine your starting capital. Once you have this figure, you determine your production cost. You will either have a surplus or deficit and you work from there. Going through this process will help you answer the question.

You should research the best ways to market your product, paid and non-paid as well. Depending on the product, you can use the power of online promotion.

Then keep fine tuning until you can fit everything in your budget. But even then, build in some room – it always takes more than you think.

What are some vegetables that would pair well with dessert?

Carrots would be good if you dehydrate, caramelize, chop very fine and use as a base for some vanilla mouse. Put them at the bottom to give color and taste.

Or I would make a sweet pumpkin or zucchini bread.

I’m interested in knowing if chefs have agents, and if so, how do you get them?

Yes, usually the celebrity chefs do have agents and there are companies that take on chefs, but the chef must have a reputation first.

The question is, “what is the chef wanting to do that requires an agent.” You have to find out if it makes sense or not.

If you couldn’t be a chef what would you do?

I started so young with my apprenticeship that I never thought of anything else, wow, good question.

I think the only thing for me outside of being a chef was to be a culinary instructor, outside of that, nothing.

A chef, or chef instructor, that’s it.

Did you have projected costs before you began in your first year of business? How close did you come to fulfilling those goals?

Yes. That is very important for someone to have.

I got price lists from places to know how much it was going to cost and the yield, which helped  determine what to charge.

I couldn’t just look around at other places by my restaurant and price alongside them, it’s tempting, but you can’t do that. There are different factors between restaurants, so you need to know what you can charge.

You must have your expenses in line, understand them, and create pricing from them.

In my first year, I exceeded my goals, but I was lucky with the publicity from getting a gold medal at the culinary Olympics. But then again, I used the publicity on purpose, so maybe it wasn’t too much luck. Though, along with the publicity, I managed all factors that contributed to the check average and I worked to increase the check average constantly. This was a very important part.

When opening a restaurant, how would you go about creating the appropriate kitchen culture that embraces your vision and philosophy when working with a staff that has not worked together, or doesn’t have the refined skill set you like to see?

It starts with the interview process. It has to be streamlined. You want to ask the same questions to everyone about their background, experience, etc.

You have to have the right “feeling” about the people you hire. You can’t just hire quickly based on need, that can get you in trouble. Again, it’s all from the interview process, you have to hire the right people.

In opening a new business, how do you control food costs?

You have to establish an inventory. Go through all the things you need, seasoning, spices, etc., and only order based upon your required inventory.

You work off of how many people you serve and how much inventory you need. You create a projection and you purchase from your projection. Then you monitor how you’re using your product and make adjustments for the next order.

Also, determine if you’re going to order single items or if you buy in bulk. But it’s all in relation to what you will actually use. Don’t go for a price break on a bulk order if you’re going to just throw it away. You have to really pay attention to all of these things and make adjustments.

How should I prepare for getting my CEC (I’m considering it), I am not the young buck anymore, but I want this for myself?

Your local ACF chapter, in many cases, they have seminars for preparing for the exam. Have the chefs at the local chapter critique you from that group.

Age has nothing to do with it. If you’re thinking about it, I would say to absolutely do it! You can!

Does the increased global accumulation of food waste change the way you cook or conceptualize food now?

Yes, absolutely. And I think the farm-to-table concept is largely in part because of waste.

I’m still training in cooking and interested in starting a private catering company in the future; what would be the best way to start off?

Start small, but most of all, just get started. If you have the money for a catering kitchen, great. If not, start with what you can. Some people start very small and grow from there.

You can do small parties that don’t require a special truck even. Once you start making money, proving your concept, you can begin expanding.

Is an open kitchen design a benefit or do you prefer a full back of house kitchen?

I like the open kitchen designs, but it depends on the kind of clientele you’re catering too, though.

If you have home cooked items, maybe it’s not so good. If you’re more of an upscale place, it could give a better look and feel.

What’s the next trend in foods?

Food trends come and go. Every year I see another questionnaire tallying what’s popular.

You can maybe look to the past and bring something back that was once popular – that can be the “new” trend! You can start one!

As a business owner/ executive chef; how can I continue my education w/o out having to start over in a culinary school?

I know Culinary Institute of American has short courses for exactly what you’re mentioning. You can see what’s offered at what time and take the short course. I’m not sure of other schools who do continuing education, but CIA does have that.

I think it’s a very good thing for you to want to continue your education.


That’s all for now, thanks for taking the time to read and leave any comments below!

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