The State of the Meatball Address
March 16, 2011
Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.- Stephen Kaggwa
Can two chefs who have spent years in the service industry, barely making over minimum wage realize the dream of starting their own business? It’s a question I ask myself in my darkest moments.
Ceasar, my business partner, is a professional dreamer. I am generally a realist (skeptic?), but in the last few years I’ve become an optimist-in-training. I am blessed to have wonderful people around me who encourage me to follow my dreams. We share the same vision of success.
I left a lucrative career in the corporate world to follow my passion for food and serving people. While some might find this crazy, I found it fulfilling. I had to give up the new car, the vacations, the carefree spending but I gained so much more in return. I started my journey as a personal chef, but discovered that I missed working with people. That led me to take yet another pay cut and offer my services to help a friend manage her restaurant. She told me from the beginning that she wasn’t in the position to pay me much, but I thought of it as a glorified internship. I will always feel blessed that she gave me the opportunity. I learned so much, but most of all I learned that I LOVE the restaurant industry.
About that partner: I met Chef Ceasar Reyes at this restaurant. Ceasar is larger than life, with a quick sense of humor, positive attitude and amazing cooking skills! He loves to be in the kitchen. We can be balls to the wall busy, with a full restaurant crowded, around a 100 degree plus grill, but he never tires. He just turns up the music and sings off loudly (and off tune), keeping the kitchen running like a well-oiled machine. Nothing phases this, guy which is amazing considering the trials he has endured, as documented in his bother Rudy’s book Hero Living. I often call him the Indomitable Ceasar. He dreams, he dreams big and he doesn’t let anything stand in the way.
When the restaurant we were working in—like so many other businesses—felt the sting of a slow economy, we were gently told that we may need to start looking for part-time work elsewhere. I had already been grappling with my next step, knowing this wasn’t my final destination; and Ceasar has always dreamed of owning a restaurant. We worked well together and knew that we be wonderful partners. We began to narrow down the concepts and became very excited about the possibility of a mobile food truck. (Of course Ceasar’s dream is fleet of mobile trucks. See? Big dreams!) Realizing the enormous startup costs associated with opening a restaurant, we agreed that a mobile kitchen just might be something we could pull off. We began to get more and more excited as every detail seemed to fall into place. When we discovered Kickstarter, a community funding program, we knew we had to give it a shot. We both like the idea of not just asking for donations, but giving something back as well. We have been overwhelmed by the contributions we’ve received thus far, but even more so by the support of everyone we meet. Seemingly everyone wants to lend a helping hand. It’s unbelievably inspiring.
So will we be able to finance our dream with Kickstarter? We’ll know in just a matter of weeks. If not, it doesn’t mean we will quit trying. Dreams precede goals. And we are dreaming of MEATBALLS!