Chefs Without Restaurants

Leaning Into Your Passion with Plant-Based Pop-Up Chef Pete Carvelli

November 09, 2021 Chris Spear Season 2 Episode 117
Chefs Without Restaurants
Leaning Into Your Passion with Plant-Based Pop-Up Chef Pete Carvelli
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode, we're joined by chef Pete Carvelli. Pete’s the founder of Twelve (Plants), a plant-based pop-up and personal chef business in Rhode Island. Formerly, both a photojournalist and reporter, Pete currently works as an attorney. But a desire to be a better cook led him to get his Professional Plant-Based chef certification in 2019.

From there he did two successful chef collaboration dinners, and Twelve (Plants) has evolved to offering multi-course plant-based pop-ups, as well as private, in-home dinners and micro-catering.

On the show, we discuss leaning into your passion, even if it’s a huge pivot later in life. We talk about collaborative chef events, starting a pop-up business, and the pros and cons of a very niche business. Will Pete completely give up his law career, and go all-in on his plant-based restaurant dream? Join us as we get into that. 

Sponsors
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Pete Carvelli

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Twelve (Plants) Instagram
The Twelve (Plants) Website

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Chris Spear:

. Welcome to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. I'm your host Chris Spear. On the show. I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry who took a different route. They're caterers research chefs, personal chefs cookbook authors, food truckers, farmers, cottage bakers, and all sorts of culinary renegades. I myself fall into the personal chef category as I started my own personal chef business perfect little bites 11 years ago. And while I started working in kitchens in the early 90s, I've literally never worked in a restaurant. On this episode we're joined by Chef Pete Carvelli. Pete's the founder of Twelve (Plants), a plant based pop up and personal chef business in Rhode Island. Formerly both the photo journalist and reporter Pete currently works as an attorney. But a desire to be a better cook led him to getting his professional plant based chef certificate in 2019. From there he did two successful chef collaboration dinners and 12 plants has evolved to offering multi course plant based pop ups as well as private in home dinners and micro catering. On the show we discuss leaning into your passion, even if it's a huge pivot later in life. We talked about collaborative chef events starting a pop up business and the pros and cons of having a very niche business. Will Pete completely give up his law career and go all in on his plant based restaurant dream? Join us as we get into that. but first here's a word from our sponsors. As a grits enthusiast I'm honored to welcome our newest sponsor Professor Torbert's orange corn. I've been buying their products for a couple years now so I can speak to the awesome quality of these products. Professor Torbert's orange corn is the result of its founders lifelong dedication to improving the world through science and agriculture. over 20 years ago, Torbert set out to answer a simple but revolutionary question. Can you naturally make corn more nutritious? Could you deliver the benefits of a vegetable through a grain? Today, non GMO orange corn is helping fight micronutrient deficiencies in more than 10 African countries. The vibrant orange color comes from significantly increased levels of carotenoids. Torbert decided to see what he could do with it here at home. To his delight, he found that not only could Americans iHealth potentially benefit from its higher levels of antioxidant carotenoids. But it also tasted unbelievably good. So when you choose Professor Torbert's, you aren't just saying yes to better flavor. You're also helping deliver better nutrition on a global scale. Tastes good, feels good. All of Professor Torbert's products, grits cornmeal and corn flour are non GMO, gluten free and vegan. All their products are sold online at Professortorberts.com, on Amazon and wholesale. And now through the end of November. Professor Torbert's is happy to offer all Chefs Without Restaurants listeners 10% off on all orange corn products. Go to Professortorberts.com and simply use the promo code chefs10 at checkout. Did you know restaurants turnover employs four times faster than most businesses. What if somebody created an affordable and effective hiring solution for the restaurant industry? What if there were a job site that only focused on people looking for Food service jobs. What if that site only cost $50 A year to advertise for every job your restaurant needed? Forget the big corporate sites like indeed and Monster, our sponsor, savory jobs has a job site exclusively for restaurants. The best part is savory jobs only charges $50 for an entire year. And you can post all the jobs you want. And for our loyal listeners, use the code savory 10 and get 10% off. So you go to savoryjobs.com and discover the job site shaking up the industry. And remember to use savory 10 for 10% off. And now on with the show. Thanks so much, and have a great week. Hey, Pete, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on.

Pete Carvelli:

Hey, Chris, thanks for having me.

