By strange coincidence, I know a lot of people starting restaurants. Some are friends, some are family members, and some I’ve just gotten to know because I eat at their restaurants all the time. One is a world class chocolate company, another is a pizza place, another is a shave ice stand, and another is a sushi chef.
They all have two things in common. First is that they are absolutely world class. I travel enough and eat enough food that I know what’s good and what isn’t, and all of them are literally as good as it gets within their field. The second thing that they all have in common is that they didn’t have backgrounds in food.
Once or twice is a fluke, but to see so many world class food companies start from inexperienced people really got me thinking.
I noticed that they all had the exact same approach. They all sourced the very best ingredients possible. The shave ice is all organic fruit and sugar, with no flavors or dyes. The pizza place cold-called the most famous meat supplier and got them to make them a special pepperoni blend. The sushi chef, who operates out of his mom’s house, flies in the best ingredients from around the world.
They also all cared. I don’t think I quite understood just how little most restaurants care until I saw how some of these people operate. They take pride in what they serve, they see it as an extension of themselves, and they care about learning their craft. All of them are constantly trying new things. The shave ice place is always testing new flavors; the pizza place is making totally different types of pizzas, most of which never make it to the menu; the sushi chef experiments with dry aging and unusual fish.
It turns out that excellence is attainable if you just get the right ingredients and care enough to learn and iterate until you get a good enough product. Maybe that’s not true for every single food, but the cross section that I’ve seen is so broad that I suspect it probably is. It’s also probably true for a lot of other fields. Sett wasn’t anywhere near excellent as a business, but we wrote it ten years ago, stopped working on it seven years ago, and it’s still ahead of its time in many regards. Minaal backpacks and Wool and Prince clothes are excellent because they used the best materials and cared enough to make something great.
Once you realize this, you’re forced to confront the idea that most people just don’t care. A meal isn’t bad because it couldn’t be good, it’s because no one cared to make it good enough, or they cared more about squeezing a little more margin out and hoped that you wouldn”t notice.
Realizing this puts a lot more in reach. You don’t need skills or background to make something excellent, you just have to find the right raw materials and care enough to put in the work to make it great.
Photo is the sushi I mention in the post.
No Tea Time with Tynan tomorrow, but we’ll be back in a week with Tea Time with Tynan #5. Please join and chat with me and other readers!