Let’s start a movement of getting rid of food waste by feeding people that are starving. We all waste so much food everyday especially grocery stores and yet we still have starvation and poverty problem with our food system. Also, we need to make food more affordable, getting rid of GMO’s, plastic, and giving back to our earth, soils, and farmers to work hard to being us this food in the first place. We are poisoning our own people out own race and it’s disgusting! Lets all work together to put a stop to this. Together we are the most powerful system there is.
Ihad the pleasure to interview Austin and Tony Ferrari. Austin Ferrari began his career in the restaurant world at a very early age. He worked his way up through FOH and BOH at reputable restaurants in Cincinnati, and found himself interested more and more in the steps of service, beverage, and management. At the age of 16, Austin started tasting, reading, and studying more about wine and viticulture, which led him to join the team at the iconic Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. During his years at Chez Panisse restaurant, Austin acquired a business degree at the city college of Berkeley and traveled to Europe multiple times to study wine, its origins, and the production. While leading the beverage program at Hillside Supper Club he acquired his sommelier certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Austin opened Provender Coffee & Food in San Francisco 2015 and has taken that knowledge to his hometown of Cincinnati, where, along with brother Tony, he oversees The Ferrari Barber & Coffee Co., Mom ‘n ’Em Coffee and Fausto restaurant. While running all the outposts, Austin also overseas all the operations and growth of the Ferrari Bros. brand.
Tony Ferrari is a successful chef, restaurateur, and lifestyle personality. He was inspired to become a chef during his first kitchen job at the age of 13, washing dishes and making fresh pasta after school. He later graduated from culinary school at Johnson and Wales University, and worked at a variety of notable Miami restaurants before travelling to Europe to learn about old world technique and culinary traditions. Ferrari then received a James Beard and Jean Louis Palladin Foundation grant to travel to Thailand and the west coast to study holistic farming, cooking, and agriculture. Today he splits his time between San Francisco where he owns Hillside Supper Club and Provender Coffee, and his hometown of Cincinnati where he owns The Ferrari Barber & Coffee Co., Mom ‘n ’Em Coffee and Fausto restaurant. His current project is Ferrari Bros, a brand that represents real estate, lifestyle, hospitality, travel, and consulting. He can be found riding his Ducati, at food and wine events, or tinkering with his vintage car collection.
Thank you so much for joining us Austin and Tony! Do you have a specialty?
Our specialty really is cooking good food with a purpose from farmers who care about the ingredients and use clean fair farming methods. We like to cook everything with the seasons with a focus on casual, simple, well prepared cuisine. We always felt new American and or California style was a great way to explain our food.
What drew you to that type of food?
First a foremost supporting the bigger picture, building relationships with farmers and producers, feeding people food that is actually healthy and good for them, being able to identify with it. We also did not want to be stuck with one type of cuisine, French, Italian etc., although these are vast cuisines with multiple techniques and recipes at the end of the day its still cooking one type of style and we didn’t want to be stuck with that. We think the versatility of always changing, and creating new ways to cook things is fun and exciting too.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef?
Oh man these could go on forever but growing up and finding our voice in the industry has been the most interesting thing to look back on, when younger we always wanted to be the best, and put together dishes that had a millions sauces, ingredients, and had big heads, nowadays we just believe in what we do, and cook food that we love to eat and believe in, we don’t want to be the best anymore we just want to make people happy, give others opportunity, and give back to our communities as much as possible.
The funniest story and well scary, quite frankly, was when we first opened our restaurant in San Francisco on Valentine’s Day our oven went kaput and was leaking gas, we opened all the doors and windows, and continued cooking on butane burners and induction since we had to shut off the gas on the busiest night of the year. At the end of the night we made it through somehow and just laughed about it really that’s all we could do!
