My 8 Suggestions
If five years ago they told me I would be able to make of barbecue my main business, I would definitely have refused to believe it. Let’s face it, this does not mean I have not been motivated in what I was doing. Indeed, such a subtle sector as the one in which I’m working, perhaps need even more conviction and willpower. You need to be aware that the effort is double: you do not just have to develop your own work, but also to help in building the context in which it operates. Doing what I do is not the fruit of who knows what strategy or planning, and as it often happens in life, certain opportunities and consequently certain choices, come true for a series of astral alignments on which our role is quite modest. As they say, you have to be in the right place at the right time, but this is not always a choice.
Whatever the way I reached this point, the more the years go by, the more people tell me, “I would also like to do your job. How should I do for achieving that?” That is an absolutely legitimate question, but it is a somewhat simplistic view of the thing and it does not take into account an infinite number of factors, not least the 1000 negative aspects of this work. Let’s clarify that: I’m very happy with what I do, who would not want to live doing a job he loves? But when asking me questions like this, I can not avoid to be completely sincere and try to argue as far as I can about a response that really makes sense. So I though of doing a post in which to list the eight factors to consider when taking this way, with some advice coming from some small inevitable scar that has helped me to grow.
- I fortunately start to see the first professional training courses but today it can not be said there is a real structured training path and the real school is still the the street. I know it’s a bit a vintage expression and seems to be just taken out of a film by Francis Ford Coppola but it’s the truth. As far as you can be ambitious, my advice is to start your professional career as a hobby without setting specific economic goals and focusing on learning. Talk to people doing courses or public events or catering and ask them permission to join them. There is no better school than that. Accumulate experience without hesitation and without giving you deadlines, aware that it will not be worth economically. See it as the old role of the shop boy or as the modern apprentice if you want. If you are good and learn quickly, sooner or later an opportunity arrives.
- You at home can be the indisputable neighborhood idol, you could have successfully taught at a thousand friends, you could have feed 100 guests at a barbecue dinner with relatives, but that does not mean you’re ready to do it as a job. Making it a trade is another matter, it is simply based on other rules you inevitably are not used to. For example, manage a course means knowing that three recipes for 20 people, cooked simultaneously on as many devices will have to be ready with that lineup, within a maximum time and that you will have to explain a fluent theory while your hands are quickly moving for preparing them and while you will be tempted by the most absurd questions. And in all of this you’ll need to be aware that your course will work only if you can get the “WOW” effect, that means is not enough that the result is good, it must be nothing less than perfect. It’s not as easy as it looks and the object is no longer about knowing how to cook but knowing how to be multitasking. The same distinction applies, of course, to catering, events and so on. My advice is: whatever your starting level, if you have never done it in public, you are not objectively ready. So approach your path with all the humility you are capable of.
- When you see Bottura awarded as the best chef in the world, it’s easy to think that you want to be a cook. It is a little less if you look hi to get out of his restaurant at 3am on Sunday morning, aware that in a few hours he will have to be back. Doing that job, however, unfortunately involves both things and between the two only the second is given for sure. Likewise, whether you choose to start a catering business or open a barbecue joint, whether you want to throw yourself into the business of public courses or events, you should quote that it is a job that takes place mainly on Saturdays and Sunday. Being able to live with that, means developing volumes that in the good season, from April to October, will not leave you a single free weekend and will often run at the limits of the sustainable. If you have a family, it is not an easy condition. My advice is therefore to take that road only if everyone around you is aware of what it involves.
- It is a sector that defining as “budding” is euphemistic. This is a good thing because it allows you to be able to occupy the opening space as first but it also takes some problems. The first one is definitely related to the perceived value of your work by those who pay you. As “evolved” may be your interlocutor, you will always be a kind of B-type cook, a thing that looks like a “real” professional in some way, but “has to” cost a lot less. Even if you feel the opposite at the beginning, trust me, sooner or later you will be unleashed in this vision. I would like to suggest you to go to see a Montemagno video about how to claim the right recognition for your work but here we are in real life. The advice I give you is instead to prepare mentally to accept compromises, especially at the beginning. Then put them in a budget and do not expect bridges of gold as much as you can be good.
- As it grows fast, the BBQ business is still as big as the spit of a fly. Creating sufficient volumes to develop sufficient revenue to you live with them it is not easy at all. I know very good friends who have identified the hyper specialization in streetfood events as a solution, achieving great results by knocking any square to promote their product. I personally have more than the idea of diversifying as much as possible and of trying to be present in every single branch, so as to grasp the opportunities of each and to have a vision that is as wide as possible. Whichever way you want to go, get into the business that you will really need a lot of work, do not think you can sit down waiting for it to rain on you.
- Like all the current economy, especially on the young business, even the Barbecue one is in continuous ferment. As I said before, if I think of what has happened in the last 5 years, not believing, the world has changed completely at least three times. The point is that it is difficult to define the strong points on which to anchor. What is absolutely true today could not be so tomorrow. My advice is to try to be as versatile and flexible as possible, to keep an eye on how it moves around it and to change accordingly. Conservative or hesitate attitudes could be a big limit.
- Do your own accounts for, but do it on a year base. Although the curve goes luckly flat year after year, we are still talking about a sector with a strong seasonal incidence. This means that from April to October if you succeed, you will have to try not to not sleep even at night to make as many events as possible and put hay in the farm for the winter months, when you will definitely have a little more time to dedicate to the family but definitely less job opportunities.
- Depending on which branch of industry you choose, different regulations should be applied. As often happens in Italy, some of these have not been created by thinking of this specific sector and their application is in some extent an interpretation. At least in the beginning, it is presumed that it does not matter to you except in a very marginal way. My advice, however, is you to provide with a certificate for food handling. There are courses that can be done online from one of the many licensed organizations and at a very derisive cost of less than € 50. To understand us, at a regulatory level, you will not be able to do anything with that except to be able to play the role of servant for the person who really organizes the event. Even at an instructive level, it won’t be very useful taking you very simple notions that if you are keen on cooking you should already know abundantly. But this is a great business card, the hosts will have a little worry less to think about, and it does not cost you almost anything to do. See it like presenting yourself to an interview wearing a tie.
If you have read the 8 points well, and you are aware of their content, you may be ready to jump. Have you ever thought about it? Which branch would you like to operate in?