Chris Spear:

Really looking forward to talking to you today and learning a little bit or a lot about your business. So you are a chef, but not just a chef, you seem to wear a number of hats, as many of us do. But I know you as someone who's been active in the Chefs, Without Restaurants community, because of your business. Before we get into your business, I would love to kind of get into your backstory, and how you got into starting a food business being that you didn't come up through the ranks of a traditional kitchen setting. So can you kind of set the stage a little bit maybe talk like professionally, like what your career was and your education, and then maybe how you got into food and cooking?

Pete Carvelli:

Sure. So I went to Rochester Institute of Technology out of high school, and got a four year degree Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography. And during that time, I became interested in photojournalism photography had always been my hobby growing up, and ended up after you know, this and that after college, like a lot of people bouncing around, I ended up in the newspaper business and was a newspaper photographer for a while, several years, maybe 10 ish years. And it was cool. I worked in New Hampshire, I get to cover the many presidential primaries. So that was exciting. And then I ended up wanting to write more than I wanted to take pictures, and wrote a couple of stories that that went over. Well, the newspaper gave me the freedom to do that. And then I ended up at a renewable energy website, writing sort of I was their editor. There was an interest of mine, the environment has always been an interest of mine. And then a couple of things happened, babies were born. And I ended up as a stay at home dad, because it just made sense for our family. And then I thought, Okay, what's next? And a friend of mine said, Well, you could go to law school. And I said, Well, I can't I have to take care of my kids. And he said, Well, you could go at night. So in 2004, I enrolled as a 35 year old person in law school, and I went to law school at night for four years.

Chris Spear:

Those are two really big, like careers, like we're not even at the bar where you started cooking. So you went from being like a major photo journalist into law school. Wow, sorry to like, jump right in there. But that's just crazy. Because you know, we're still going to get to the part where you're also a chef.

Unknown:

Yeah, crazy might is probably a good term for it. It seemed that at the time, I was taking care of my kids, I was studying and going to law school, and always cooking sort of, you know, on the side, and for my family, I've always been cooking. And then really only now maybe four or five years ago that I really start concentrating on cooking and trying to be a better cook at home. And started to really try and develop that and began a program in 2019. The Excuse me 2018 In the fall 2018 Ruby, which is online program, and I did a six month plant based cooking course.

Chris Spear:

So were you leading a plant based diet and lifestyle at your house?

Unknown:

Yes, I've been vegetarian most of my adult life and vegan for, say five years. It wasn't an option to go to J dub like you did or go to the CIA or something like that, or it really wasn't going to happen in my life. Anyway, at that time, I was a practicing attorney and I had no interest in cooking animal products. So So I did this and it fit well. It was pretty, pretty rigorous. I mean, there were over 400 and some odd units. It's not traditional culinary school. I don't suggest that at all, but it taught me a lot and it ended with this party that I had to throw and it was great. We had 18 people and had to throw you know do a bunch of different really appetizer type things that I graduated or that's not really probably the right word. But I finished pretty pretty high up in the in the, in the group of people who were doing it with me. So that was fun.

Chris Spear:

Was it vegetarian or vegan? Vegan? Wow, that's pretty hardcore.

Unknown:

The person who developed the course or primary the menus is Chad Sarno, Chad and Derek Sarno are sort of big in the plant based world. And the great part about it is it's not just here's your, here's your sort of main dish with meat on it. And we're just going to take the meat off, and there's your, your vegan option, you know, the sort of traditional wedding being an option, you know. So it was it was pretty rigorous. And we had to photograph everything, we had to do descriptions videos. And we were, I think, very intensely sort of judge graded, if you will on it.

Chris Spear:

So when you enrolled in the program, why were you enrolling? Like, were you thinking that this was going to be a business endeavor was it to make you a better plant based cook at home or a little both?

Unknown:

Originally, it was because I wanted to be a better cook. And I just there were things I didn't think I knew. And it was I just thought it would be a side interest, sort of expanding on a hobby, like a lot of people take lessons in things, but also the my professional life, I wasn't really satisfied doing that. So this was a way to do some other things. Shortly into it. I said, Okay, this is I really am enjoying this. And it wasn't a fading interest. A lot of people dropped out, you could sort of tell you could follow people along in their progress. And I was, you know, is into it on the six month as I was on the first day. So toward the end of it is when I really started to think okay, this could be something What can I do with it?

Chris Spear:

So what was that timeframe? Like when you graduated with this certificate? What did you end up doing? I mean, now we've got a business, I'd love to hear about your business. So kind of how did you get to where you are now?

