Restaurant Entrepreneurship: The Real Story
Food Sol’s special guest to Community Table this week at Babson was Chef Nookie Postal who came to tell Babson food entrepreneurs of all kinds about the restaurant business.
A longtime Boston chef, Nookie helped Ana Sortun to open now famous Oleana in Cambridge. He’s cooked at Chez Henri, Icarus, Casablanca and been Executive Chef for the Red Sox. Also, just like our esteemed Entrepreneurs in Residence Andrew Zimmern and Gail Simmons – Nookie is on TV. He starred in Bravo’s reality show “Around the World in 80 Plates”.
In November, Nookie opened his own place, a “farm-to-table restaurant-market hybrid” called Commonwealth in Kendall Square.
One of Babson’s aspiring food entrepreneurs asked Nookie: “What made you want to do food?”
“I didn’t want to wear a suit,” he replied.
Nookie gave all of us at Community Table a crash course in restaurant launching: hiring the right team; firing the wrong team; negotiating leases; TI financing; leveraging social media, blogging and Kickstarter to build brand and accrue capital; second-hand equipment purchasing, and all the other zany elements of figuring out how to turn 6,500 square feet of blank-slate real estate in Kendall Square into a marketplace and eatery called Commonwealth.
“This was a three-year process, and we’re still figuring it all out. I am learning every day.” Part of that three-year process for Nookie was launching an Eater Boston weekly series called “On the House” detailing in full glory the trials, tribulations, delirium and sweat equity of opening his restaurant.
“I wanted people to understand – not what some How-To book glosses over – but the real thing.”
In addition to being smart, experienced and hilarious, Nookie is almost startlingly candid. I wonder, could candor be a brand? Across a food system that is increasingly demanding transparency, Nookie’s frankness feels fresh.
As the best entrepreneurs will always tell you, it’s about team. Nookie knew he needed help and he got himself the best: Michael Staub is revered among Greater Boston restaurateurs for getting new shops off the ground. “I talk to him every day. I could never have done this without him.”