Chef Shack: Growing your roots

Chefs Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson have grown their brand by investing in unique food trends, mentorship and training, and their local communities.

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Published: February 08, 2017

Transcript

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CARRIE SUMMER: 

The business of food is actually really personal. So everything we touch is a relationship between where the food comes from, the actual ingredients, our servers that are talking to our guests in the dining room, that come every weekend to dine. Everything is about a feeling and a relationship. 

LISA CARLSON: 

I believe that each interaction you can actually take that extra second of just communicating — you know, eye contact, kinds words, a smile — just that little thing that's going to just make this really short-term experience memorable. 

SUMMER: 

I'm Carrie, and this is Lisa. And we are New York City trained chefs turned restaurateurs, with three food trucks and two restaurants, in two different states.

So our travels very much have inspired our cuisines. So we're not doing typically straightforward, ethnic dishes, but we incorporate some of those flavors into American comfort food. 

Our plans in the beginning started out as something fun — a reflection of our travels, bringing some tasty street food at a very fair price to the public. And that is very much the core belief behind our brand.

CARLSON: 

It, it was a hobby, but it quickly, within maybe six months, turned into something that was going to be our future. We had no business plan, but what we had were, you know, customers and lines.

I think after the success with our first season at the farmers market, Carrie was really watching the trends on the East and the West Coast. Seeing a few chefs buying up trucks and very much encouraging me to go mobile. 

SUMMER: 

Take this show on the road.

CARLSON: 

Yeah. That is what you said.

SUMMER: 

[Laughs.]

CARLSON: 

[Laughs.]

SUMMER: 

So back in 2007 we obtained our first loan from Wells Fargo to buy our first truck. And that was the start of the journey.

CARLSON: 

Financially, I think we’ve taken really small steps, really safe steps moving forward. We just really watched our growth and we made steps that seemed safe to us.

SUMMER: 

Our staff is really important to us. Our core philosophy is they're very much family members. We are a pretty small team, so everybody needs to do a little bit of everything.

For us as leaders we talk a lot about what the job entails. Strong definitions, I think, help employees feel secure in what is expected of them. It’s a collaboration. It’s not just an employee or a new hire. We have a partnership with our staff. 

Supporting many, many small farms and ranches is really important to us and our community. If we do not support them, we have no pipeline for our beautiful, beautiful product. 

CARLSON: 

We've had relationships with many of our farmers for many years, decades even. The farmers are the rock stars.

SUMMER: 

Yeah.

CARLSON: 

And it takes a little extra money to buy really high-end ingredients, really good ingredients, local ingredients. It might be a little bit more expensive, but it is about integrity. And I believe our brand has that integrity.

SUMMER: 

It is important for us to be involved in committees and supporting other entrepreneurs and business, and women in business. I think that's a part of giving back to community that most people know and appreciate. And I, I think we're very proud to do so.

CARLSON: 

I think with relationship to other entrepreneurs, sharing and collaborating with other, other entrepreneurs in our neighborhood, in our city, in our village here. It's, it's just been really important for us to keep those lines of communication open as things change and shift.

SUMMER: 

We're excited about more travel and continuing to watch the evolution of our brand — not more growth, but continuing to sustain what we do and do it well and consistently.

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