Unknown:

Sure. So I have a very good friend of mine who's a plant based Baker, she runs celebrated, which is a great company. Her name is Becky Morris. And I met her at a farmers market. I just walked up to the her plant based cupcake stand, and she was doing much more than cupcakes. And we got to talking and one day we were sitting in a coffee shop talking about how I could develop this into a business. What could I do here was you know, personal chef, private chef, things like that. And we had known of this space called Vineya Test Kitchen in Providence. And when you looked at the website, I just couldn't figure out what the heck it was. And like what is this thing? And she said, just call him just email the guy and so I did. I emailed the owner, Max Mariota. And he was a lot has been a shout. He's my age, but he doesn't really cook anymore because he's on you know, different timeframe cooking. And he he owned this 17 seat little restaurant kind of looked like a sushi bar because at one time it was and his son Stefano Mariota ran a restaurant there Tuesday through Saturday called Rose Moran. And I reached out and I told them what I was doing. And he was interested in plant based and he said, Well, why don't you come in and talk to me? And so I did. And he said, Okay, well, he liked the fact that I was older. They had had pop ups in there before. And that's really what I was thinking of doing. And he said, Well, we have to taste your food. So So cook some food. So I made like a seven course, tasting menu sort of over the top for him and Stefano. And I went there and finished it off and presented it to them. And about a bite into the second dish. Mac said, Okay, let's set a date. Let's pick a date, which so I said, Well, I guess he likes it so far. And we did two joint collaboration dinners. With Becky from celebrated as the pastry chef, she did dessert. I did three courses. Stefano did three courses 100% plant based, and they sold out two seedings for each night sold out. And there began.

Chris Spear:

That's a pretty good start. Matt left Providence to begin with. I don't know if you even know I was a vegetarian for a while it started because my wife was and that's when we were living in Providence. So the first time I kind of explored vegetarian cuisine was when I was living in there, but that was 99 to Oh, one ish, but I have very fond memories of the vegetarian dining scene in Providence in particular back then.

Unknown:

Yeah, garden grill, were they they must have been open then. Yeah, that

Chris Spear:

was you know, like the place you went. I think that was the first time I ever really had tofu like I probably had to eat it in culinary school. But it was the first time I remember having it where it was like Oh, This actually can taste really good. So the pop up like, Yeah, how did the pop up? Continue on? Like, did you keep doing these pop ups?

Unknown:

We did the two collaborations and then they went well and max it, okay, you can have Monday night, which is, you know, not the greatest night in the world for the restaurant business. But here I am, you know, Lawyer by day and he's offering me this opportunity. So we started these Monday night events. We did two seedings, and they were tasting menus. We did five and seven course tasting menus. I would go in on Sunday, when they were closed and prep, and then go in Monday, I would leave work, I office job at noon, and go there for you know, 1230 or one and get ready for service. And that went consistently, we actually ramped up to the point where I was working more with Stefano was there on some weekend nights, and we were going to start transitioning to weekends. And then you know what happened? COVID happened to COVID happened my last dinner was Friday the 13th 2020 Yeah, I mean, I've I have no personal right to complain, I had a day job. And for me, it was more a bummer. Because I was getting to a point where it was really growing. And we were starting to do ala carte and just being open and different. You know, that takes a while to get used to that, obviously. And it was really going well. But when the George Floyd riots happened in Providence, there was you remember Westminster Street from living there, somebody threw something through their window at Rose Moran. And that was the end of that they were doing takeout. But it wasn't really a takeout concept. So that, that close that and that that's gone. But I was able to do some private dinners, some. And that's sort of what I began to focus on. And it didn't take long. In June of that year, I was back at a place in Newport called route on Broadway, which is a vegan juice of juices, smoothies salad, sort of your typical breakfast lunch menu, it's not typical at all, they do a great job. The owners were at my second to last dinner. And we talked about doing a pop up there. And then by June, I was getting antsy I wanted to cook and I said, Hey, look, we want to do one. And then in the beginning of July of 2020, they were able to socially distance we did two, two seatings of 12. And that sold out through November 7. Every other week. Wow, that's

Chris Spear:

a good long run.

Unknown:

It was it was great. A lot of their friends came a lot of you know, by people came people came from Boston Newport, as you know, many listeners I'm sure now is a real vacation hub in the summer. And I've been able to build through Instagram, etc. Build a bit of a little bit of a following. So that was great. And then we took the winter off. And I did some events. I did a wedding in the spring and a small wedding and private dinners. I did a you know a bachelorette party said like you do right four people here, six people here, that type of thing.

