Sept. 28, 2020

Charging For Your Services, Content Creation and So Much More - A Discussion with Chef Justin Khanna part 2

Charging For Your Services, Content Creation and So Much More - A Discussion with Chef Justin Khanna part 2

This is part 2 of a discussion I had with chef Justin Khanna. If you haven't listened to part 1 yet, I suggest listening to it first, as this episode jumps right into the middle of our discussion. Justin is the co-founder of Voyager's Table, a bespoke event production company. He’s also the host of The Emulsion podcast, and has a YouTube channel that has more than 20,000 subscribers.  Justin spent a number of years working in, and staging in, some of the best restaurants in the world including Per Se, Grace, Noma and Frantzen. This is part one of our interview. Part two will be released next. We discuss:

·                  The transition from restaurant cooking, to the personal chef & event business. 

·                  Staging

·                  Content creation, podcasts & YouTube

·                  Best practices from the world’s best chefs

·                  Pop-ups

·                  Charging for your services

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Justin Khanna
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Justin’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/justinkhanna/

Justin’s Twitter  https://twitter.com/justin_khanna

Justin’s Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/mrjustinkhanna/

Justin’s YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/justinkhannatv

The Emulsion Podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-emulsion-podcast/id1225091020?mt=2

Justin’s Website https://justinkhanna.com/

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Transcript
Justin Khanna:

If you go to an institution of a restaurant that's been around for a while, you can go there you can spend time working. And you can get the skills that I think are required to be a professional chef in whatever you want to have a food truck, you want to do pop ups you want to do in person, you know, private cheffing, like any anything that runs the gamut. A restaurant environment is one of the best places to get those skills.

Chris Spear:

Well, and some of our listeners have probably heard this or know this about me, but I worked at IKEA for almost three years. And a lot of friends razzed me at the time, you know, your real chef, like what are you doing, just making meatballs, but you look at them. And there are a global billion dollar organization, I've never worked for an organization as well organized or as good as what they do as them from marketing to hire, you know, you learn how to hire you learn how to give critical evaluations to your staff, you learn how to market you know, it's this crazy thing like we would have a dry erase board with a map of the the kitchen, the restaurant and IKEA, have you been doing IKEA before? So I would have to like watch one guy and then follow him with a marker on the dry erase board and every time he stopped putting next, and then I'd have to pick someone else and do that. And then after doing this for half an hour, you had to analyze the x's, right? So like everyone's standing at this point. So what does that mean? Well, it could mean a bunch of things. One, it could mean there's a bottleneck, maybe we put the silverware there, and everyone stopping and it takes a lot of time. So maybe we need to move it. Or maybe that is the case. But also could we put our high margin margin item there. So it's getting extra exposure. So if everyone's staying at this spot for 30 seconds to get their silverware, if we get, you know, a 60% profit on this dime cake, should we put the cake there and use it as a marketing opportunity. Like that's the kind of stuff that you don't learn in a traditional mom and pop or even a Michelin restaurant. But they have that down. And it was that kind of stuff that I left even after just two or three years there. That was invaluable in starting a business. I have

Justin Khanna:

a old sous chef of mine who would wear a pedometer before your phone was so good at keeping track of your steps. Because he would get pissed if the day the day's numbers were more than the steps he took the day before because it meant that he was being inefficient in his movements in the kitchen, where it's like if he saw like, Oh, I took 2500 extra steps that day. What was it that I was running around so much, I don't want to be running around, I want to be so effective that like, I move as little as possible, I make one trip to the walking, grab all the stuff I need, then I can just stand there and prep. One point that that makes me think of which is a fascinating story. The other point is I was listening to either an audiobook or a podcast, I can't remember that spoke, it was an audio book that's spoken the value of IKEA putting food in the middle of the shopping experience at their retail locations. Because that just the data shows that like humans ability to make these kinds of frivolous retail buying decisions are your ease, you're more easily marketed to when your blood sugar is satiated. So IKEA took a look at it. And they're like, why is the IKEA restaurant not at the end of the shopping experience? It's in the middle, because they want you to be a better customer, you know, hearing in the sense that you're going to spend more money. There's

Chris Spear:

a number of reasons. Also, one of the things is to reinforce the low price profile. I actually wrote a blog post on this. It went viral and it ended up in the New York Post and I caught some crap like I had a lot of people from IKEA reach out to me, I didn't think was a big secret. You know, it's the idea of lost leaders. But basically, you know, you're young guy, you've never bought a couch you go into their store is $599 a good price for a couch? I don't know. But like you know that for 99 cents where you get this breakfast with coffee. That's a good deal. A hotdogs? 50 cents? That's a good deal. Yeah, well, meatball dinners 399. So you're taking a literal loss on the food to psychologically tell people that everything here is a better price. Even if that's not true, though, they use that to reinforce that. And I wrote about that. And I didn't expect it was going to go viral. And then it ended up in like all these newspapers. It was on an Australian TV show where I was quoted, and then it was turned into this show in London called tricks of the restaurant trade. So in a is it kind of like the doors got blown off. I didn't it was on the Korra website yet someone was talking about marketing. And I live in that as an example. And somehow it just like, got all these upvotes and it has today like 3 million up votes or something. And it's crazy, but you know, things like that where they're using psychology to market their products. And I think that's where guys like us, hopefully are going to be successful. I think if you just focus on restaurants, the restaurant business, you're going to have a hard time I think you need to look at business leaders and other organizations and see what they do and then apply it back to the food business.

