Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare of Acme F&B Talk Gas Station Kitchens, Pyles' Charisma
What's next? Do you have the restaurant bug?
Jeana Johnson (JJ): No, it has nothing to do with collecting restaurants. One was plenty, two is great, three is amazing. What we're really focused on is connecting with as many people as we can, both customers and employees.
Was it ever a goal to have several restaurants?
JJ: We sat down a long time ago and wrote down what five concepts we'd like to open. A taco place wasn't one of them, a burger place wasn't one of them, so we've still got four concepts left. (She jests.)
What's your advice for young entrepreneur chefs out there?
She gets real quiet for a minute. And, OK, she tears up. And then it gets awkward because just then Colleen walks up and wonders why I made Jeana cry. Then, we all laugh because we're all sort of crying. Then, Colleen gets all business:
1. Keep at it.
2. You don't deserve anything. You're not entitled to anything. Just because you got a degree you're not entitled to a $100,000 job.
3. Work for the best people you can find. Learn about their pedigree and force them to hire you.
4. Work your ass off. Plate every single plate like your life depends on it.
How do you manage three restaurants well? It's been said no one else will ever run a place like the proprietors...
JJ: That's just not the trust. It's not. If you are sort of middle-of-the-road with things, you'll raise middle-of-the-road people. Our staff knows we're very deliberate about all the things we do.
How often do you help out in the kitchen now?
JJ: We'll go in and help out at Good 2 Go get out of the weeds if they need it, which they don't very often. But, we like to show them that we old ladies still go it. (They laugh.)
What chef along the way did you learn the most from?
Norm (he's at the table this whole time): mine is Tracie Des Jardin and Sharon Hage.
JJ: I loved working at Ciudad. They really cared about their staff. Tim [Byres] taught me how to be tough.
On other people or yourself?
JJ: No, thick skinned. No-crying-in-baseball style.
I learned charisma and working the dining room from Stephan Pyles - watching him breeze through the dining room.
We've picked up snippets along the way. In terms of having a chef mentor, this sounds super cheesy, but Colleen is my chef mentor.