Can you share with us a story about your grit and resilience? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
We started at a very young age in this industry and think that’s been the hardest for us through it all. No one wanted to believe a young chef could run his own restaurant, or be a chef, or take responsibility it was always based on age instead of dedication and heart. This business is all we know and all we have done our whole lives, we did it out of love, and necessity as we had to work for what we wanted so that’s what we did. We had to work harder to prove ourselves, and by doing that learned self control, passion, and have been drilled like machines to work until you cant physically do it anymore and never give up, it was tough for us and still is at times. We are relentless and don’t take no for an answer, we think that’s a big part of why we are so successful, we always found a way to make it work and get what we needed to continue. Through that, we always impressed the right people that started respecting us as young entrepreneurs, and helped us through some of the hard times. Raising money was tough because we were young and had no credit, no assets, only sweat equity and banks didn’t’ care about that. we had to be very creative to beat these obstacles, also getting older staff to work for us and respect our ways of doing things and standards but we worked hard and are very open minded and took suggestions seriously, there is always something to learn!
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
It wasn’t easy but we knew we had a great product and an amazing story and that you cant deny or take from someone. We always knew there was light at the end of the tunnel and that perseverance would pay off, we also always had great people around us that kept pushing us to continue no matter how hard it got. the rest was easy after the hurdles.
So how did grit lead to your eventual success? How did grit turn things around?
Sometimes being nice doesn’t always pay off, grit shows you have skin in the game and take things seriously, we always meant business and everything was always about work. We also think being confident and showing mutual respect and professionalism goes a long way. Being a leader is different than being a boss, once you understand that the rest falls into place.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At the moment we want to focus on what projects we just opened and do have, we think expanding to fast can hurt ones brand more then better it, you have to have a great team in place to keep expanding. We would rather invest our time in our current locations and staff to keep building them up to their fill potential. We would rather have 2 places that are 100% then 6 that are 75% it defeats the purpose. We also want to get to the point where through our projects we can feed more people and be useful to our surroundings and communities, how can we feed everyone? How can we educate kids to eat healthy and identify ingredients, how can we employee and or create new positions for folks looking for work, how to be fix out broken food system? These are the types of things we are working on rather then opening more projects and more of us should work on this today rather then expanding too quickly.
In your experience, what is the key to creating the perfect dish?
There is no such thing as the perfect dish, however there is one that is a beautiful balance and more importantly created with mother earth in mind. Taking products from your local community that are in season, respecting them, cooking them correctly and feeding someone that enjoys it is the perfect dish, at least in our eyes!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Chef” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. That this industry would become and consume your life cause that’s what it does and not sure how anyone gets out of it for finds the perfect balance. We are currently trying to figure out how one can be a chef, restaurant owner, GM and still work normal work hours as the rest of the world and get paid a decent living wage. at some point this industry should be just a respected as others with balance and compensation.
2. That you would wear multiple hats everyday. Cooking, ordering, leading a team, unclogging toilets, changing light bulbs, hanging up curtains, events coordinator, appliance repair man, getting flowers for thee dining room, fixing broken tables etc. I thought we just had to cook!
3. How much influence you could have on a cook and or neighborhood for that matter. Being a chef has its ups and downs however the amount of joy I get from influencing others especially young cooks not only to cook better but teaching life skills, budgeting time and money, and all around just being a better more respectful person. as far as neighborhood goes with every great restaurant comes a great hub to a growing community and gathering place for the neighbors. I never realized how far that would go and it’s huge!
4. That you would always be the one stuck cooking everywhere all the time. It seems every get together, relationships, family outings, events, and so fourth everyone just assumes you will cook since its what we do, however for a change is nice to be cooked for once in awhile. You can never full enjoy yourself when you always get stuck doing the dirty work, or never checking out of work. Don’t get my wrong its fun to cook with friends and at events but it’s just the assumption that’s the way it will always be.
5. To keep up with posture, body work, and exercise. I never really understood or thought cooking would be so hard on your body but it is. Long hours in the restaurant, lifting heavy things, repetition, hot pans, sharp knives, and standing on your feet for 12 hours will eventually catch up with you. Doing routine exercises, stretching, getting messages and regular chiropractic visits are a must to sustain any lifestyle outside of the restaurant. It starts taking a toll on your body to be flexible and keep up with tasks.
You are people of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Getting rid of food waste by feeding people that are starving. We all waste so much food everyday especially grocery stores and yet we still have starvation and poverty problem with our food system. As well as making food more affordable, getting rid of GMO’s, plastic, and giving back to our earth, soils, and farmers to work hard to being us this food in the first place. We are poisoning our own people out own race and it’s disgusting! Lets all work together to put a stop to this. Together we are the most powerful system there is.