Justin Khanna:

Well, so I immediately thought of the I apologize that my head always goes to fine dining. But that's like a bunch of the news that I fall I cover on my podcast when masimo Butera partnered with Gucci because he went to high school with a guy who's like, either a, like a coke president or something like someone's super high up at Gucci. And they basically took like a similar Breakfast at Tiffany's model. And I'm sorry, if I'm kind of like screwing up the details of this. But where you would have a food experience in a retail environment, because you have all these sorts of benefits to kind of gain from from engineering, something like that in your brick and mortar. Because in the same way that like restaurants struggled during COVID, like retail, struggling, you know, just retail has been struggling for a while. And so like, you can, and this comes back to again, my one of my first points about like making the most of you could have taken that experience at IKEA, and been like, Oh, this is just such a humdrum thing, like I'm cooking in a furniture store. Or you can pay attention to the details, the whys of what's going on, the larger forces that play. And then you know, maybe you decide like, I don't know, pick it, pick a brand that is like struggling, you now have this skill that is cooking, and being able to integrate into these different types of business models, and incorporate that into something that you're going to offer them and then you could effectively create your dream job. I don't know, I just think but I think people either simplify things a little bit too much. Or they focus too much on the negative aspects of, you know, insert position, or job.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, and, you know, it's interesting, like, I don't even know that I want cooking to be what I do for the rest of my life anymore. Like, I want to be in the food world, and I left a job. So I can start my personal chef business, and I love it. It's fulfilling when I get to create dishes and going out and cooking. And chefs without restaurants was like this little side thing I was doing almost as a joke. Like, I thought it was gonna be like for people that I knew who were just going to gig share to help each other get more work It was so I didn't have to pay advertisers, we could like gig share. And it's turned into this community of people with all these things now. And now I'm helping people with doing their websites and doing marketing and trying to get you know, deals with sponsors and stuff. And I enjoy it. I enjoy the process of podcasting. And it's like, wow, I don't even know how much I want to go cooking anymore. Like cook, because the cooking is not scalable, right? Like, that's what everyone always said is like, how do you grow? How do you scale and I didn't want to be back to the office manager, where I'm sending a bunch of cooks out to go do perfect little bites, dinners, and I'm not cooking, because I didn't enjoy that. But this is different. And this is like the scalable thing. So I still want to hold perfect little bites close to me, like that's gonna be my thing. And I don't see releasing that. But as chazal at restaurants grows into a much bigger thing. That's the organization that I'm going to be bringing people on to and growing. And it's still in the food world. It's just, you know, it's like only three years old. At this point, I never thought it was going to be this thing.

Justin Khanna:

I think there's another piece. And I think it's Patrick Collison, who's another writer for stripe, said this in the in the similar line of if you know how to cook, you will never be without friends. And so I think that if anybody is like, because there's a lot of sunk costs to write like you and I spent a lot of time getting these skills to cook well. And to we spent a lot of begrudging time, just being disciplined, and just like getting to where we are at. And so this idea of giving up food in the way that you have that might have the relationship to food right now, which is like, five days a week. Long Day's service starts here and ends here. type of environment, it can be really hard to give that up. But doing the work to kind of take it take a second and think like, do I have to serve dinner every night, to be satiated with what I create and put on the plate? And that goes back to my point of like, why would I not focus the business around this other thing that scales and spreads the ideas and also makes money. But then I leave the cooking part and the menu creation and the food execution part to the point where I can actually be happy if we have 15 people gathered around a table on a Friday night. Like it's not reliant on filling all of the seats. Like what if I use that as a mental model? And that just completely blew the door off of it for me because I was like, Oh my goodness, like this is amazing.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I mean, it's interesting. Like I have weeks now where I have four events in a week and I'm almost like, Man, I wish I didn't have to rub up This week, you know, yeah, well, you know, it's been so interesting with COVID. Now I'm seeing a lot of things that used to be big like weddings, a lot of people are doing these like 10 to 20 person weddings where normally they would have gone to 300 people. And it's insane the amount of people who are now just saying, I've rented an Airbnb on a farm, and we want 15 people to do this wedding. Can you do that? Or do you know someone. And I think that's where personal chefs and people in this business have a little edge right now, if you don't have a brick and mortar, and you're looking to pick up things like this, I

Justin Khanna:

let out such a sigh of relief when we had an 800 person gala scheduled at the end of March. And it obviously had to get cancelled because of COVID. And we started, we had to pivot to like you said these like, because we're also opening up in phases in Washington, where it's like, these smaller gatherings, which was basically like, that's what I was doing before, I just, you know, came on with this company, or it's like, small, intimate, like, really focused, I could cook all of the food style events, where it's like, that is such a comfort zone for me. And I really love that kind of environment. So I was like, beyond jazzed when that was the option, you know what I mean?

Chris Spear:

So how about burnout? Do you feel like you're ever doing too much is have you cut anything? Is there anything you were doing that you verified, it isn't worth your time?

