…It would be to make sure that there is no one hungry in the entire world. In last 30 years, the inequality in the amassing of wealth has grown exponentially and there are many people in the world working very hard who don’t have enough money to buy food to eat which in turn leads to kids going to school on empty stomachs and not being able to concentrate or learn. A great moment would be to allow access to everyone for food so that no one is malnourished, and so that children are more resistant to disease and able to learn. I feel as though should be a fundamental inalienable right for humans on this planet.
I had the pleasure to interview Jack F. Moran, the CEO of Paris Baguette. Paris Baguette has about 70 owned and franchised location in the United States, and parent Paris Croissant has about 3,000 locations in China, France, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
Thank you so much for joining us! What inspired you to become a restauranteur?
My love of music. Originally I when I entered into the business, I was hired by the founder of Hard Rock Cafe. I was actually hired by identifying all of the memorabilia and artists that cover the walls of the popular chain restaurant. I came into the business as a business expert and in the 16 years I was with the brand, I became more exposed to the food service aspect of the business, and ended up falling in love with it!
What has your journey been like since first stepping foot in a kitchen?
In the beginning of my career I realized that I did not know how to use a knife and that all of the good cooks were bringing in their own knives everyday. From then on I realized the importance of having a good, sharp knife and learned some basic cooking skills so simple tasks didn’t take me forever. Over time I began to learn the importance of following recipes, using great ingredients, having your tools with you at all times, and always being prepared.
Do you have a specialty? If so, what drew you to that type of food?
I actually lived in Paris for 4 years from 1999 to 2002 during my time with Hard Rock Cafe. While living in Paris I instantly became a frequenter of restaurants, especially bakeries, because I mainly worked lunch and evenings. I was always eating a pain au chocolat or croissant in these bakeries and ended up making the decision to leave Hard Rock and transition into the bakery-cafe space because I fell in love with the pastries and naturally loved bread. I would say that my kitchen specialty now would be baked goods.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef?
During 2004/2005, when I worked with Au Bon Pain, I was doing an inspection of our refrigerator in midtown Manhattan checking product and the lights started to flicker in fridge. This then led to the lights throughout our restaurant flickering and next thing you know the traffic lights had stopped working and all the power in NYC went out. This was a huge blackout for the city. As everyone was panicking and closing up stores, we decided to stay open and serve the community even though we couldn’t use our registers to ring up any product. That night I stayed in the restaurant for about 24 hours and actually slept on floor of kitchen for 3 hours around 4:00 a.m.!
What is your definition of success?
Doing something with your life that allows you to serve others and to provide them something of very high quality. Also, being able to provide meaningful work to a team of people in the production of said service or item. It’s about being an integral part of community and having a team that provides people with a good or service that improves or brings joy to their daily lives.
What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
At the beginning of my career I was obsessed with quality and guest experience, and not as focused on the numbers, which in turn left running businesses that weren’t very profitable. I lost jobs within the industry 3 or 4 times and every time I’ve gotten smarter. Being successful is like walking a high-wire or tight rope — and in this case it was easy for me to have a great experience when I wasn’t caring about the financials. That then led me to recognize that making money is the oxygen that the business needs in order to be able to provide that service to people. In the service industry you need to make good numbers to stay in business, serve people, and provide jobs to the community. My failures have been financial ones and I have learned to always keep an eye on them and realize its not about the end game, but more so the road you take to get you to where you want to go.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Yes, we are currently working on a new concept called Maison Du PB. These new stores are an enhanced and more upscale version of the Paris Baguette we all know and love. We are opening 3 dozen (with at least one in NYC) before the end of 2019. We are focused on creating a jeweled version of Paris Baguette — more unique and with far less of them. Our goal is to have one or two in all of the major global cities of the world we do business with. Products will likely be a reinvention of many existing recipes at higher price point and the store design would be different that our traditional model.
We are also working on online ordering and delivery services with the brand as a whole.
What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
I would want to stress the fact that 95% of success is actually showing up. I have personally not taken a sick day in 32 years and this is definitely not a job for those of weak constitution. It is very physically demanding and you have to show up everyday both mentally and physically. I’d also want to let aspiring chefs know that this is a super hyper-competitive environment, with low barriers to entry. The job almost mimics a live sport since consumer preferences are changing rapidly and you have to be ready to play everyday without letting your guard down.
What is the key to creating the perfect dish?
I think the major key is a balance of flavors between savory and sweet and to create a product that feels complex to the mouth when biting into it. In a great pastry, the mouth feel is very complex and while the look is also very important, marriage between form and function is most important. The perfect dish must also feed you in a beautiful way. It has to look good to your eyes, meaning not only should the ingredients be high-quality, but they way they are displayed and merchandised must also be visually appealing.
10. It is said that food is a common ground that brings people together. As someone who makes food for a living, what does this saying mean to you?
I could not agree with that statement more. I was initially in love with music because it crossed cultural boundaries. Traveling as a young man around the world I would watch people in Egypt, Hong Kong, France, and even Canada all light up emotionally by music from same artist — even with language barriers. Food does the same thing. People will sit to eat together in a room full of strangers or at a counter with people from other countries. You stop whatever you are doing to eat and because the task isn’t unbelievably demanding it’s extremely natural for people to converse while doing so. I think there are three things that bring people together across cultures and they are music, food and sports. Food tends to be bigger than either of the two and if you love people that’s why you love to be in this business.
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.)
a. How much fun the restaurant business is because I honestly would have joined earlier. As a kid I had always wondered and when found out it was an amazing discovery.
b. That it was easier to get rich working in tech than in food because in the food business you have to come to peace with knowing that you’re almost always managing pennies — not like my friends in tech who manage billions everyday.
c. That I need to be careful about sound within my restaurants. Now white table cloth is out of trend and it’s all about bare tables, exposed ceilings,etc. I think that the idea is beautiful, but a full dining room has lots of sound and in so many restaurants we end up having to shout to have a conversation. For the workers and cooks, a lifetime of working in dining rooms with that exposure to noise is very bad on one’s hearing.
d. That just a little taste of this here and that there equals an extra 10 pounds a year. You will constantly be in a fight to not gain weight when working in the food industry and it’s also a job hazard eating food all the time.
e. The fact that technology was going to completely revolutionize everything in the business and that the digitization of the food business was going to be so utterly transformative. Had I known this I would have been better prepared for this huge shift.
You are a person of great 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.
It would be to make sure that there is no one hungry in the entire world. In last 30 years, the inequality in the amassing of wealth has grown exponentially and there are many people in the world working very hard who don’t have enough money to buy food to eat which in turn leads to kids going to school on empty stomachs and not being able to concentrate or learn. A great moment would be to allow access to everyone for food so that no one is malnourished, and so that children are more resistant to disease and able to learn. I feel as though should be a fundamental alienable right for humans on this planet.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to cook for and why?
Donald Trump because if I could cook for him then maybe I could have the chance to sit down with him and discuss a few things — especially knowing that food brings people together. I would also want to ask him if it’s true that he turns on three TVs and eats a burger every night.