Earning

'You've gotta love what you do' and more career advice from celebrity chefs and restaurateurs

Restaurateur Donatella Arpaia (L) and chef Geoffrey Zakarian attend City Harvest's 22nd Annual an Evening of Practical Magic on April 12, 2016, in New York City.
Cindy Ord | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Food and hospitality has one of the highest failure rates of all industries. But even when the odds are against your career of choices, "go for it. Don't be afraid," says chef and partner of Prova Pizzabar Donatella Arpaia. "You have to do what you're passionate about."

Arpaia, along with Geoffrey Zakarian, and Junior's Cheesecake owner Alan Rosen, have all managed thrive in a business that is not for the faint of heart. Here's what that they say is the best business and money advice they've received along the way.

'Go where you're uncomfortable'

Alan Rosen is the third-generation owner of Junior's Cheesecake, an iconic New York City family restaurant chain.

Rosen, who has managed to grow Junior's Cheesecake into the 11th highest-grossing restaurant in America, with nearly $24 million in annual sales, says that if you want to succeed in any business, "You have to go where you're uncomfortable."

"We have managers come work for us, and they don't like the kitchen, they're afraid. Well, that's where you've gotta go first," he says.

VIDEO2:0202:02
Junior's Cheesecake owner on why family businesses can be so challenging

Video by Stephen Parkhurst

No matter where you sit in the chain of command, no job is ever beneath you, Rosen says. "Any business you're in where you need a skill set that maybe you're not so great at, go get that skill set. There's nothing better than a leader that has all the skill sets and understands all of the facets of their business."

Rosen's father and grandfather, the two previous owners of Junior's, passed that lesson along by example. "If I wanted to see my dad when I was 6 years old, he'd knock at my door at 4:30 in the morning and I would get dressed so fast, and I would go to Junior's and I would take doilies apart at the bakery."

Learning from those who are more experienced than you is key, and so is paying it forward, he says. "You don't have to do this alone. ... I have mentors in this business. ... I get calls from people all the time asking me about their business ideas. Don't be afraid to put it [your idea] out there. People try to keep their ideas a secret, but you have to talk to the right people and you know."

Above all else, Rosen says, "you've gotta love what you do, because there's nothing better than going to work and it not feeling like work."

'Learn to negotiate'

Zakarian, who owns several restaurants, one of which earned a Michelin star, says one skill you have to master is negotiation.

"You really have to learn how to negotiate. And always let the person you're negotiating with make the first proposal. Never make the proposal yourself." That applies whether you're negotiating a higher salary, or a business deal, says the Food Network star.

Getting the other party to start negotiations "lets you see where their head's at," Zakarian says.

If you're at a stalemate and neither party has voiced what they want, Zakarian says to walk away from the table and say: "Why don't you come back to me with something?"

Any business you're in where you need a skill set that maybe you're not so great at, go get that skill set. There's nothing better than a leader that has all the skill sets and understands all of the facets of their business.
Alan Rosen
Junior's Cheesecake owner

The 60-year-old restaurateur says there's value in patience and persistence. When young people ask Zakarian for advice, he tells them to "delay gratification."

So often, millennials want that bonus right away, or that better job title, but patience is an essential component of success. If you work hard enough, success is "always going to come. You can have what you want, but not right now."

'Get rid of the guilt'

Less than a year after giving birth to twins, Arpaia opened up a second location of Prova Pizzabar in New York City. The 48-year-old Food Network star, and now mom of three, says in order to succeed in business as a working parent, "you have to become a good multitasker."

You also have to "get rid of the guilt" that can come with being a working mom: "I try not to sweat the small stuff. Women in general are hard on themselves. ... You should be very forgiving of yourself because we're not perfect."

When you're juggling parenthood with a career, you have to learn to live in the moment, Arpaia says. "Try to compartmentalize and be the best version of yourself in that moment. ... If you're at the park with your son, or at a play, turn off your phone and be present with him," she says.

Learning to outsource can give you some relief. "Know what you're good and what you're not good at. And what you're not good at, don't ignore. Get people who are good at it to help and try to trust them," Arpaia says.

Once, Arpaia asked fellow celebrity chef Bobby Flay for business advice about her next career move. "He said, 'It's more important what you say no to than what you say yes to,'" says Arpaia.

The takeaway, she suggests, is that staying true to yourself and investing in the opportunities that align with your passion will put you on the right path. "Life is too short to not do what you're passionate about and you're never going to be successful unless you're passionate about what you're doing," Arpaia says.

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