Justin Khanna:

Yeah, and a little bit less pressure on myself to upload as frequently as I was. I mean, when I was like, when I went from 100 to 10,000 subscribers, I was pretty consistent about uploading every single week. But then at the same time, it's like, I was not cooking as much. And so then when I started to, like, come on as a co founder, and have to be a little bit more entrepreneurial, and manage more things on a day to day, it was like, I just wouldn't have the time because it was like, I'm managing my relationship with my fiance, like her and I are getting married in October. And like both my parents health kind of took a turn for the worse, like in the past two years or so. And so there's like, there's a lot of stuff that needs to get managed and juggled. And so being less judgmental on myself has been really helpful on the content front. And I have pitched it pretty much from the beginning where it's like, I'm not a YouTuber, podcaster first. And I think that if the identity piece of it kind of plays into it a little bit with people sometimes where it's like, if you call yourself a YouTuber, but you're only publishing one video every three weeks, like it's a little bit easy to be down on yourself. And you and I think we're talking about for the mics turned on about your schedule in uploading, where it's like, it's so easy to get the momentum going and feeling like oh, well, this is the reason why you might doubt my downloads are going up. And more people are joining the community. And like all that stuff, is because of the consistency of uploading, when in reality, it might just be because you're making good content, you know what I mean? And the consistency part is something that's in your head, because it's a correlation, not causation kind of thing. And if you actually did take the time to take four weeks off, so that you can then come back and continue that consistency going forward. versus doing something where you start to feel the burnout, and the quality of the episode starts to go down. You're not as excited during the interviews and all that stuff that causes you to potentially have to take a six month hiatus because you're so burnt out, you know what I mean? So I weigh that I weigh that a lot. But I, I still, if I'm being honest, like I still haven't gotten to the point where I don't feel like I'm leading a double life in a way. Like the goal is to get to a point where I can go to one work location, I can have a team that helps me execute on all of these things that I want to work on. And then I can have hobbies and kind of like a little bit of a life outside, like I can I can turn I can leave the office and shut things off. And that's kind of it. I'm not there yet, because I'm still proving the event style business model to be something that that is like fully autonomous where we can like have a team that that executes on this stuff with us. Again, COVID threw a wrench in that we were so we were 80% booked for 2020 it was like we were set to we had it we had a nine person office, we were getting ready to hire like do a massive round of hiring to go from five employees to seven or eight. And it all got disrupted, which is really unfortunate. But I still think getting to the point where there is an element of content creation and thing, business activities that scale being the steak on the plate. And then I can have these other things whether it's like doing an ambitious tasting menu to bring people together that we want to be potential clients like that gets me excited. And then a little bit of this kind of like magic. Entering slash having fun conversations like this slash sharing my ideas on other topics. That's also kind of like a little side dish on the plate. I'm not there yet. But I would like to be there in the next, hopefully, three years.

Chris Spear:

That's the goal. It's a good goal. Did you have any content that went viral? Or is it just like, yeah, yeah, one video or anything?

Justin Khanna:

ish, I think I think it depends on what you call viral, have yet to get anything like in the millions of views. But I've had a couple knife review videos that just like, I think one is about to hit 200,000 views on YouTube, which is just a testament to like, the market dynamic, I noticed was like, before I would buy anything. And this is when I was like, really getting into like shooting videos and cameras and audio equipment. I would watch like 13 reviews on my camera before I would buy it. You know, so I was like, Why? Why don't I because I also have this intense fascination with like chef gear and knives. And I was like, What if mkbhd made a video about a chef knife? What would that look like? You know, and so I tried that a few times, then I got into like what's in my knife bag videos in the same way that people make, like what's in my camera bag videos, which I watched a ton of. And so those I would say go went went a little bit more viral than then I kind of expected. I'm always kind of interested to see. I happened to publish a profile, an interview I did with Vincent from Koren, the knife shop in New York. And I published mine within 24 hours of when Alex French guy cooking, also published his. And so that video also just like went crazy in views. And then I had another video linked at the end of that, that a bunch of people like our algorithms are crazy man, like how they suggest videos in that in that sort of way. I've had an interesting perspective on just virality and internet fame. In general, that's changed a little bit where I don't, I'm trying to find the balance between wanting to grow in the sense that I want to see it continue to improve and reach new people. And I don't want to use this mental model, I'm kind of going through no as an excuse to not want to do well. But I also don't want the guy fee at the level of fame. You know, that comes with being like a food personality, where you just like have weird people coming out of the woodwork criticizing your eyebrows for like, you know what I mean? Just because you have some sort of level of clout where it's like, they get pleasure out of like tearing you down in some way, shape or form. Like the thousand true fans essay, just like really rings true with me where it's just like, if I can have my small little corner of the internet, where it's just like, I can help a certain number of people. And even if it gets to being in the thousands, like people I've helped, that already is an order of magnitude above what I would get if I had a brick and mortar kitchen. And that was the only way that I mentored people was if you were in my kitchen working for me on payroll, that's the only way I mentored you. Because if I can even just hit that little milestone, that then is a win for me. And that's kind of like what I've been trying to wrap my head around where it's like, I don't actually, Tim Ferriss came out with a great piece recently where it's like, you don't actually want to be famous. And I thought I got a ton of value from reading that where it's like, if you actually write your goals and ambitions down of what you want to do, and the impact you want to make and the ideas that you want to share, you might realize that you don't need in the seven figures of followers or dollars or eyeballs on your on your content or whatever. Ryan Holiday talks about this a lot to like the notion of enough like what is enough, you know? So I think about that a lot in the sense of what is the amount of impact I can have or people following along or like when I share an idea, like how far does it go? Or how impactful is it? Does it hit the right people at the right time? That to me is potentially more important than going viral? I guess.

