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.
We spoke to chef/owner of TDConcepts and Top Chef alum Tiffany Derry about what she is passing on to the next group of industry workers.
James Beard Foundation: What is the difference between being a leader and a mentor?
Tiffany Derry: There are similarities, but when I think of a leader, I think of someone [who] leads a group toward a set goal. Others follow them because they are in charge or because they inspire them towards their goal. A mentor is a person who has great leadership skills but helps a person get to their individual goals. The mentor is there to help through their expertise more in an advisory role or just to listen.
Have you had a mentorship relationship that changed your career/outlook?
Derry: I have had a few mentors, some I have had longer relationships with, and some that have been seasonal. I realized I needed to adjust my thinking in what a mentor was and understand that there are many people from whom you can gain knowledge.
When you first started out in the hospitality industry, what is one thing you wish you knew?
Derry: I wish someone would have told me your goals can change and that’s ok. Create short-term and long-term goals, but understand that they can always be adjusted. Also, enjoy the downtime and the journey. The goal is not more important than the journey.
What is something you’d like to pass along to the next group of hospitality professionals?
Derry: Learn your craft! Don’t get so caught up in what you think your path has to be based on what you see others doing. Give yourself time to grow and don’t feel like you are behind. Study under someone and grasp all [that] you can so when you step out on your own, you are prepared.
As someone who owns multiple restaurants and a restaurant group, what advice would you give to someone who is looking to expand?
Derry: It is more important to grow the team rather than just locations. Grow your team, then when it comes time to expand, you will have everything in place. Please run the numbers and don’t expect the second to have better numbers than your first. It will be different and that’s the unknown.
On your mentorship profile, you noted that you want to mentor individuals who identify as Black/African. What type of barriers have you experienced working in the hospitality industry?
Derry: I remember coming up not knowing one other Black woman chef running her own restaurant. I’ve always had a hard time getting investors, for whatever reason. Once I shifted my mindset of feeling like I need them versus. they need me, things changed. I am a very savvy businesswoman but I had to show them what I was capable of doing without them.
How should we as a restaurant industry work to dismantle the barriers for the next generation of Black professionals
Derry: You have to see us! There are so many talented Black industry workers who go unnoticed, not because the talent isn’t there, but because certain mindsets have been set up for a very long time. There has to be a conscious effort of creating space for everyone. If you are doing something and everyone looks the same, white and male, there’s a problem. If you can’t see [it], then you are part of the problem. There should be room at the table for everyone!