Chef Stitt spent time working at the incredible Chez Panisse on the West Coast with Alice Waters, which started him down the path that would go on to influence much of his career - the idea of cooking based on the seasons and supporting local farmers who often go unnoticed and appreciated. After his experience with waters in the Bay area, experience, Stitt was off to Europe where he spent time in the French countryside with Jeremiah Tower, Richard Olney, Julia Child and others - the most influential writers and cooks in the world at the time. These experiences continued to shape the perspective that he'd then take back to Birmingham, and use to open his first restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill in 1982 - it applied his passion for seasonal, farm to table food - a movement that had yet to grow any sort of momentum in the Southern United States. He was the first chef in the region to include the various farms and purveyors of an ingredient on the menu, alongside the dish description.
Over the last thirty years, the marketplace, as well as the talent throughout the region, has appreciated his commitment to supporting local farms and what he stands for.
He has since opened Bottega and Chez Fon Fon, been a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. By standing for something, he's been able to create a community that people want to be a part of - this community turned into a movement and he helped create it.
During our conversation, I made reference to the James Beard Award nominated chef, Chris Hastings, who spent several years with Stitt before creating massive success for himself. I asked what it was like to have a positive impact on people, like Chef Hastings. I could hear him smiling through the phone at the joy it has brought him, but he then he went on to rattle off another six or eight others chefs that have done the same thing, and now Birmingham has his fingerprints and influence scattered throughout.
Everything we experience and encounter in the world shapes us, even if only ever so slightly. To know what it is that we stand for and represent takes reverse engineering these ideas and discovering, for yourself, why they are important. If we do it right, we can make massive change happen - in ourselves, but moreover, in the people around us and our communities.
It shows the world what we're about.
Customers can better able to connect with who we are, our mission and why it's important to us. This wouldn't matter if we lived in a vacuum, but we don't, so when we give people an opportunity to connect with that, we show a different more relatable side to ourselves that allows for them to connect with that part of themselves.
This has a positive impact on your business:
Standing for something doesn't just create sales and customers for a product or service - it creates a group of people who become ambassadors and raving fans, because of their connectedness to an idea.
When it comes to employees, it attracts the type of people that will most likely be successful in our organizations, because that common interest in an idea, type of food, or whatever it is, becomes a fundamental building block for the relationship - it takes a lot of the guess work out of hiring and can keep us from bringing the wrong people on board, which from a bottom line standpoint, is positively reflected in our labor costs and the churn we often see in the workplace - especially in restaurants.
SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK:
So what do you stand up for?
What do you believe in?
How would the people describe you?
I've spent a lot of time the last few months interviewing incredibly successful chefs, restaurateurs and thought leaders in the hospitality industry, in order to understand the necessary ingredients for the recipe of success in the hospitality industry.
To learn more and if you'd like to interview me for a podcast or if you’d like for me to guest blog, email me, firstname.lastname@example.org