Chris Spear:

Yeah. I mean, it helps when you get some attention. But finding that right level, I'm a huge fan of 1000 true fans. We've talked about that on the podcast a lot. You know, I mean, what good is it? You see these people who have 10 million followers on Instagram and they take a photo of like, something that's just like garbage, and it has like 852 likes, but like what did that do? So Paris Hilton took a picture of a ham sandwich and it has 500 likes, like does that move the needle on anything with her and her group like it's just there, you know, but if I post something and it has 20 likes, but like one of the people like it helps them I'm like, I published a recipe, like, there's one woman who lives in Baltimore, and she always makes my pickles. Like, I love it. And she tagged me every time. Like I published it on my website and my Facebook page. And like, every time she makes them, she's like, put my perfect little bites pickles on my sandwich. Like, I'm much happier with that, than having 300 likes of that random photo. You know,

Justin Khanna:

it's so true. I randomly had a guy who was just dming me like, showing the the post love, like I would ask, I would do polls on Instagram. And he would always answer them, he was always really thoughtful with how he would interact with my content. And I had an extra knife from a review. And I sent it to him because he was asking me about a certain knife that I had covered or asking me a recommendation on which knife should I buy? And it was like, to this day, I have this connection with this person who I've never met in person. That is just like it supersedes all the other numbers. Do you know what I mean? that come through on social media. And I think that it's easy, it's so easy to get caught up in it man. Like it's so easy to get swept away or judgmental on the content when, if you again, back to Ryan Holiday, he's like he finished the book. stillness is the key. And he was like, I want to get to a point where I finish the work. And that is the satisfaction. Like it's not does it hit New York Times bestsellers? It's not how many thousands of copies does it sell? It's not how big was my fee from the publisher? It's like, Can I finish? Can I can I hit the last period on the page and be happy with the work that I put in like that, that is much more into it gratifying, I think. And if people have talked about mental models, exhaustingly now in this in this interview, but like to think in that way, I think is much more sustainable. I think like you can do it longer. as a as a professional. Yeah,

Chris Spear:

yeah. I read the daily stoic every day, both the book and his email. And I find that it keeps me grounded. I especially love the email because it's so relevant to what's going on right now. The book is kind of timeless, and then the email seems to be timely. And just man I don't know that I could ever think and write as articulately he as he does in the way that he thinks and right.

Justin Khanna:

And that's that, but that's also the thing is that yes, he is writing new content, but he's doing it based off of principles that have been around for thousands and thousands of years. You know, like when he quotes Marcus Aurelius. It's not like he's coming up with anything new, like he's dissecting it a little bit and sharing how it might apply to our our lives here in 2020. But the ideas themselves have been plaguing humanity for for how long, I will, I will share this with you. And maybe it's something that you and I can do as a joint project someday. But I have this idea that I want to do something very similar to daily stoic, but it's called the stoic chef. And I want it to be like, these learnings and quips and fundamentals that just relate to our industry, because I think that the the operation like installing stoicism in a chef's brain does so much for all of these issues that we have with ego, and temper, and creativity, and taking feedback. And all of these obstacles, you know, all of these sorts of issues, to be able to offer something that is a resource for chefs to learn a little bit about operating more. stoically, I think, has like, industry changing potential. I sounds

Chris Spear:

like sounds like a fun project.

Justin Khanna:

I know, I need to, again, the information is all there. But like my, a lot of my listeners and audience, people already know that, like, I had this shared Google Drive recipe project that I launched. And I thought it would be something that I could like, do with my community. And I just like, I got completely caught up in other projects where I just like, I can't, I can't manage it right now. And I get emails every single week. Where's the recipe folder, like I really want to do this recipe thing. So in addition to all the other things I have going on, I have like, I can't take on another thing right now. But it is in my headspace of like the stoic chef as a project, whether it's a newsletter, or a book, or a blog, or Instagram thing or Twitter account. I don't know. I think it would do some good to a lot of people.

Chris Spear:

Well, and I've started transcribing my podcast, which has been really good and just using like, I use otter AI. I use otter and it's not like 100% and I haven't gone I don't correct it 100% when I upload it like it, I think it helps with SEO. But I did think about like that could be a really cool book, like if I spent the time and actually edited it and edited for content. Edit down and make sure everything spelled correctly. It's like, at this point, I have 60 interviews with chefs from different walks of life, and different backgrounds. And I think that'd be like a really cool thing to put together. But that's like, I'd have to put the podcast on hold or outsource it to someone, like, totally give them the files and be like, okay, you edit this, like, it's almost there. It's like 90%. They're like, Can you make this legible? And make it like a tribe of mentors type thing? You're proud of all the people that I've talked to. So I'm going to continue doing that. And as I have time, I'm going because I started like, Episode 40 something. So yeah, I have like 40 episodes that I need to go get edited first, and then have them transcribed. But you know, something for? I hate when I have time and resources totally.

