Kanida Chey: A Non-flickering Entrepreneurial Spirit + Tips for Success in The Kitchen/Food Industry
‘They don’t make them like they used to any more’! Think about the food your mom or grandmother made when you were growing up, don’t you miss it? Don’t you wish that restaurants and chefs would take their time to prepare sweet, well-cooked and filling meals rather than rush through the cooking process?
Well, it turns out that Kanida Chey had the same thoughts you did and decided to do something about it. Instead of complaining, this chef took it upon himself and with the help of his partner, took cooking back to the days when patience and love were virtues held with high regard in the world of cooking.
This Toronto based chef and the co-owner of Branca resolved to take on this entrepreneurial journey and introduced an old Argentinian cooking style into the pompous Canadian Food scene. How was the reception? Well, Kanida Chey and his partner made their dream a success introducing a menu with slow-cooked foods made using locally available products.
Speaking of success, Kanida Chey and James Bateman’s restaurant, Branca, which has been on the market for just over two years already bagged three awards while dealing with firewood and smoke. Branca won Toronto’s Most Romantic Restaurant, the Top New Restaurant and Toronto’s Top New Restaurant in the West End.
If you are a budding chef, you may be wondering how Branca did it and what it takes to be a successful chef in the food industry. Well, it’s your lucky day as we have all the answers. We caught up with Kanida Chey and here are his thoughts on his entrepreneurial journey and what you can do to succeed:
Hi, Chef KanidaChey, thank you for making time to speak to us. Could you say that being entrepreneurial helped you get to where you are?
As a sous chef, I always knew I wanted to own and run a restaurant with my name on it or the papers. Thanks to this entrepreneurial spirit, I have been able to work on some of Toronto’s best restaurant projects. I have been able to create new and unique food concepts uncommon to Toronto’s food scene.
As an entrepreneur, your willingness to learn determines whether you succeed or not. As an entrepreneur, learning takes place out of a classroom and in the real world. In the process, I have traveled to most parts of the world where I’ve educated myself on different food cultures. I employ and add a few tweaks to what I have learned always creating great food. It is also through travel that I got the freedom to peruse most of the projects I was passionate about. Because of immersing myself in the real world, learning how different cooking styles work, we have Branca.
What are your tips for success to young entrepreneurs?
Over the years, I have learned from my fair share of mistakes but, over the years, these are the things that will make your kitchen/ food industry business successful:
You must be honest with the food you create. Mention what is on the plate but also, learn to take criticism and learn from them. While being honest, work hard to create the best food and be in pursuit of knowledge relentlessly. Though you won’t ever know everything, you should set a pace for constant growth. Also, set a standard for your service and never hit below that standard. Everything you do now defines your future as a chef or the owner of a restaurant.
Listen to your customers
Everybody is a foodie nowadays, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, you shouldn’t shy away from or ignore criticism. You should always listen and evaluate the comments made by your customers because your ego isn’t a strong foundation to build your business on. This is important because you won’t have a restaurant without those customers. At the end of your day, you need your customers to leave the restaurant happy. You are in the hospitality business, and it’s your role to be hospitable.
To stand out in the food industry, you need to be unique. I believe that different is important and applying different cooking techniques using interesting ingredients keeps your guests and your staff engaged. Noting that people spend lots of money in restaurants, make it worth it; you don’t want your guests to leave feeling uninterested and bored. For new ideas, travel, research and stay up-to-date with food knowledge. In my case, pursuing uniqueness means pushing the envelope in pursuit of greatness. Great chefs are leaders, not followers.
Kanida Chey, what is the importance of reviews?
I have mixed views on reviews – while they are important for new restaurants, reviews aren’t everything. Even though great reviews create a surge in business, the quality of your product will still matter at the end of the day. At the same time, the industry is small, the reviews are basic, and even the harshest critiques give glowing reviews to their inner circle.
So, instead of what others write, I look at the bottom line – are we busy, are the staff happy, are the costs in line and do the customers leave feeling happy and content? A pursue of reviews leaves the important question of whether you are running a profitable business or not. You don’t have to undercharge, over staff, and worse, waste food to get high reviews otherwise, you’ll close shop in less than a year.
Here is what in I believe, it is better to get compliments because of your hard work but you shouldn’t rip out your heart and soul while at it. At the end of the day, ask yourself this, was that the best dish I could have put out?