Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I'm a professional chef based in NYC. I specialize in experiential gastronomy combining food and AR (augmented reality). I'm currently pivoting from running my own culinary consulting firm and popup dinner series (http://wednesdays.nyc) to launch a nonprofit (http://studioatao.org) which is an exhibition space dedicated to food + AR.
What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you?
Big, worldly change starts from personal change and development. Too many people I know relax into a submissive state with work, relationships, future growth. I want to create a space where people feel free to challenge themselves, are pushed to be uncomfortable, and move closer to that ideal of "self actualization" (which is different for everyone). So many of us are taught to find answers to everything but I believe many of us are not asking the right questions.
Tell us about the defining moment when you decided to make the leap towards your dreams.
My story is somewhat bland - I'm one of those people that have zero tolerance for anything I don't like so there's not much buildup for my leap. I had been in a management consulting role at Accenture for a little over a year and after a series of exciting bonuses & climbing my way up the rat ladder I realized I hated it. Once I realized I hated it, it was all I could think about every day. I woke up roughly a week after I realized this and said "no more", walked into culinary school, didn't bother for a tour, put my entire credit line down as a deposit for school, and started the culinary program the next month.
What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?
I hope that my work with Wednesdays for the last 3 years has helped people push themselves out of their comfort zone and engage on a more intellectual level with a different sector of people they would never otherwise have met or talked to. I hope Studio ATAO allows guests to come into a place and walk out invigorated (and maybe a little daunted) by the work they can still do to improve themselves, about the stigmas they hold dear to their heart, and with some new questions for how they can improve.
At Project #SWFHD we are all a work in progress but we believe in walking our own talk. Tell us how you embody the mission your work serves?
I'm always trying to change and improve. I love/hate taking myself out of my comfort zone and doing something that is challenging. Just this year I decided to shut down my growing consulting company - something I built by myself into a 6 figure business within a year - to pursue the opportunity to work for Chef Dominique Crenn in SF. I relocated to SF temporarily (I'm here right now) and am currently being paid nothing to work 14 hour days in the Atelier Crenn kitchen. But I knew it would help me hone my skills as a chef, creatively inspire me, and also help me down the line so I can discuss with her my idea for Studio ATAO.
A big part of going for your dreams is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Tell us about a challenge or fear that got in the way of going for your dreams? How did you handle it?
I have lots of fears right now. I've closed a lucrative business and am taking home no money but still have the same bills and people to pay. I'm putting all my "eggs in one basket" betting I can start an exciting new venture in the AR space, even though I am not a developer myself nor know many developers. It's a nonprofit, which is something I've never created or have experience with. I currently worry a lot, but I also believe if your dreams aren't scary or just a little out of reach then they probably aren't the full dream you want to pursue.
What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out?
No one controls your career trajectory except you. Take ownership in your personal development. It is a luxury, the "easy way out" to be told what to do - don't let yourself wallow there.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you and your business?
It's your life. Own up.