Justin Khanna:

I think transcribing podcasts is something that I'm a little bit averse to, because I don't think I've ever read a transcript of a podcast. So it's one of those things where it's like, I don't interact with it as a consumer. So I don't push the value forward and prioritize it enough. But yeah, have you seen a lot of people who, like you said a benefits for SEO. But

Chris Spear:

that's, that's what they say the big thing is, is that benefits for SEO and that people like to read, you know, when you look at the deaf community, there's a whole untapped market there. But really, the way the transcription is because it's so dense in discussions, it's not a, you know, like attention grabbing headlines, like clickbait to try and fool SEO. It's real stuff. So, you know, we're having a long conversation here. And all the things you've talked about, are going to show up. So when we're talking about like, doing knife reviews on YouTube, like my podcast might show up, because

Unknown:

interesting,

Chris Spear:

and so true. And that that is the number one thing I'm in a lot of podcasting, Facebook groups. And everyone says like if you're going to spend the money and time on something that like the number one is to do transcription, and that you'll see a ton of extra stuff from that. Fascinating, but it's great to like skim for bite, like looking for the stoic chef, like it's easier for me to speed read and skim for like comments than to go and listen to it for an hour that strike and skim and be like, oh, wow, like this person already talked about that. Like there's my sound bite when I'm looking for sound bites, I can go and read it rather than necessarily listen to the whole thing. Totally.

Justin Khanna:

Yeah, I think. Yeah, it's, it's been a no brainer for me for a while to do certain videos where I would like, it was like a 10 minute YouTube video where I would talk on the topic, like I did a whole breakdown of why ego is the enemy by Ryan Holiday could benefit the professional chef, like that, in and of itself should also be an article, like, it's a video on YouTube, I released it as a podcast, it should also be an article. And the easiest way to do that is just to like plug it into like otter rev.com and just get the transcript, send it to someone who is better at writing than I am. Again, me with my weird negative self talk on writing. And then have them send it back to me as a finished piece with like, this is the head. This is like the head the header, or I guess like the the title of this section. And then here's what you talked about. Here's where we'll insert a picture of a quote from the book. And then below that, then you go into another section, like really make it into a nice article slash blog post, and then kind of go from there. That's been in my head for a while. But again, things that I haven't prioritized enough yet.

Chris Spear:

Well, we I feel like we could talk for hours. But I want I want to

Justin Khanna:

respect your time, is there anything you feel like you didn't get out there that we need to talk about today? Or we can do some follow up? I definitely think in Episode Two, even if it's like you come on the emotion podcast. And this is like a double kind of like episode two kind of thing. Awesome, super valuable. I'd love to have you on. I, I did want to, especially because we both have done private cheffing stuff in the past, to talk through either like something that would be beneficial for my audience, because I want to use some clips from this audio of like, we've seen a lot of information of people from restaurants that are usually either well regarded or gave them a point of view on food, getting hired as private chefs, whether it's for one off things or it's like live in three meals a day type of relationships. Where is your kind of head on? And you can talk pre COVID or current times of like someone coming into that space? What should they kind of be thinking about? and things that have proved to be valuable for you starting in private? cheffing?

Chris Spear:

I mean, for me, I wanted to run a profitable business. I mean, I think the hard thing is, I've talked a lot with guests, a lot of people are side hustling and they don't know how to make the jump from side hustle to permanent. You know, the reality is, I was working at a job where you're making like $60,000 a year and then tomorrow, your personal chef, like it's very hard to go from there to like, oh, wow, crap. I made 20 grand this year. You know, like, totally, how do you figure out I think the big thing is price. So I always want to be transparent about pricing market, what the costs are, what you can get and what you need to be providing to get there. Because a lot of people are side hustling 30 $40 dinners, and that's great side money if you're working somewhere. But like, could you go work three days a week, this week and only make $30 a head and dinners like, it's not a realistic business model, some side hustles with your pricing and the market you're in, you're never going to be able to support your family on and I think that's the real truth. And we need to be having this conversation. So first of all, I think you should always do it on the side first. Now, a lot of people are coming into this market with no food experience, I see a lot of people who are accountants, and they now want to be a personal chef, they've never done restaurants, they don't have a lot of business experience. And they have this like, pipe dream of being a personal chef full time and being able to support themselves on it. And I think that's a dangerous thing. And I really like having those conversations about the reality of it. I've had a number of people on the show who have like baking businesses, like they bake cakes and stuff. And on Instagram, it looks like they have a very successful cake business. But what success because they're also working a 40 hour a week job as something else. And what they're not saying in the public eye is like, oh, by the way, I could never live off of my cake business. And there's nothing wrong with that if you're happy with it. But I think it paints a dangerous picture that like, you can go quit your job and start this food business and live off of it. I mean, I make no revenue right now office so that restaurants, it's only perfect little bites. And that's the only job I have. So if I'm not making money with that, I'm not making money. And you know, I've got a wife and two kids and all that stuff. And it's expensive. And I can't be out there making small potatoes. But I know how to make food, I know how to market to those clients. And I figured out for me, what works with what my costs are, and all that stuff. So I think having more conversations around pricing, and all that kind of stuff is the most important thing is we need to be more into it. I know. People always say like growing up, like don't talk about money. But I think I'm doing a disservice if I'm not talking about money and saying, like, this is what you can get. Some people might say, well, I've tried and I can't get $100 a head or 150. Like, I've had dinners where people are paying me over $200 a head for dinner. And that's like facts. Totally, you know.

Justin Khanna:

And Bravo, bravo for that. But also, so my, my business partner has this anecdote that I think she got from Oprah, which is treat people how to treat people how no teach people how to treat you, I totally screwed up that quote. But it's this very true thing of like, if you continue to do 25 $30 ahead dinners, what do you think is going to continue to come through the, to the door into your inbox, you know, or it's like, if you if you show people that that is the value that you post as the benchmark for your services? Like that's gonna continue to be where it goes. But it is intimidating man.

