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February 14, 2018 Staff

Interview with Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine Founder Shawn Wenner

Learn more about Entrepreneurial Chef Founder Shawn Wenner.

It’s a stark reality that you’ll need more than “good food” to start a thriving restaurant or food truck. You’ll also need to develop business and marketing chops to keep your business open for the long haul. Unfortunately, these important skills aren’t usually taught in culinary school.

Enter Shawn Wenner, who after almost 10-years of working at a culinary arts school chose to start the Entrepreneurial Chef, a magazine and educational platform created to help close the gap between food and entrepreneurship. In today’s exclusive Q/A interview, we learn why Wenner set out to start the Forbes of the culinary industry and help a new generation of food entrepreneurs.

 

M&R: Tell us about yourself and the Entrepreneurial Chef.
Shawn: After close to a decade of working for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, the campus closed and I was forced to find a new path. A few sleepless nights and slight identity crisis later, I had a flash of insight. Knowing most culinary students started school with entrepreneurial ambitions, coupled with the fact I saw many struggle from a business and entrepreneurial standpoint post graduation, I conceptualized an educational platform focused on food entrepreneurship.
All in all, the platform was originally intended to be a website where successful food entrepreneurs shared actionable advice. Truthfully, I had no idea if icons of the industry would even be interested in talking about the business and entrepreneurial side of things, but quickly realized we hit a nerve and they’ve not only been willing, but extremely eager and supportive. It was never intended to become a national magazine, have a collaborative podcast, launch contests, and engage in the many things happening today.

Digital Cover of Entrepreneurial Chef.

 

M&R: Entrepreneur and chef… Those are two distinct career paths that people usually don’t put together. How did you come up with this concept why did you feel like there was a need in the market for this content?
Shawn: There were honestly about 10 different factors, and each played a part. However, at it’s core, having the ability to speak with hundreds and thousands of budding chefs through the years, it was apparent most had entrepreneurial ambitions. Couple that with entrepreneurship being a core interest with future generations, food being a staple in our society, and the restaurant industry going through challenges, I began seeing where budding chefs would have to find ways to diversify their talents and/or enhance their business knowledge if they truly wanted to live their passion full-time and not struggle financially.
M&R: What’s the mission of Entrepreneurial Chef? 
Shawn: It has always been, and will continue to be, an educational platform to bring ideas, inspiration, and actionable advice to those who possess cooking or baking skills and aspire to live off their art. It’s not just about “how to make money,” though a core of our content planning is around that topic. It’s about helping someone with a passion for food and serving others to monetize their passion and live on their terms – as cliche as it sounds.
And it’s not just for chefs like the title may indicate. Truly, if anyone possesses the unique ability to cook or bake well, we want to help them find a way to monetize their passion. The ultimate goal is our readers and community members take away enough information and inspiration that they reach their entrepreneurial ambitions.

 

M&R: In your opinion, what is one or two of the most interesting pieces you’ve published in the magazine and why?
Shawn: Jokingly, it’s like asking which kid you love best. What I learned early on is everyone has a unique start, angle, struggle, inflexion point, etc., and it’s been incredible hearing about them all. Everything from how the iconic Daniel Boulud was just an eager young man in America and decided to sell truffles on the side one holiday season, but didn’t know he was technically operating illegally due to his legal status at the time. Just imagine an icon like that way back when getting his hand slapped by diplomats and the confusion it caused – yet, he jokingly shared that he sold all his truffles amidst the confusion.
There are people like Chris Hill who became frustrated and wrote his “Dear Chefs” letter that went viral and catapulted his personal brand. Follow that by a powerhouse like Maneet Chauhan who shared the story of giving birth to her child 3 months early on the day her restaurant opened, and then worked in the restaurant with her husband while her child was in NICU – can you imagine? Maneet shared the raw reality of why timing is never perfect from an entrepreneurial standpoint, and you just have to adapt and overcome.
Every person we connect with has yet another story that inspires the next generation and I’m so blessed we have the opportunity to capture them and share.

 

M&R: What’s your longterm goal (say 5 years) for this publication? 
Shawn: It’s funny, someone once said, “Shawn, are you trying to be like the Forbes for the culinary industry,” and without skipping a beat I said, “You bet!” It’s a crazy thought, and pie in the sky vision, but we’re driving to become the go-to resource for food entrepreneurship as a whole.
There are super niche platforms who do incredible jobs creating awesome content that is very focused to a sub niche in food entrepreneurship, like FoodTruckEmpire for instance who goes super deep with Food Trucks. However, what I saw was a lack of platforms that bridged all types of food entrepreneurs together – food truck operators, personal chefs, caterers, restaurant owners, pastry entrepreneurs, specialty food product creators, food bloggers, cookbook authors, food stylists, etc. – so everyone can glean practical advice from one another. We’re driving to become that bridge in various ways from a media standpoint.

 

M&R: Where can people go to subscribe or learn more?

Shawn: For the magazine, under the name Entrepreneurial Chef, we have native apps in Apple Store, Google Play, and are listed on Amazon for Kindle devices. Our website is simply Entrepreneurial Chef and has a ton of info about the site, magazine, and more. Also, our collaborative podcast with Chef Chris Hill called Making the Cut is on iTunes and Stitcher.

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