Chris Spear:

So how did you get into doing small parties? Like were you actively aggressively marketing for that? Because, you know, that's one of the things the listeners who, you know, are trying to start their business or grow their business? I think the question always is like, how do you break the seal? How do you get those first clients?

Unknown:

You have to put it out there, you have to say, this is something that I'm doing. Tell everybody that you know, I don't market it as aggressively as I probably could. But some friends who came to the restaurant would, you know occasionally would say, Hey, we're having a party. It's somebody's birthday. It's this or that. But I think that one of your guests actually a recent show was talking about you just have to do it. You just have to tell people about it. And for me, the challenge has been where do I prepare this food? I'm still not at a point where I feel comfortable walking in with nothing cooked. So for me with the day job and coordinate while I'm trying to build up the cooking, it's a it's a balancing act with days off and weekends and things like that.

Chris Spear:

Are you still a practicing attorney like currently and that's still your job?

Unknown:

Yes.

Chris Spear:

Wow. Is there a point where you would want to do the cooking thing full time?

Unknown:

I want to do the cooking thing full time I want to not qualify to be on your show. I'm going to show you but chef with restaurant but you know I'm 52 And so I've got the clock's ticking. If I were to do that it's not I did not come up through the ranks. By no means. I don't think if I I started cooking. When I was 15, like Stefano, he's from Switzerland. He started cooking a Michelin star kitchens. I don't think I'd still be doing and I'm not one for getting yelled at, by a boss, if that's the way the kitchen was, I did work in kitchens, I have a pretty significant scar to prove it. I was a dishwasher and a busboy. But there's a time in life when you find out what it is you're meant to do. And I'm not trying to be dramatic. But when I was in law school, I used to have this little area in my basement that I studied in. And I had a sign on the wall that said, it's never too late to be what you may have become. And I didn't realize that that sign was really about being a chef. At the time. I'd like parts of the law. But it's not what I'm passionate about. I'm constantly I think like you and your listeners and other chefs that you speak to on the show. It's all I think about when I'm not having to focus on something else. It's watching YouTube videos of other people cooking, it's Instagram. It's cooking in my own kitchen for my own family, working on recipes, screwing up, trying it again, trying it again, making it better. But I finally landed on what I absolutely love. And if I can do that, even occasionally, for people, it's not just cooking, it's cooking for others. And if I can do that, and people enjoy it, then that satisfy something in me that that I want to continue to pursue.

Chris Spear:

And I would say one of the interesting things is not to like not do this full time, but just you know, something I talk about a lot with people in the industry is like sometimes when you take that thing you're passionate about and make it your business, it kind of kills it a little like, right now, to me, you kind of have like a good thing. Like if you can manage the workflow in the time, you know, because like me, I started my personal chef business on the side, I didn't have to have gigs, right, like I had a steady income. So if I had like one gig a month, it was like fine. And I could be super, I don't know, interesting in my menus, like, take the exact client I wanted, you know, kind of focus on that. And now it's like, Ooh, I quit that job that paid really well with benefits, like now I gotta hustle. And that means like, taking on tons of gigs, like sometimes. Maybe even putting out menus, I don't want to put out like because it you know, it pays the bills. And then just like always chasing the leads, and there's like a lot of stress in that. And some days, I'm like, Man, I I kind of wish I just like could go cook, you know, one day a week and make the food I want to make and make some money and kind of that be it? You know, like, does that make sense?

Unknown:

Yeah, absolutely. I've thought about that. And as I discuss it, you know, the potential of growing this into a bigger business and making it full time. I mean, photography was my hobby growing up. And when I was doing it for the newspapers, it became less fun for me, because of what I needed to photograph, you know, high school graduations and whatever. The thing that I hope makes it different now is that it's such a passion of mine that I think that the business part of it will be more tolerable than if it was the business part of what I do every day. If the opportunity came to be a full time chef, I mean, how many chefs fail who are far more talented than me and who cook traditional food. I only cook vegan food that is a niche.

Chris Spear:

So how is the market for that? I mean, are you at an advantage or disadvantage? Because you're such a niche? You know, vegan food, it seems like, I don't know, like, what's the market like up there? How much draw is there for this? Like, is it amazing for you because there aren't many places? Or is it that you don't have enough customers?