Chris Spear:

Yeah. Do you know Chase Jarvis? Do you know who he is? Yeah. And he's a Seattle guy. And he, he talked about this a number of times, he does photography, and Seth Godin talks about that, I think maybe they talked about it on his show, that idea of like, you're always going to be the cheap guy. Like, you go, and you do this dinner for $50 a head, like, you're not gonna be able to convert those people ever to $100 head and they're gonna have all their friends that you're the guy who does the $50 dinners. And it's really hard. And it starts this cycle, and it starts this trap. And, you know, I've had some of that I've had customers when I was starting out, I didn't know how to price them. And then they became long standing customers, and they were expecting the same thing. And I lost a couple of them. When I raise my prices. Like, at one point, I said, like, okay, I've done eight dinners for you, just so you know, you're still paying $60 ahead, like everyone else pays 100. And because you're one of my first, like guests, I've honored that but like, the reality is, I can't charge I can't do that anymore. And then I just I priced them out, like they couldn't do it anymore. And you know, it is what it is.

Justin Khanna:

So you still continue to do all of the negotiation and client interaction yourself.

Chris Spear:

You don't have any employees working for me for either of my two businesses. So I do two things 100% May, like something's gonna give it some peace trying to figure that out. I but that's but that's where you know, you also figure out what works and what doesn't, and you cut that stuff. I think I could pay someone to do some of this stuff that wouldn't even be worth exploring. Like, for me, it's I just value my time and my money and then having to figure what works. I mean, I want to bring on employees at some point, but again, I think that's going to be shot. So that restaurant stuff, and not perfect little bite stuff. Right. But you know, I always say I have easy pricing. Like, when I price my dinners, it's flat pricing. So whether you get jerk chicken that's $100 or filet mignon, that's $100 like, right, it's the cost of doing business. And that way, I don't have to price out everything and some people get it and some people don't. So I don't want to get into haggling and then at that level of price, and cost There's a lot of float like, I don't have to nickel and dime things. You know, like, I know a lot of people who are like, Oh, well, you know, I'm only there for four hour. Like, if I'm there for six hours like you've paid for like, Yeah, and I can pay for help. Like, again, I don't have employees, but when I have bigger parties, I hire people, and I pay 40 to $50 an hour. Like I pay people what I want to get paid, because we're gonna do a dinner for 20 people at $100. That's $2,000. Yeah, I might run a 20% food cost. So I'm still making good profit. I've no overhead of a building no capital expenses, Harry. So the only costs then our labor if I'm bringing someone. So, you know, come show up at this house and get there at five o'clock. And we'll leave at 10. And I'll give you $300. Yeah, no, because I got 2000 take 300 out, I'm at 1700. You know, and maybe I had $300 in food costs, I still made a good profit. But that's how I want to run my businesses. Sure. And put that money back in people's pockets. Yeah. So I like talking about what I charge, what you can get and how much I like to pay my employees.

Justin Khanna:

Yeah, big thing that flipped for me was when I met my business partner, and she had a bunch of clients that were already in her pipeline. But then I also brought a bunch of people who I was doing dinners for into the Voyagers table kind of orbit. And having her just advocate on my behalf. As far as pricing goes, and doing all these negotiations on contracts, and being able to do larger events and coordinate all the things that are involved with scheduling and rentals and venues and florals. And all this sorts of stuff was really valuable for me, if I can share anything that was particularly impactful. But then the other thing that we had a huge unlock on was to just set a day rate for for my time. Because then on top of that, it's like, then it's a it's a cost per guest where if the client all of a sudden says, Hey, 15 people aren't going to show up, you know, or the other way, hey, we have 15 other people who want to come it bills effectively. And then we also know that, and that's how it started off with our relationship. Similar tie, you're talking about like, as long as you know that your time is covered, then you don't care if you spend an extra 35 minutes, like having to clean up or if you need to go to you know, a market and get some extra whatever. Because you know that you're you're not, as in your words nickel and diming, the client to kind of

Chris Spear:

like the whole market price thing, like I don't want to pitch the menu and then I got there. It's like, oh, burrata went up. $2 a pound. Now it's going to be like, yeah, $18 a person instead of like, everything's covered in there. And I don't have to worry about that. And not that I want to use cheap product. It's just that like, it gives me that little buffer. And then from there, like, I throw in bonus courses based on what you get. So if you get a chicken entree, then maybe you're going to get like a really awesome ribeye second course, as a bonus. So it comes out, you know, and I just have built my business on that. So it all comes out where it's about the same, but I can choose how to balance my costs. You know, that's

Justin Khanna:

really, that's really, I think a lot of people, at least from my audience will get some value from that, because there's a lot of people who have questions on just pricing in general, like people like Seth and Chase, talk about a lot with fear of fear of pricing your work pricing yourself as an as a creative just in the market in general. Because I think that's the funny thing about a lot of these combos is that like, I don't think I've ever hired a private chef to do any sort of party for me, in the same way that Chase, Jarvis probably never has hired a photographer before. So they don't have the emotional connection to that purchasing decision. Whereas like, any of us have gone out to dinner before. And we've paid 750 for a plate or you know, 1450 for a sandwich, or, you know, $38 for a main course. And so then, for us emotionally hearing that we are charging $100 for a two course, or three course, you know what I mean? is like, well, that's exorbitant, but then it's like, no, it's actually not when you kind of like, factor all this in. And anything that happens,

