377: Creating a culture that supports growth Kirk Kelewae

In this episode, we discuss how Kirk Kelewae got his start in hospitality, never-ending transitional moments, rewarding ambition, taking initiative, creating opportunities for yourself, creating a culture where people feel they can contribute and grow, why mentoring is a “two-way street”,  how to make special experiences, establishing trust with your guest, the transition to management, why being management means you have to work even harder, how to critique a best friend, the importance of opening yourself up to feedback, how to management managers, why you should never higher someone just to “fill a role” and transitioning from fine-dining to fast-casual.


Kirk Kelewae is a graduate of Cornell University where he studied Hospitality Administration and Management. In 2008 he joined the team at the Eleven Madison Park as a food runner, which lead to becoming Dining Room Manager, which lead to becoming service director, which eventually lead to becoming General Manager. In 2017 Eleven Madison Park earned the #1 spot on the San Pellegrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurants. Today, Kirk GM at Made Nice.


Show notes…

Favorite Success Quote or Mantra.

“Make it nice.”


Today’s Sponsor


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Career Challenge or Failure

Kirk made the mistake of just highering anyone to fill a role. Never lower your standard on people.

Knowledge bombs

  1. Which “it factor” habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?

    • Unapologetic work ethic.
  2. What is your biggest weakness?

    • Too charitably assuming.
  3. What is one piece of advice you have for leading others?

    • Be human and vulnerable.
  4. What’s one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?

    • Look for genuinely interesting people.
    • Do they light up when you talk to them?
  5. What’s a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?

    • refining the identity of Made Nice.
  6. What’s one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?

  7. What’s one piece of technology you’ve adopted in your restaurant and how has it influence operations?

  8. 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?

    1. Don’t be married to an idea- be open-minded to new ideas.

Contact Info

website: www.madenicenyc.com

Thanks for Listening!

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Huge thanks to Kirk Kelewae for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!