Unknown:

It's a really good time to be, I think to be a vegan chef around here. There's been a tremendous growth in the market. There's a very big vegan food hall. It's a Matthew Kenney business that's in Providence called Plant City. That's a completely there's actually three vegan restaurants within one facility. I have the same question. So who's going to who's going to eat this food if I have this? So all I can do is use my experience. I have a dinner on November 11. And that was the universe restaurant, which is in Bristol. She's a caterer but has a restaurant within her facility where she prepares the food. And she hasn't had a dinner there since pre COVID. And I met with her and she was very interested in plant based. So we agreed that we would do a test run next Thursday. And she thought Thursday was a good night, she's going to 10 bar. And I'm going to put out a tasting menu. There's only 12 seats, but it's sold out in about 12 hours. I looked on the guest list, and I don't know anybody. So that for me is really cool. So I think that there's a market for the type of food that I do. I try and do an elevated plant based type menu. There aren't many people who put the type of food on the menu that I do in this area of plant based wise. Is it 11 Madison Park with their new plant basement? No, I'm not suggesting that. I try to make every element of every dish, delicious, and put it together in such a way that it's beautiful. And to me that isn't happening here. And people will pay for it. Five nights a week. I don't know.

Chris Spear:

What are some of your favorite dishes that you have on your menu.

Unknown:

One of my sort of original dishes as a character should I call sort of tip to top carrots. I Suvi. The carrots I baked them in a spice blend from a friend of mine who was a chef runs a great Spice Company here in Rhode Island. And they take the greens and I make a carrot top pesto and a carrot puree and maybe a carrot gel and then I use the hydrate some and do a carrot dust. So there's no waste.

Chris Spear:

So you really think a restaurant as your future like is that kind of where you have your sights on? It's like having a small actual sit down restaurant?

Unknown:

I mean, the answer is yes. But I'd like to do a small seating. So the event I'm doing on the 11th is only 12 seats. And so, to me that model of 810 12 people high end ish tasting menu is what I'm really starting to develop is what I want to do. I've done larger production runs of things. last Thanksgiving, I made pot pies and sold them through my friend Becky's shop, she did the desserts and I did savory. I think I sold like 75 pot pies and a bunch of side dishes. And I just, it was just miserable. I mean, they're delicious. I love eating them. But to make that many of anything in a row. It was just crazy. I had to rent a freezer. I mean, my wife was helping me it was. So I know that that sort of large quantity stuff isn't for me. I am Stefano I mentioned, my friend Stephen Mariota. He and I have been working on a concept called Fire and phenol, which is actually vegan, vegetarian pescatarian. I don't cook the vegetarian pescatarian foods, mostly because it's just not my thing. It's not that I'm afraid of it or it weirds me out. I just it Stefanos more his thing. But we did it. We did a couple we've done a couple of pop ups that were very successful one here in Warren, Rhode Island and one in Cambridge. And that was just cooking on the line. Because it was ala carte, and the orders came in and we fired him out. And that was that was fun. And we you know, we're developing that concept, and we're talking about that. But I think ideally, for me, the smaller, I really want to keep my business 12 or 12 plants, as it's known. entirely vegan. That's my lane, and the dinner party kind of experience. And that's what you do you do dinner parties. And to me that if there's a space for that, if there's a commercial space for that, that could make work financially. Great. If If not, I can keep scratching the itch by doing what I'm doing.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I don't know how many dinners out have to do to be able to pay for like a brick and mortar and other people. Because that's the whole thing. It's kind of like the balance of you know, like the the volume thing is crazy. Like when you're talking about doing like 75 Popeye's, like I totally know you got to sell a million of those things to turn a profit, right? But then like the dinners to at least I am profitable because going into someone's house, you know, you're not having to rent a plate, like you might rent a commercial kitchen, you know, 25 bucks an hour a cookout or something. But you don't have this crazy rent or mortgage on a brick and mortar you're not paying for, you know, even if it's three employees. So you know kind of thing about like, I wonder how many dinners you would have to do how many turns you have to do to be able to just cover the costs.

