Baboush Chef Yaser Khalaf on How to Make it in America (It All Starts in Lexington)
Rule No. 1 of restaurant ownership?
Never trust anybody. Trust your own instincts. The vision of a restaurant has to be the owners. Everyone else will have their own way of doing it -- something totally different.
Because the owners drive the passion for a place?
Exactly. You know many people call themselves restaurateurs but they have no passion. Actually, forget passion. You just have to care. It's all about caring.
Back to Lexington ... What happened?
I really wanted to learn and know more. I started inquiring about different things. I even went to Louisville and met this wonderful Jewish guy. We had nothing in common but food, but he taught me a lot. He told me that the restaurant business is not about what I like. It's about serving consistent food to people. He had me cut the menu way down because my friend put things like burgers on the menu and that was exhausting. So he told me to focus on two pastas and five pizzas. That's it.
Did it work?
It was just too late. I was too exhausted by it all. After six months I shut it down. I just locked it one day. I had to focus on school and I needed to learn the business better. I told my friend that he had to come down and help me or I'm locking it up. I was tired and had to finish school.
But you put so much into it ...
Yes, and we started to make really good food, too. People would tell me, "This is really good; now if you can only make it consistently." And that's my second lesson.
Consistency. Serve crap, but serve the same crap every day.
You laugh, but it's true. Look at McDonald's! You can serve bad food, but serve the same bad food every day.