Chris Spear:

if you can get your customers to tell you what their budget is, I find that helpful, too. Because I also found that I was like, under charging, you know, there's a lot of people who think that $100 is low based on what you're giving them totally. And I find that like I just say, Well, you know, here's a scale of what it usually is. And I'll say like 85 to 185 a head or something like that, like, what's your price range? And some people be like, Oh, you know, can you do a really nice dinner for $200 a person? It's like,

Justin Khanna:

yeah, I can, indeed I can. I think that's the other the other misconception that happens when people make the leap from a 55 Hour Workweek as a chef in a restaurant to doing stuff like private chuffing, and this is something I became increasingly clear when I was doing pop ups where it's like, oh, I can price things in this way. Because in a day, I will make this amount of money, which is x multiplier more than I used to make in a day. But then you also look at my month and number of days that I was generating revenue in that month. And it's like, oh, he actually making less per month, you know what I mean? Then you were, even though your day rate is a little bit higher, because the irregularity of it just kind of brings this other wrench into it all. And so I would encourage people to think about that, where it's not necessarily that you're making the day itself worth it. But like, I do work on the lead up to these events in after the event, like, I have to return all the rentals, like, I have to, you know, clean equipment on the days off, you know, like, I'm spending time working on these things, when I'm not billing for it, and the clients not technically paying for it. So that should be included in the price that you're charged per

Chris Spear:

cent. And I said, it takes your time, it takes four days for me to do an event. And, or more, you know, if I'm doing a dinner for you, at the end of the month, emailing you back and forth to find out what you like, don't like I'm spending time on my computer doing a customized menu, send it we got to go back and forth, then like I have to go to the store. I have to buy stuff, I have to prep stuff. I have to commute to your place, you know, execute there. I'm there for five hours drive home do dishes. So yeah, I mean, people say like, oh, must be nice to work three days a week, but it's like I couldn't do I like if I have four events in a week. I it's almost too much like I can't do it like three, especially if they're big is about the most I can do. But yeah, and and people ask me about like what you make. I've had months where I've made 1200 dollars. Yeah, and I've had months where I've made $12,000. I mean, and it just, it's really hard because it ebbs and flows. And you have to know it all comes out in the wash. And I know at the end of the year, like the needle is moving up, and year over year, my revenues increasing. But it's scary when you come into, you know, March and I made 750 I'm not even talking COVID like 2019, I had months where I made like 1500 dollars, and you're like, wow, that sucks. And then I have November, and I make $12,000 in the month of November, you know, so you just have to keep pushing and hope. But that's why again, like talking about money, I have no steady income that I can guess. And COVID has just made that even harder, I have no idea I had ones that were hard. And thank God for some help with some unemployment and Okay, things are bouncing back a little now. And you know, you just keep plugging along. But that's where you have a bunch of irons in the fire. I mean, when you're not working, you got to work like that's where I'm not generating revenue from the podcast, but maybe make a better podcast where I can maybe monetize or create more content where I can get more customers. So,

Justin Khanna:

you know, make sense.

Chris Spear:

I think this is gonna be like a really cool double episode. I think I'm going to split I know two episodes, I think but I think that's good. We talked about kind of like what my workload would look like. So yeah, just edit this down and put out. And you know, I don't know how you do it. I know you've had podcasts where you talk by yourself, or it's not an interview, like, I don't think I could just get on the mic and talk like that I have trouble recording my intro talking for two minutes into the thing without sounding ridiculous. I think

Justin Khanna:

the behind the scenes secret of that is that i i will typically, at least for episodes, probably 30 through 100, I would write out every single word that I said. And I would literally just read off of my computer, like I was reading, I was not going completely off the cuff. I've gotten a lot better at it over time, where now I have this kind of combination of like, I leave bulleted notes underneath articles that I'm covering. And then I will kind of like use those as a starting point for the riff that I want to go on. But yeah, it's uh, I like that cadence of like, solo episode, other episode. But I've also been the solo episodes need to just be be there on YouTube videos on certain topics kind of made that hardline decision. Anyways, this is me just nerding out about content. I do this every time I find someone who also does like YouTube in the chef's food space, because I feel like we all operate in our own silos in this this weird world that we live in. And when I get good to get the chance to talk to someone, I kind of geek out a little bit. So

Chris Spear:

yeah, no, I love it too. Like, and again, because I think you also seem to read all the same books and follow like a father kind of people. And I think, again, you start to see this commonality of the people who are kind of in the food entrepreneur space, and who are getting into kind of food, multimedia, if that's what we're calling it. They've all taken a page out of so many of these people's books. And you know, when I was thinking about starting my business, I wasn't looking any more restaurants like at that point. I had been working for so many years. I kind of knew what I wanted to do, but didn't know how to really do any marketing at all or really media and I was doing my commute to work every day spending two hours in the car and I was just listening to every book by all those guys Gary Vee Tim Ferriss, you know, all Ryan Holiday, doing all kinds of self growth kind of thing, you know, listening to Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and yet reading all these things just to kind of put myself in the mindset of an entrepreneur and someone who is going to start a business. And then marketing I've taken so many plays out of their books, and I just wasn't looking at restaurants. And anymore, I didn't need to kind of model my business off of some personal chef or some restaurant, but I needed to learn how to market and advertise, dude, if

