Food News

Chef to Chef: Nov. 11 Industry Event Will Discuss Restaurant Ownership

Misti Norris, Reyna Duong, Joel Orsini, Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman and Donny Sirisavath
Misti Norris, Reyna Duong, Joel Orsini, Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman and Donny Sirisavath Dallas Observer
The Industry Sessions series has been going on across the United States and is making its final stop of the year in Dallas.

While those of us who eat more than cook in restaurants may see chefs mentioned here whom we love and get all fan girl about, this one’s really for those working in the restaurant industry.

The Nov. 11 event is titled Many Paths to Restaurant Ownership, with "ownership" having a couple of different meanings. (Not so fast, wannabe-investor. This isn’t really geared for you either.)

“The whole idea is, if you’re in the restaurant business, maybe you’re working as a cook or maybe a busboy, and you want to own your own restaurant one day, even if it’s not a concrete, finite plan, these sessions are really helpful,” says food writer Ivy Knight.

Knight hosts these events, having so far dropped in to Toronto, Miami, Chicago, Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Panelists for our Dallas event will include Misti Norris (Petra and the Beast), Reyna Duong (Sandwich Hag), Joel Orsini (Allevare), Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman (Jose) and Donny Sirisavath (Khao Noodle Shop).

Those names are ones we know well, and they’re also in the younger crowd of our Dallas chefs — and you’ll see missing from this list some “establishment” types.

“The way I try to pick the chefs in each city is to find chefs who are really a part of the restaurant community. A chef who has restaurants in a bunch of different cities and doesn’t live in the city wouldn’t be ideal for me,” Knight says. “Chef Reye is a great example: She knows everybody in the city, they all know her, she’s really well connected and friends with everyone.”

Knight did note the list is short, saying she has to keep it to five or six people but that she plans to come back next year.

Duong hopes this is another platform to share a story she’s already sharing with others. One example: When we wrote about Sandwich Hag more than a year and half ago, she was driving every morning to pick up bread for banh mi. After national readership from Bon Appétit’s coverage of her shop, she’s still making that schlep (sharing some days with another employee). It’s a constant hustle.

“I think there's a lot of behind the scenes that people aren't aware of ... building it from scratch, I try to do what I can to show those or the hardships of restaurant ownership and getting to it. And I hope that an attendee would say, ‘OK, there are so many different ways, there’s no right or wrong,’” she says.

“I hope that the takeaway is that with a good product and proper planning and ultimately the drive and passion, you, too, can make it happen. There’s no conventional way, you don’t have to have huge capital investors. ... If this is what you really want, no one can talk you out of it, that I know for a fact.”

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Food writer Ivy Knight
Ivy Knight
For someone like Quiñones-Pittman, who hasn't had ownership of a restaurant, there's a different angle, Knight says.

"So the title is Many Paths to Restaurant Ownership, and with AQ, we're going to talk about how to own a restaurant when you're not the actual owner, as in when you're the chef of a restaurant, how to own the kitchen and how to dictate the culture of the kitchen," she says.

Ticket prices are $10 — as Knight says, it’s designed to be accessible to anyone working in the industry. With that ticket, you’ll hear from these chefs and have bites from Momo Shack and Nood Boyz, two companies recommended by Duong.

“I wanted it to be another opportunity for me to support the folks that don’t always get the light,” she says.

Another one who got some BA fame recently, Sirisavath, is eager to show his own experience.

“I feel honored to be a part of this talk, especially being the new kid on the block to attend with some elite chefs,” he says. “I hope people will understand that struggles are real and that you need to build a solid foundation and team; understand that passion will get you there, but what keeps you going is your drive to become successful.”

While proceeds from this series usually go to the nonprofit Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, proceeds from the Dallas event will go toward Duong’s fundraiser for her recent medical emergency (a bit of info she didn’t seem to know when we spoke to her). The presenting sponsor, TouchBistro, will match dollars raised from ticket sales to the event, Knight says.

From the chefs to Knight, the goal is that those who come in with a yen to open their own restaurant walk out with a bit more useful information.

“There are no college courses for how to open a restaurant; it’s really only something you can learn from people who’ve done it,” Knight says. "From the feedback I’ve heard, they’re always really grateful.”

The Industry Sessions: The Many Paths to Restaurant Ownership will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at GoodWork, 1808 S. Good Latimer Expressway in the Cedars. $10.
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Taylor Adams has written about the restaurant industry for the Dallas Observer since 2016. Now the Observer's food editor, she attended Southern Methodist University before covering local news at The Dallas Morning News.