2009 International Chefs Congress Wrap-Up: Business Seminar Day Two

Rick Tramonto

Will Blunt of StarChefs.com moderated a candid discussion with top restaurateurs David Waltuck of Chanterelle and Rick Tramonto of Tru on how they have kept their businesses not only afloat but wildly successful. The themes they kept returning to were the importance of valuing your customers and your staff, and staying true to yourself. "You can't be everything to everyone," explained Waltuck. "The latest trend or whatever is in the moment is not necessarily what you want to follow. You have to start out with a very strong individual feeling about what it is you want to do and try to learn it." Waltuck and Tramonto offered advice on ways to keep the physical appearance of the restaurant fresh, keeping staff happy, and staying in the eye of the media (Tramonto and his partner Pastry Chef Gale Gand coordinate so each year one of them publishes a book). In fact, the two chefs got along so famously that Tramonto invited Waltuck to join him for his Main Stage presentation on Tuesday.

In this exciting panel discussion, food writer Francis Lam was joined by Grant Achatz of Alinea, Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ, and Antoinette Bruno of StarChefs.com. The four discussed the ways that they utilize Twitter, from the practical (letting customers know where your food truck is parked) to the esoteric (bouncing ideas off followers). Although each panelist uses the social media in a different way, they all agree that its value is as a two-way communication device, not a way to let people know your every move. Choi uses Twitter to get feedback on menu items, Achatz uses it as an integral part of his creative process, and Bruno exchanges ideas and inspirations with chefs. Lam summed it up when he said, "It's not about promotion per se, it's a source of creativity. [H]onesty is there first and the authenticity of your own interest is first."

by Amanda McDougall, Katherine Martinelli, Emily Bell, and Carolina Daza Carreño