Justin Khanna:

I, if that model the create content for five days a week and host dinners, you know, high end, kind of like custom menus, seasonally changing with the menus, what the chef wanted to cook like a chi psyche counter style dinner model existed, I had the skills and the resume to go hopefully at least have a shot at connecting with that person and go working for that organization. It just didn't exist, you know what I mean? Like, I applied for a, what was the role, content, producer content, host something something at chefsteps like, I wanted to move to Seattle and work at chefsteps for a while, because it was the closest thing that I could see of like, Real Techniques, real cooking, like, you know, authentic personalities, but internet first, you know what I mean? And that was like, the only thing that I could look at and be like, yeah, that's something similar to what I would want to do at the time. And it just didn't exist. So it was like, Okay, well, I got to figure this out myself. What are the resources that are at my fingertips that I can use to at least crawl myself closer to this goal? Because it's not a it's not a well paved path? You know what I mean?

Chris Spear:

What's next? Just keep on truckin. Right,

Justin Khanna:

exactly. Like that's the only way because the thing is, like, I feel so much platforms are changing. Like so many so many homies of mine, like, Did crazy well on tik tok. And now, it's like, we're doing Instagram reels now, like what's happening? You know what I mean? Like, all this stuff is constantly changing. And that's the blessing of it. And the curse of it is that in 2015, or 2016, the first video that I hit upload on, on YouTube, I was kicking myself, because I was like, You're too late to YouTube, dude. Like, it's the ships come and gone, you're gonna be a has been, no one's gonna watch your content, like, You're too late for YouTube. In 2016, I was thinking that. And now it's just like, it's more than ever, like more than ever, the most valuable skill you can have. is being good on video.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I just, um, I mean, I've always been a big fan of Instagram, but I started using Have you ever heard a flick, which is like a hashtag website? Oh, that's really cool. It like analyzes your posts and your hashtags. But there's a hashtag strategy. And I've been using it. And I've been growing about 100 followers every two weeks. Wow. Which is like, for me fan Instagram.

Justin Khanna:

That's unheard of Instagram. Yeah.

Chris Spear:

But what it is, is it looks at it analyzes how many followers you currently have. There's a video and it's free. It's like, it analyzes how many followers you have. And then hashtags for that growth. So like, for me, like true cooks, I'm not going to rank because I only have like 2000 followers totally, like maybe true cook streak team. Yeah, that has less. So there's all these algorithms and you make like 10 blocks of like 30. And they have this mix where like on day one, use hashtag groups, one, four, and six. And day two, you use 125, and six, and day three, use three, two, and four. And it's a mix of like, high search to low. So like group one is for like a 20,000 and below posts. And then like group two is like 20 to 70,000. So it's a mix of like rolling the dice and hoping you hit on one of the ones that have like a million or ranking really well on a low searched one. So it's this really interesting thing and you just build like 10 blocks of 10. And then everyday use three of those blocks and every post you just rotate through. So even if you do 2323 posts a day, you switch up all of those and it's really interesting watching how much Instagram has grown just by switching up the hashtags, but using this f Li

Justin Khanna:

ck

Chris Spear:

I think it's FL ik search like hashtag. And yeah, and there's like all kinds of there's paid programs for like more analytics like $10 a month and 14 but there's some free ones but there's some really cool videos and even if you just watch the videos, and like you can pay for the program to have more blocks stored, but also find you can do in the free version you can do up to like three of them and then just like copy and paste them To a Word document to get around that, so I keep it on my phone. And every time I do a post, I just keep track. I'm like, oh, okay, I'm at like number five out of eight. So then I have to find what like 30 hashtags that is so tube,

Justin Khanna:

there's an extension for YouTube called Tube Buddy, I use, they're very similar stuff for like, he will keyword search ranking, where you can look and it's it's like a sliding scale from red to green of like, frequency of search versus popularity, or like click through I think is the is the metrics that they use for like, how popular is sujihiki? knife, you know?

Chris Spear:

Yeah, when I have guests like, I had Rich rosendale on the show. So like, yeah, I searched retros nail on YouTube. And then like, what is the top performing one and then go look at the hashtags that they use killer like, Oh, you know, certified master chef is one of the hashtags I need to be using or whatever. But Cousteau is one of the hashtags I need to be using totally, there's so many cool tools out there. And that's how people who are successful get there, I think is knowing those kind of things. And that's where again, I'd recommend getting into groups, whether it be a Reddit group or a Facebook group or something. I use buzzsprout for my podcast. So there's an amazing buzzsprout podcast group and like everyone in there super active and you can just go on Ask questions all day every day about podcasting. So the only way to do it as a

Justin Khanna:

one man one woman band

Chris Spear:

exhausting, like? Awesome. I think I'm gonna leave it here. I think it's a good first one. I'm gonna cut this up into two shows. And maybe we can do an episode to sound good.

Justin Khanna:

Yeah, let's do it, man. Yeah, well, you're welcome on the show. Anytime.

Chris Spear:

Awesome. Let me know and I'll hop back on and maybe we can do that and go back and forth. Maybe we can do Part Two on your show. And then we'll just like, share files or something, please. Awesome. Thank you for coming on the show Justin. And to all of our listeners. This has been the chefs at restaurants podcast, as always, you can find us at chefs@restaurants.com. and .org, and on all social media. Thanks so much and have a great day.