Tom Colicchio, Becca Parrish, and Phil Baltz share tips for picking the right opportunities, and when to say no.

By Oset Babür
Updated April 17, 2019
Credit: Jim Franco

Once the dust settles after a restaurant opening, a book release, or, in the case of our Best New Chefs class, a major award, it’s usually time to tell a good story. It can be challenging to choose between different opportunities, especially when it feels like a critical moment to get the word out––surely, you tell yourself, now is not the right time to sit out that interview, lunch meeting, or coffee date.

At our mentorship luncheon for the 2019 class of Best New Chefs, Tom Colicchio (BNC class of 1991), Becca Parrish of Becca PR, Phil Baltz of Baltz & Company, and other industry experts led a discussion about how to make those difficult decisions about media coverage, publicity, and speaking engagements during the busiest times. Although it can be tempting to say “yes” to everything and go into overdrive, their advice overwhelmingly points towards slowing down, being honest about your values and priorities when it comes to storytelling, and doing your due diligence about the opportunity.

Here are just a few of their tips:

Hit pause before you hop into that interview

“Whoever the journalist is or whoever the potential partner might be, I would encourage you to answer the phone and say, ‘I'm in service right now, and I can't talk. Can I call you back at some point tomorrow? Is that too late? I want to be sensitive to your deadline, but can you give me a moment?’" –– Phil Baltz

You can tell your own story

“The beauty of social media is that you can control it. It's your chance to tell your story in the way that you want it to be seen and the way that you want it to be told. You have your own platform. You do not have to rely on media.” –– Becca Parrish

Write a values statement for yourself

“There's been a lot of talk today about values. In this day and age, you do have to stand for something. What are your values? What do you want to put out in the world?” –– Becca Parrish

Figure out what communities you want to reach with your story

“Where are the conversations happening that you want to be a part of? What are those people reading? Where are they going? What are they listening to? If you are not really clear with your values, your point of view, and even your elevator pitch, then you're not going to break through.” –– Becca Parrish

Be selective, or else risk burning out

“Ask yourself: why am I doing this event? What is the goal? Why am I doing this interview? You really have to be clear about that. If your goal is a Michelin star, then you should be aligning yourself with Michelin star chefs.” –– Becca Parrish

Do your due diligence

“In a couple of keystrokes you can generally get a sense what someone's bias might be. You should be careful to take every opportunity and vet it. It doesn't mean that you should wall yourself in. It doesn't mean that you should not open yourself up to the opportunities but I think you have to be very careful about vetting. Do your homework, read the last three, four, five pieces that that person wrote. Find out if you know anybody that's connected to them in Linkedin or Facebook or Instagram Or call someone you trust and ask them for advice.” –– Phil Baltz

Don’t say yes to everything

“When you say yes to everything, it diminishes your value. I learned the hard way. When I was young, you're on the circuit, you say yes to everything and after a while it's like you're killing yourself. After a while you start saying, "I wanna get paid to do that," and people say, "Well no, we don't pay." "Well guess what then? Let somebody else do it.’” –– Tom Colicchio

Ask yourself about what’s in the opportunity for you

“You're the product, so you're going to have a lot of people call you up to do cooking demos, appearances, and stuff like that. You've got to make a choice here. You can either want to get paid for that—and I highly suggest you come up with a price that you can live with. If you don't want to do that, then quote a ridiculous price. If they say yes, then you can decide to do it. But you're the product. If you want to do something and it's not a paid gig, decide: what is your message? Why are you doing it, and is it going to further your career? It may sound selfish, but you’ve got to make these choices now because the demands of your time are going to start being a lot greater than just your staff. The public's going to want you.” –– Tom Colicchio

Quotes have been condensed and edited for clarity.