Archive for April, 2012

A chance to give back…

Monday, April 30th, 2012

On Wednesday, April 25th I had the pleasure to speak with the Restaurant/Bar Concept Development & Entrepreneurship class at my alma mater, the University of Denver, Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management. I am fortunate that I also sit on the Executive Advisory Board at the school and I take an extreme amount of pride in doing so. I try to take every opportunity to return to the school and share my expertise and when the invitation came to visit, I immediately jumped at the chance.

Assistant Professor, Dr. Cheri Young and Director, Operations Eric Lane are teaching a class on developing business plans and concept development, while working with a local entrepreneur to help him develop his gluten-free beer concept/brew pub. They asked me to give the students a consultant’s perspective, while helping to lead them in the right direction. What made this class special was that it only contained 8 students and all are seniors graduating in the next few months.

The professors let me know I would have the full 1 hour and 50 minutes of class to speak, conduct a question-and-answer session and true back & forth to engage the students, which I was extremely flattered by and definitely appreciated.

I tried to give the class a varied perspective overall, while guiding them through the process.  To start I shared with them my personal background and industry experience, including how important that the University of Denver was and remains to me.  Then, I had to give them a ‘reality check’ by driving home the point that passion will only get you so far, but focusing on ROI is a key with any concept and operation.  We then talked about the overall methodology of a business plan/concept statement, in broad terms and what was needed in this report.
The life of a consultant and what it means to be a consultant – this was an interesting conversation to have with 20-22 year old students soon to enter our industry.  This can sometimes be tough for people overall to grasp, since everyone believes that they can be a consultant.  On the value of experience – too many people call themselves consultants, however, few have the true time, knowledge and awareness of the industry to provide clients with an appropriate perspective and valued analysis.  Finally, I shared a case study by The Nyman Group of a former client of ours that showed the students the positives and negatives of the hospitality industry, along with a comprehension of how we do our job.
I finished speaking, talking about moving forward and their role in the hospitality industry upon graduation.  I let the students know that they could feel free to contact me directly and I would happily remain available to them should they have any questions that I could assist with.

I can’t wait to return to campus to visit with the students and more classes soon. Next trip will before our Spring EAB meeting, held the day before graduation and I will then have a chance to meet the graduating seniors and their families at the going away celebration. I’m thrilled I continue to have the chance to give back to the university and program that I love and care so deeply about. Don’t ever forget about the value your experience in your chosen industry has, especially for those who are just starting in the business – you have something to teach! Give back and share…



Seattle travels

Monday, April 9th, 2012

After a relatively quick flight from 82 degree and sunny Las Vegas, I landed in the Pacific Northwest where it was 50 degrees and rainy, but I was thrilled to be back in Seattle.  Once picked up from the airport, I headed to Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge in the heart of the Queen Anne neighborhood.  This New Orleans-style restaurant is always busy and especially packed during Brunch hours.  After having a true French Press coffee (delicious), I had placed in front of me a fantastic plate which was a Dungeness Crab, Asparagus & Chervil omelet with Mornay sauce and cheesy grits.  This heart attack on a plate, was amazingly light and rich at the same time and purely delicious.


Now being fortified, we headed to Woodinville (only 20 minutes outside of the city) to experience some wine tastings and winery visits.  Woodinville was always just a suburb of Seattle and farming/cattle town, however over the years, wineries that are almost all located on the Eastern side of the state, decided to start moving tasting rooms and operations closer to the big city to capitalize upon the population and ease of convenience for city dwellers.  This has been a fantastic boon for the Washington Wine Industry and continues to be well received overall.


DeLille Cellars – First stop and I believe my favorite, hands down.  I have been drinking their wines for many years, truly amazing flavors, consistency and varietals.  I think their wines are among the best in the world, and finally, more and more people are beginning to think so.  Being able to taste some of their single vineyard, Ciel du Cheval Syrah, 2008 was a true treat.  I think that every time I have a chance to drink or taste DeLille, I enjoy their wines more and more.


J. Bookwalter Tasting Studio

Glad that I had a chance to visit this tasting room as I have had their wines before, but didn’t have a lot of experience with them.  Overall, the room was just cold – from the people to the wines to the visit.  I know that they make good wine, however with the recent vintages, this has been put into question.


Otis Kenyon

This was my biggest surprise of the visit, as I hadn’t heard of them before and the with their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and a Red Blend, the Otis Kenyon wines are definitely on the rise.  Set back off of the road in a smaller wine village/tasting area, the tasting room was very quiet, however that allowed us more time to enjoy the wines, talk with the tasting room manager and one of the owners.


Sparkman Cellars

This winery was started by a gentleman who was and still is in the restaurant industry.  He saw a hole in the wine industry that he could take advantage of and now makes some even better wines.  Set in a Strip Mall, Sparkman is setup featuring a stand up bar, communal table and high-tops, more akin to a restaurant than a tasting room.  My highlight of this visit was their 2008 red blend – balanced, approachable and very fairly priced.


The Woodhouse Wine Estates

This is a collective of multiple wineries together in a more industrial area, including an open kitchen for entertaining, plenty of room for storage and production and open until 5pm, leaving plenty of time for tasting.  Their range starts at the very simple, introductory wines and goes up to bottles selling for hundreds of dollars.


Dinner Saturday night was over at RN74, a Michael Mina restaurant, to visit with a buddy who is their General Manager.  This is a very well designed restaurant, right on a major corner in downtown Seattle, with a modern, yet clubby feel and is of the moment for foodies in this country.  I started with a light, of the season Baby Beet salad with fine Goat Cheese Mousse and Pistachios – great flavor while not being too heavy at all as a first course.  They then sent us a mid-course as a gift, Michael’s signature of the restaurant, Ahi Tuna Tartare with Scotch Bonnet Pepper, Pine Nuts, Mint and Spiced Sesame oil – a different and welcome take on this style of dish, not citrus or soy based as most usually are.  For my entrée, I enjoyed some of the first Wild Halibut of the season, that had been roasted and served with a Wild Mushroom Broth and English Peas.


The next morning I had one of the best cups of coffee I had a chance to enjoy in years from Top Pot Doughnuts.  I unfortunately could not enjoy some of the delicious smelling doughnuts at this Seattle mainstay, however this fresh brewed Café Americano was rich in flavor, balanced in acid and a much needed start to my morning.  After walking the city, including the famed Pike Place Market – absolutely bustling on a misty and sunny, gorgeous Sunday morning, I hopped the Cascades train to Portland for a scenic ride down to Oregon and off to my next adventure…


Keep eating and drinking!