Self care is important and it’s important not to overwork yourself — there are so many personalities I work with on a daily basis. I always keep my psychiatrist on call to help me stay centered.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Barton G. Weiss. His varied accomplishments as an event-concept designer, restaurateur, culinary visionary, author, philanthropist, and entertainer showcases the breadth of his creative spectrum. His client list consistently features Fortune 500 companies, international corporations, professional sports teams, luxury fashion brands, as well as countless celebrity and social gatherings. In 2002, Barton opened his first restaurant: Barton G. The Restaurant, in Miami’s popular South Beach neighborhood. In July 2014, Barton brought his restaurant concept to Los Angeles, and simultaneously authored his first book, The Big Dish: Recipes to Dazzle and Amaze from America’s Most Spectacular Restaurant (Rizzoli). Barton has appeared as a guest judge on Top Chef and has been featured on Giada De Laurentiis’ “Behind the Bash” on Food Network. He has also been sought after, profiled, and quoted extensively as an expert on party planning, events creation, and his restaurant conceptions in numerous high-profile publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Departures, Time, Forbes, and The Robb Report, ABC’s Nightline, CNN, and CNBC. Barton was an inaugural member of Town & Country magazine’s Wedding Advisory Board and founded co-founded the Barton G. Weiss Kids Hear Now Foundation in 2009.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in Philadelphia and moved to New York where I was a professional ice skater. After my athletic career, I studied fashion in Paris before launching my event company.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
I first moved to Miami in 1993 to launch my multifaceted event design firm, Barton G. It came out of pooling all of my passions and talents. Barton G. continued to grow as I incorporated food into the mix alongside flowers and decor.
As a restaurateur, I bring my theatrical event concepts into the world of fine dining. I wanted to share the imaginative dishes I was creating for client events to the public. In 2002, I opened Barton G. The Restaurant in South Beach, known for fanciful, over-the-top presentations that introduce greater drama into the culinary culture.
There are no shortages of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I try to accomplish things that people say can’t be done. Before putting things into action, poke holes in everything and play devil’s advocate to identify strengths and weaknesses.
It takes a creative mind and a good team to produce everything that we do. No idea is ever too over-the-top, but it takes time and finesse to make sure it’s done right. Year after year, we ask ourselves “how can we top ourselves and lead the trend in food and presentation?”
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Then that means you don’t truly love it. If you’re reluctant, you’re already setting yourself up for failure.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I don’t believe that’s true. If you love doing something and it turns into something you dread, then you didn’t truly love it. Yes, you can expect some difficulties to arise, but if you love it, you should find fun in finding a solution. Keep it fresh by challenging yourself. How can you improve even further to top yourself and the competition?
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I enjoy being the decision maker and being able to see my ideas come to life. The downsides are that everything rides on your shoulders, no matter what. Things are constantly in motion and changing. Employ a good team that understands the brand and the business and stay connected to what’s trending in your industry and others. Innovation doesn’t have to stay limited to the business you’re in, step outside the box and look for inspiration in the least likely places.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
My actual job has shifted to be less creative and more business focused. When I started, it was me who pitched clients, executed orders, and developed menus. Now I have a team that I oversee to do those tasks.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
I was never one for a normal 9–5 job. I’d find that really boring.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Got in the restaurant business
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I have a charity called the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation, an organization I started in 2008 after discovering my daughter was born deaf. The foundation assists in the health and education of deaf children and their families, with an emphasis on the viability of cochlear implants and other means of helping affected children become part of the hearing world.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- That you have to deal with everyone’s opinion — people always want to give you their thoughts on your situation and too many opinions can be as troublesome as not getting any feedback.
- That self care is important and it’s important not to overwork yourself — there are so many personalities I work with on a daily basis. I always keep my psychiatrist on call to help me stay centered.
- That there are endless dietary restrictions to always be mindful of — and it’s so important we stay on top of them because we would never want to risk putting a diner in harm.
- That I should have stuck to figure skating — it was a big change to move from sports and fashion into events and restaurants!
- It’s a career that happens at all hours — being in the events and restaurant business means that you’re expected to be available when others are at leisure.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.