The One Piece of Advice Andrew Zimmern Would Give to Young Chefs
At the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the chef and television personality also addressed the death of his good friend Tony Bourdain.
When Andrew Zimmern gives career advice, you listen. At the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the Bizarre Foods host led a panel with Jose Enrique, Renee Erickson, Jen Hidinger-Kendrick, and Marcus Samuelsson on the topic of community—and how success in the food industry is measured.
Early in the talk, Samuelsson evoked the idea of "restaurer," the French verb from which the word "restaurant" is derived; it means "to restore and make whole." This, Zimmern insisted, is crucial to remember. While restaurants must be financially viable to succeed, there is something deeply emotional, almost spiritual, about the role hospitality can and should play in our lives, and chefs and busines owners can't lose sight of this.
"What I would tell young entrepreneurs in the food space: Do not confuse the restaurant world we know in 2018—where everything starts with a transactional relationship," he said. "If we look all the way back to our past, restaurants and sharing food with other people is an emotional transaction. It is not a financial transaction, first and foremost. We have a group of really engaged young people who want to do more than make it transactional. Our industry has been predicated on an others-centered basis since the dawn of time. That’s the nature of the hospitality industry, and that’s what makes us a unique community as a whole."
Zimmern, who was wearing a "The Future Is Female" t-shirt, said that young people in the food industry approach him all the time, asking, "How do I get my own TV show?" This makes him uncomfortable. The moment Zimmern found success in the food world, his priority became giving back.
"I knew immediately I needed to [give away] 25 percent of my time and 25 percent of my money—I had to give it away to keep it," he said. "Otherwise, life is not going to work for me."
At the beginning of the panel, Zimmern addressed the death of his friend Anthony Bourdain, a tragedy that loomed over the weekend.
"Tony believed in never leaving a guerilla in the room unnoticed," he said. "When there’s an untimely death, especially in the manner Tony left us ... it's revealed a lot of fatal flaws in the way we gather, and the way we run our lives. Everyone is taking a moment to pause and do some necessary introspection and necessary reaching out to make sure everyone is okay."