Unknown:

But what's interesting, it's a good point you make right Is the dinner that I we did together in Cambridge, we were basically unknowns. And in that part of New England, we did 63 covers. But we had to pay the house, a portion of that we had to rent glasses, because it's basically it was a coffee shop, they didn't have glasses for the alcohol. They took the bar, they didn't sell alcohol, but they didn't have a lot of glassware for it. Had to pay, you know, my Stefano and I, you know, we're on the payroll, we had three waitresses, a dishwasher, this washer. And two weeks later, I did a four person dinner in Rhode Island, and I made just as much money. And it was far, far less stressful than 63 covers in Cambridge was,

Chris Spear:

I guess the conversation we keep coming back to with a lot of the guests is like, how do you feel personally fulfilled, but also make money like, because there's a lot of people early in their career, who started as a personal chef, and they're like side hustling, right, or like they have a spouse who makes a lot of money. And it's just their kind of like, fun thing to do. But I think when you have a job, like a career where you have, you know, a steady income, a good income benefits and all that to like, leave that completely and go at full time, it's very different than like the, I'm just doing this to make some money, or I'm just doing this because I really enjoy it. And I'll go do you know, one or two times a week month, I'm not saying that's you. But just like in general, the whole, you see a lot of those people in the personal chef space.

Unknown:

I think a balance for me is going to ultimately be the personal chef work, and occasional pop ups and other facilities. I'm hoping that the facility where I'm doing the pop up on the 11th could be a potential location for future events, it's sort of a test run.

Chris Spear:

You know, the nice thing is you have some leeway, some runway to do this, right. Like I said, I make no bones about like, I was doing this on the side for five years like, and maybe that's too long. You know, I had a full time job for five years while I was doing this. But it gave me the time to be very deliberate and not have to make rash decisions, like I could do this thing, do a dinner. Oh, that didn't go the way I want it, like change one thing, the next time see how that goes and make my new changes. Instead of this big old, like, go in and tell my boss I'm leaving, I'm starting my own business. And then like you're in the weeds from day one, trying to figure it out. Like it's nice when you have that safety net to kind of be able to make little tiny changes and figure things out.

Unknown:

Right. I'm very fortunate in that respect. I mean, I don't like my job my day job, but not a lot of people don't. And this the stress associated with it is, you know, is very high. And the satisfaction level is frankly very low. So it's not unusual to hear this. I think in in law, it's a tough profession. And it wasn't something that I had wanted to do. I did you know, when I was 12, I think you know, I talked to my grandfather about wanting to be a lawyer. But that was probably because I thought he kind of wanted me to be one. But I feel like if I don't give it a shot, and that may not mean leaving the law entirely. But if I don't give it a shot, then it will be a regret. And I just don't want to have a regret down the road. And I feel like I'm talented enough. Where people are coming to the coming to the restaurant when I'm open. If they I was terrified when I put out this thing, 12 people testing at this restaurant, right when you put yourself out there. And I have I have a newsletter with like 150 people and I put it out in the newsletter and then I immediately start checking talk, you know, they got any reservations, you know what I'm saying? Pete? It's been 10 minutes. And then on the other sample, how come there's no reservations? And it's, of course, it's ridiculous. No, you know, nobody's looking at their email. And then I did look at I touch check MailChimp as okay, it's been open 34% of the time, and why isn't anybody with a resume. And then the next day, I sent it out again, with Hey, I'm going to open it up to the public. And then I got a couple of reservations, and then a couple more. And within a couple of hours we had sold out it's not it's not selling out, you know, Gillette Stadium, but I think it shows that the type of food that I'm doing is has has a market. How big is it? I don't know. I'm trying to explore that. And I'm trying to differentiate myself enough with the food that people are going to come they're going to pay a premium price for it. And they're going to say, they can't get this anywhere else around here. And I think that I'm doing that. I think when you can distinguish yourself like that. Then you can be successful. And that's what I'm trying to do.

Chris Spear:

Do you have a culinary style and where do you find inspiration?

Unknown:

I think I lean Italian in terms of my cuisine. I'm Italian on both sides. And I certainly lean that way I do make a lot of pasta, a lot of filled pasta. It's one of my specialties. I guess you could say I love doing a laminated pastas. I made jumbo ravioli for a friend of mine, this weekend for her birthday. But I often start with like, my characters is an example where I start with the vegetable, what can I do with it, and really try and express the vegetable as best I can. And get making it the star of the show. And because I mean, what else is there, all I'm cooking is vegetable. So make it the star of the show in a way though, that really brings out the flavor of the vegetable, I really believe in local. I know a lot of the farmers around here I love going to the farmers market on Saturday mornings, or whatever it is. I asked them, you know what they have discovered honey nut squash that way. I mean, this is to me, this is something that it's like this amazing vegetable that I wrote about in my newsletter, I know how it came about and how it was developed. And it was a chef driven vegetable. That to me, I don't like to say cook with products. This these are the ingredients this is this is food and for somebody who's plant based, sort of marginalized in a way there's always this well, what do you eat, you know, the protein question and all of this, that I'm not saying it's better to eat this way, it's better for me. But when I'm cooking, there's so many vegetables there's so many different things and I get inspiration from so many different chefs Jeremy Fox is amazing book on vegetables.

