Stephanie Izard’s Key to Restaurant Success Is to Celebrate Your Team
And "learn everything you can."
The chef-owner of The Girl & The Goat empire gave words of wisdom to ICE LA students at a recent Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs Q&A.
Chef Stephanie Izard hopes the next generation of chefs and culinary entrepreneurs will “learn everything you can, and when you make the next step in choosing which restaurant you want to work at, choose it wisely and choose a chef you want to [learn] from.”
Those were just some of the words of wisdom Chef Stephanie shared with ICE students during a recent Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs Q&A at ICE's Los Angeles campus. Her tremendous resume includes restaurant owner (multiple times over with her Chicago-based Girl & The Goat empire), cookbook author and becoming the first woman to win Top Chef.
Chef Stephanie landed her first job at the über posh Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort, working for Chef Beau MacMillan; she recalls “everyone being a badass line cook” and holding regular competitions on cleaning proteins. When the restaurant closed for renovations, Chef Stephanie flew to Chicago for a weekend getaway on a whim.
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“All it took was one Cubs game and a street fair and I was hooked,” she says, and had all of her belongings moved to the Windy City on the spot. Her fist gig at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Vong was thanks to a serendipitous run-in with a former classmate, launching her career at an accelerating pace.
At 27 years old, Chef Stephanie opened her first restaurant, Scylla, in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood in 2004. A year later she would receive a glowing three-star review from Phil Vettel, former restaurant critic of the Chicago Tribune, the first of many accolades to come.
Scylla closed three years later, but Chef Stephanie has many, many takeaways from the process which only helped Girl & The Goat and its many spinoffs, including the soon-to-open Cabra in Los Angeles, succeed.
“Swallow your pride and ask questions. How do I get the best dumpster company, the best linen company? When you have people coming to you with questions, give them what they need. Pay it forward,” she says. “It shouldn’t be a secret where the best farmers are — sharing all this info will only make our industry stronger.”
Though a very obvious component of any successful restaurant is a profitable bottom line, Chef Stephanie points out the other side of the equation: staff. Having a happy, solid work environment takes precedence. “The most important thing is for the team to have the best experience — then the guest,” she says.
At Girl & The Goat, there’s even a position dedicated to staff appreciation. “We want to make sure that we make this an environment that you want to work in. If you walk into a restaurant and see the chefs working together and laughing, it makes the guests have a good time. It makes hospitality so much easier if you create the environment for your team first.”
Chef Stephanie has much to say about her path as a chef and restaurant owner — watch the video links below to find out more about her restaurants, her favorite Top Chef challenge and what the future holds.