Originally from Malden, MA Chef TJ LaRosa is a two-time transplant. He first moved to San Francisco where he got his start working in the kitchen of the historic Alioto’s at Fisherman’s Wharf. In 1998 he would relocate again, this time to Texas. In 2012 he opened Fulbelli’s Restaurant, located in Sherman, Texas.
In this episode, we discuss: the joy of taking on a challenge. The importance of mentors. The importance of asking questions. Patience in the kitchen. The importance of being a hands-on owner. Passion in the industry. Saying yes to customers. Pitching restaurant ideas to get investor interest. Taking a leap of faith. The importance of saving money. Word-of-mouth marketing. Lead by example.
Favorite Success Quote or Mantra.
“No is not in the vocabulary. Yes is the answer. What was the question?” Give everyone who walks through the door the same experience. If you have the ingredients in-house you can make any request happen.
Hospitality courses from the world’s best. Find short courses. Skill up. Become an expert. You’re the average of the 5 peoples you surround yourself with, now start surrounding yourself with the best in our industry.
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Career Challenge or Failure
“Waking up at 5 am to work all day every day and not seeing my family.”
Which “it factor” habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?
Dedication. Dedicate yourself to never let yourself fail. Customer service also.
What is your biggest weakness?
“Sometimes I’m too hard on my employees. I’ve learned that you need to adjust your leadership methods to the different learning styles of the people you are leading.”
What is one piece of advice you have for leading others?
Lead by example. Don’t treat people in a way you don’t want to be treated.
What’s one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?
Ask what 5 positive things one of your references would say about you. And what are 3 things you need to work on?
What’s a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?
Keeping a good core group in the back and front of the house. High turnover. I just don’t have the workforce. We are trying to make our training and interviewing process stronger.
What’s one thing (besides food) your restaurant does well and separates you from other restaurants?
Over 120 wines by the bottle. Over 45 wines by the glass. Two great bartenders who have bought into our mantra. Catering is starting to take off. Private dining rooms that seat up to 45. Gave into spending $2000 on brand new wine glasses and always get compliments on the glasses.
What’s one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?
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What’s one piece of technology you’ve adopted in your restaurant and how has it influence operations?
With all the knowledge you have now if you could go back in time and give your past self one piece of business advice, What would it be and why?
I would like to have traveled more and learned more from other cultures about their food.
Thanks for Listening!
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Huge thanks to Chef TJ LaRosa for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!