Chris Spear:

I love that book like that just the the pantry section in that book alone. Even if you make nothing else that I use the my go to pickle recipe is the pickled ramp recipe. It's amazing for just like, not only onions but like anything you want pickle that has lots of mustard seed black pepper and ground coriander in it. And that's like my go to pickling recipe.

Unknown:

Yeah, I just had to tape the book back together because I use it so much. And when I'm cooking for other people, I try and cook things in a way that I know they won't do themselves. But if I can do that for them and show them that and like nobody's doing pickled ramps or pickles, like you talked about, and when you go to a party, one of your jobs, and you present that people are just blown away because they they just don't people don't do that. But they we are a food culture, my family, I'm Italian, it's a food culture, we like to be around the table and communicate. And this is why I love doing it. When I go to these parties. And I know you I've seen some of your photos and videos, when you're at these parties and people are, you know, they want to take a picture with you. They want to see what you're doing. It's in they're having this wonderful time. And we're a part of it in a way. And I I always talk to my guests, I always when I have a pop up in a restaurant, I always go out and I speak to them. And I ask you know, ask them questions and get to know them. And that to me is the thrill of it all really is that getting to know the people from the farmer to the guest and presenting food to people that I know they look very likely won't make themselves people don't vegan pasta, they don't get it. The filled pasta. I think that that, that love that heart that you can develop through food. It's a craft, right? It's a craft. My grandfather was a craftsperson. He was a pattern maker at the Boston Gearworks. He worked with his hands he made wood. I mean, I think it's a craft and we produce this food, we take this food and we sort of you know change it a little bit and present it to people in hopefully a beautiful way on a plate. And I think it can change the way people look at food and I find that to be just incredibly wonderful.

Chris Spear:

There's a couple things I want to touch on. from a tactical standpoint. I want to know a little bit about vegan pasta like flour and water you can make pasta dough. I usually think of using eggs in a fildo because it gives some more structure. Can you tell me about the actual like a ravioli dough that's vegan.

Unknown:

Sure, instead of the eggs. I use silken tofu and a little bit of olive oil and a turmeric to add a little yellow. And there's salt and it's double zero flour and semolina flour.

Chris Spear:

How long did it take you to get that right? Was that a work of love?

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean it started from a base actually started that's a Ruby. A lot of that is a Ruby recipe. Okay, so I'll give credit where credit is due but it the balance I believe I don't believe they use double zero and semolina, and I think the balance of those two, it depends. And it also depends on what it's going to be. If I make a capuleti, which is more like a tortellini or tortelloni shape, the amount of the flour does change, I changed it, the dryness of it, that type of thing.

Chris Spear:

And then I want to talk about pricing value and kind of like what you hear from customers now. I'm sure if you have customers who live a vegan lifestyle, they probably understand cost and pricing. But I was wondering, like, Do you get any questions about how much your food is from people who are who maybe also eat meat? Because, you know, I guess what I'm getting is like, I do it a dinner party, right. And like, people put a value on meat, like price wise, but not cheap proteins or vegetables, like, they understand why it's $100 ahead if you're gonna have filet or crab cake, but they don't want to pay that much if it's a chicken dish, and they really don't want to pay that much if it's a vegetarian, so I get this thing where, you know, like, eight people are having crab cakes, and then one person's having like a 10 pay. And then they asked me like, how much the vegetarianism, like, it's $100. And I think they get kind of surprised, because you know, it's not $40 a pound crab, but for me, it's not necessarily the raw food cost, it's the time that goes into it. So is that something you've ever had to deal with? Or talk about is, you know, like, the pricing and the amount of work that goes into your dishes?

