We just found out about this grant program today and we're a little behind the times. We need to garner at least 250 votes on their website by tomorrow night in order to qualify so we're asking everyone to please take a couple of minutes and visit the Mission: Small Business℠ site and log in with Facebook. (There is no other log in option besides Facebook.) Once logged in, you can search for our business to vote.
In case you're curious here are our answers to the essay questions on the grant application. That way you'll know what you're voting for. 250 votes gets us to the next round to qualify for a $250,000 grant to expand Ideas in Food. If you like what we do here please take a couple of minutes to give us your vote. Thanks!
1. Tell us about your business; how successful is it and why is it unique?
Ideas in Food is an education based culinary consulting company. We saw a need to provide continuing education for chefs and cooks and this naturally spilled over to the avid home cooks. We teach private workshops, tailored to the individual and focusing on learning the techniques, understanding ingredients and increasing creativity. We also work with food service companies and restaurants to help improve knowledge and efficiency in order to make better food in different circumstances while adhering to the bottom line. We believe that knowledge allows cooks to be better technicians and be creative and innovative in their own kitchens. In this same vein we bring avant-garde restaurant techniques to the home kitchen, and document it all on our blog. One day it might be breaking down a duck and using all of the parts in different ways and another it might be exploring the use of tapioca starch and guar gum in ice creams. We stage classes and demonstrations at locations around the country including Le Sanctuaire in San Francisco, El Ideas in Chicago, Astor Wine and Spirits in New York City. We keep a hand in the current restaurant scene by participating in in a series of guest chef dinners working with a roster of chefs that include George Mendes, Michael Voltaggio, Dominique Crenn, David Chang, Daniel Patterson, Tony Maws, Wiley Dufresne, Sean Brock, Alex Stupak, Ken Oringer, and Carlo Mirarchi. We’ve traveled around the world to present at a variety of professional conferences including International Association of Culinary Professionals, Star Chefs, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, The Arts Institutes, The Experimental Cuisine Collective at NYU and the Food Hydrocolloid Conference.
2. How is your business involved with the community you serve?
We have a hands-on approach to working with clients and other like-minded individuals. Our website, www.ideasinfood.com is a hub for ideas and information on all aspects of food. We have a constant dialogue with cooks and chefs around the world via the website and Twitter and their questions often lead us to new breakthroughs that we are happy to share. We love the open source aspect of Ideas in Food and have found that giving away ideas in invaluable because the inspirations come back to us a hundredfold. We have a book, Ideas in Food, Great Recipes and Why They Work, published by Clarkson Potter and another book, also with Clarkson Potter, in the works, to be published in August 2013. In the past year we have written pieces for Gilt Taste, Popular Science, Food 52 and Aroma Magazine. Our belief is that knowledge is empowering and a collaborative community fosters innovation and inspiration. We’d like to take our individual workshops to the next level and offer a set program of larger classes that will appeal to different chefs in addition to the bespoke workshops focusing on individual menus and areas of interest. 3. What would the Grant mean to your business plan and how would you utilize the funds to ensure long-term growth and stability?
The grant would give us the opportunity to expand the business and establish a permanent space where we can host culinary programs from 2-5 days for chefs and cooks to come and learn new skills and increase creativity. Currently we are teaching classes out of our small workshop. The grant would let us move to space designed for slightly larger classes and events, with rooms to offer the participants and their families to stay in. We’d like to establish a diverse, hands-on curriculum of topics including whole animal butchery, flavor pairings, menu development, no-knead baking and food styling, where we include guest chefs and instructors to teach classes based on their specific skill set and professional cooks, chefs and enthusiastic amateurs can come to learn, inspire, and be inspired. Avenues for continuing education in the food service industry are scant and we think that it is one of the most important ways that all cooks can keep their edge and enthusiasm in the kitchen. It’s a tough industry and time off tends to be devoted to loved ones, so if we can create a family friendly space where chefs can come to learn and their families can be with them, perhaps exploring the area during the day and joining them in the evenings for meals that are the direct result of their classes and culinary activities they will be able to integrate all of their passions into one trip.
Mental stimulation and new experiences are so important for chefs. There’s no way to overstate the fact. We need to stretch and grow in order to stay motivated and inspired. During the course of our workshops we’ve often heard that the experience rejuvenates a chef’s creativity and gets them excited to get back into their own kitchens. Instead of focusing only on smaller, individual workshops, a large space will also allow us to bring people together in a creative environment to learn from one another and become inspired from the group interaction.
3. What types of challenges can you identify with your business plan and how will you overcome them?
The biggest challenge will be finding the space and putting the program in place. Through our business we have an extensive network of chefs, writers, photographers, and beverage professionals that we can draw upon to teach classes. Instructors who design their own classes, will be able to share very specific skill sets and will be able to bring their own passion to the venue. It’s a unique opportunity for people in the business to learn from one another and get to know each other. While there are a few professional conferences where chefs can go to network and learn from each other, there is something special about smaller groups and real conversations that can take place when people are working side by side and sharing an experience. We like facilitating connections and bringing people together. It’s our hope that these small group classes will allow people to build relationships that they will take back into their kitchens and help foster the culinary community. We may need to start off in a bare bones environment and rely on the students and instructors to create the atmosphere instead of focusing on luxury accommodations and state of the art kitchens. Fortunately we already bring a fair amount of equipment to the table and are not afraid to bargain or exchange skills and services in order to make things happen.
4. Describe the talent on your team and how they make your business successful?
Ideas in Food is a partnership run by Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot. We both bring our separate and combined passions to the business. We are driven to create an environment where we can share the principles necessary to create the most delicious food possible. Alex is a wonderful presenter; good at making tough topics seem approachable and drawing people into experiments and discussions. He loves to solve problems and culinary mysteries are his specialty. He is very good at negotiating a deal and drawing people into partnerships. Aki is the writer, working slightly more behind the scenes to organize and explain how things work. She is very good at intuiting what people need and moving to provide that extra level of service. We both have backgrounds in restaurants and catering. Additionally we helped open and run a boutique hotel in Colorado giving us intimate knowledge of the amount of work and the level of operations that will be needed to make our dream come true. We both work hard to get the most out of our teams, encouraging them to be better and empowering them to be able to create a great experience for every guest and student. We lead by example and try to inspire those we work with. We continuously ask what is possible and share the process we travel to get there. Our greatest gifts are the abilities to share knowledge and bring people together.
5. Anything you'd like to add?
This grant would be a game changer for us. We have steadily grown our business for the last four years and it has crystallized our dream of this culinary center where chefs and cooks can come together in a slightly more relaxed environment to share ideas and techniques and play in the kitchen. It's a chance for food service professionals to recharge their batteries and learn about new ingredients and techniques. We want to a create a learning vacation spot specifically tailored to a group of people who's careers depend on their ability to stay current, well informed and able to inspire their own teams.
A big THANK YOU to everyone who voted for us. We made the 250 and are still gathering votes to let the selection committee know that we have the support of our community. We can't tell you how much it means to us that you were able to help us get to the next level. Fingers crossed that the judges like our business plan. We'll keep you posted.
June 29, 2010