Last August, we launched our industry-facing website, openforgood.com, as a way to bring all of the resources the James Beard Foundation and other organizations have been creating and collecting together on one easy-to-use platform. In addition to these resources, openforgood.com also features Mentorship presented by KitchenAid. Through this initiative, the mentorship platform aims to provide emerging culinary talent with critical support, educational tools, and resources they need to advance their professional careers and businesses, even in the face of a difficult recovery. Our roster of mentors includes chefs, restaurateurs, culinary instructors, financial advisors, and more that are poised to provide support to motivated individuals looking to learn and grow.
James Beard Foundation: Have you had a mentorship relationship that changed your outlook?
Alex Raij: I don’t know if he knows what he meant to me but Jose Luis Ugalde imparted so many skills to me; his passion and humanity were refreshing to me. My husband [Eder Montero] was also very mentoring.
What is one thing you wish you’d known when you first started out in the hospitality industry?
Raij: I regret that my industry has been particularly bad at championing women and people of color. I thought by being here and thriving it was power[ful] to shift things, but it really wasn’t the case.
As someone who owns multiple restaurants, what advice do you give to someone who is looking to expand?
Raij: Do so carefully and acknowledge that you can’t be in more than one place at a time.
On your mentorship profile, you noted that you want to mentor individuals who identify as Latinx. How should we as a restaurant industry work to dismantle the barriers for the next generation of Latinx industry workers?
Raij: As an industry, we need to leverage our collective power for national minimum wage, BOH tip sharing, and supporting a pathway to citizenship.
What is something you’d like to pass along to the next group of hospitality professionals?
Raij: Value and find experience that resonates with your core values as a cook. If you find a mentor, stop résumé building, stay and learn. Someone with a large repertoire and special perspective can only impart things gradually. You need to master their language, understand their process, and really let their modalities get into your psyche to get the full benefit of that relationship.