Unknown:

I think you nailed it, it isn't the food cost is a percentage. And I calculate that because I think it's important. But that's only a sliver of what we're doing. And you're bringing, you know, I bring plates and silverware. And sure you do too. And the prep prep before that. And not only that, the the knowledge of being able to make that pasta that way and the things that go with it. In the experience, you know, I'm there in my chef's code. And the way I handle it, is I matter of fact about it. And I charge $100 A person. And I actually will quote you I don't leave the house for under $400. Now, so somebody had asked me about a two person I've kind of avoided answering them because to me 200 is a lot was really high. And I would almost feel not want to charge that. But I've had people ask me, I tell them I have a really isn't a price sheet, I tell them where I start. And that's four to five courses. And that's how I put it $100 A person 45 courses, here's what I do. And then they say, Well, what if we did six courses? Can I charge them extra? Occasionally, people have emailed me and I've told them that it's $100 per sign. never hear from them again. And I don't follow up because I feel like that's probably the reason they didn't get back to me. And I don't make any excuses.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, and really good vegetables and produce are also expensive. You know, for anyone who shopped at a, whether it be a Whole Foods or your farmers market, like the three pound bag of you know, commodity carrots at the grocery store, it's $1.29 is not the same as like a bunch of heirloom carrots that you're buying from your local farmer. So there are also cost, but I just think it's interesting how people kind of value that or don't you know, but if you're getting that kind of money for vegetarian dishes, maybe I'm ready to move my prices up a little bit more. Because like I went to the grocery store today, and it's crazy out there.

Unknown:

Right? Everything's going up, right? The cost of ingredients are going up. I mean, people that was the big question when 11 Madison Park went plant based, right? They didn't lower their prices. And that was one of the discussion points that came out is okay, you you're paying this much for kale or whatever, no, you're paying what you're paying and 11 Madison Park because it's 11 Madison Park, and it's that Daniel whom and it's the people and it's the experience and it's a once in a lifetime. And that's what it's about. And I'm not suggesting that any on that level but with private chef coming to your house, I actually don't charge nearly as much as my mentor Max Mariota and Stefano, Mariana, they think I charge way too little because they have a certain set price that they they feel a party should be but I think for for me, I also want to do it. I don't want to have everyone say oh my god, he's overpriced. I also want to do this because I'm growing my business and I'm if I go see a party with four people or 10 people that's 10 more people that know about me and know about what I do and have experienced hi and plant based food and maybe they'll consider that the vegetarian option or the vegan option or is is something that they can handle and will value more Moving Forward.

Chris Spear:

Well, what do you have on the horizon? I mean, besides just kind of building and growing this, do you have any actual events you want to talk about or anything like, coming right up?

Unknown:

Thursday, the 11th of November and I have a 12 to 12 person tasting menu that I'm doing. It's really what I'm calling the first true 12 experience. I don't think there'll be quite 12 courses, but there'll be 12 tastes. I always do a sorbet and a palate cleanser and some other things. That is the next thing on the horizon. And I have a two dinners planned for later in the month, scheduled out for later in the month private dinners at people's homes.

Chris Spear:

Well, do you have any thing you want to leave the listeners with any words of wisdom or anything before we get out of here today?

Unknown:

I would just say that follow your passion, whatever it is, if it's cooking, if it's sports, if it's law, whatever that passion is, follow that passion. And if it's part time, if you play music, and you're in a band on the weekends, you know, a lot of people have side hustles a lot of people do things like I do. I happen to do it's a little bit to the chef piece be something that's a side hustle, I understand that but I know plenty of people who were in bands and do a lot of work and bands, wedding bands that are they're doing it on the weekends, and it's a complete all sorts of other things. So to me while it is a side hustle, I would say that for me it's certainly the goal is to do it full time. And I think that whatever it is, that really brings you joy, if you can do it, even if it's just a little bit of the time that to me is what cooking is and will be and hopefully for the rest of my life

Chris Spear:

well the food Sure looks delicious. I hope I can make it up Tony your dinners it's too bad that it didn't kind of coincide with my trip up to Rhode Island this past summer. But uh I'll get up there for one of these dinners and I would love to work with you I'm really trying to grow just like my own personal cooking because we eat a lot of vegan at my house. So

Unknown:

you know it's plant based food is not just the processed stuff that's out there and I think if people are open to cooking and don't turn their nose up at tofu or or kale and all that and people say to me sometimes this is actually a frequently held if I could eat this way all the time I could be plant based.

Chris Spear:

Well, thanks for coming on the show. And to all our listeners. This has been Chris with Chefs Without Restaurants. Go to chefs without restaurants.org To find our Facebook group mailing list and check database. The community's free to join. You'll get gig opportunities, advice on building and growing your business and you'll never miss an episode of our podcast. Have a great week.