I think being adaptable and able to change and make adjustments as needed is very important. Change means looking at new ideas.”
Paul Denamiel – “Chef Paul” – is a native New Yorker, living his whole life in Manhattan. He is the Chef at Le Rivage in New York, which is a casual French restaurant with an upscale traditional menu and is owned by the family. Chef Paul grew up in the restaurant business as his Uncle owned a restaurant on the Upper East Side and his father worked there as well. His mother owned a bed and breakfast and a creperie and other family members have restaurants too. He has worked in every position in a restaurant, from dishwasher to running the business. He was able to soak up a lot of knowledge about the restaurant business at a young age
Chef Paul currently owns Le Rivage, a French restaurant in New York City. He has been at Le Rivage for 27 years. Le Rivage is an institution in New York City as one of the last remaining single owner French Restaurants. The menu is classic French comfort food. The newest item, the French Onion Burger, has won awards and is a hot seller. You must try one!
Where did the idea for Le Rivage come from?
I was introduced to the restaurant industry by my family and once I came to this restaurant, I know I was where I should be. French cuisine is delicious and offers comfort. Our guests are able to enjoy classic comfort dishes while creating fond memories. As a New York City institution, I have carefully preserved our recipes so that the quality and taste is enjoyed consistently. I am happy to see our customers that have been coming here before I was here.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am quite structured. I keep a schedule and have the same habits at work. I come to work at the same time each day, and do my paperwork at the same time daily. Then we start prepping the food for service. By staying on a schedule, I am able to accomplish a lot each day. For me, my productivity level is high, which is a result of my scheduling myself.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My ideas are food and recipes. I think about ‘What do I want to eat?’ Occasionally I will get inspiration from others, but I am always keeping to our recipes and I taste the dishes to make sure they are prepared properly. I often share free samples with my co-workers and the guests in the restaurant. This way I can get feedback on a dish and decide if it will go on the menu. Good ideas can come from multiple people with suggestions and comments on our dishes. It is a great way to stay fresh, by testing the dish.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
What I really like these days is the rediscovery of old recipes. Recipes that my Grandmother used to make. As they are doing, for example, in Hollywood, revisiting old films and television programs. I like to find the classic dishes and bring them back to life. It is fun for me to try a recipe and remember that my Aunt made it or that my Grandmother made it. With so much food, it can be hard to create something uniquely original. That is why I really like the older recipes because they are times and delicious!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My scheduling is very important to me. And, never procrastinate. Get tasks done so it off the list and off of my mind. I feel so much better once the tasks are complete and it keeps me very productive. I am actually preemptive when it comes to getting things done. I tend to try to think ahead. Sometimes spending an hour on something can save many hours later. Whether it is equipment maintenance or helping a customer, I stay on top of things. This saves me time, money, and aggravation.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Oh, that is easy! Meat is processed for you these days, but a long time ago I was required to kill the animal myself. I did understand what it took to get food on the plate from doing this, however. I remember skinning rabbits all day, and I gained respect and appreciation that the living creature has been sacrificed so we can put food on our table. I do not take for granted any of the animals that we consume. Our family had farms some time ago, and this also showed me the amount of labor it takes to prepare the dishes. From gardening to the animals, it is labor intensive.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Taste your food! I check our ingredients daily. I keep up with quality control and make sure everything is fresh and tastes good.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I think being adaptable and able to change and make adjustments as needed is very important. Change means looking at new ideas. Change means not being stuck in a rut. Change means bringing in a new perspective to something you have already done. Always be open to ways of making things better without shocking the customer. I make sure that changes that are made are an improvement. This is a great way to stay relevant.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Everybody has failures. Get caught by surprises can really cause problems. It important to have an emergency fund as a safety net for these occasions. Expect the unexpected. You cannot always predict everything. Last summer my sewer line broke, which was very unexpected. I could not run any water at all. I had to get the finances together to have that fixed, which require that they close down the street and dig to resolve the problem. I needed permits and it was not an easy job. This became very expensive. Luckily, I had finances set aside and that helped me keep the restaurant open.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Speaking from the industry that I know, it is a great time to open a fast casual restaurant. Fine dining is becoming very expensive to run and it has a small profit margin.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I got a massage recently and it did wonders for me. There are health benefits and it relaxes me. This helps me be even better in my professional life.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I am addicted to the My Open Table app on my phone. They have a business application which is real time. I can see reservations and the customers that are coming. It gives me notifications for what a party may need or if they are VIP’s. It will even tell me if someone has an allergy. They did a great job of making an app for restaurant owners. It really helps you to be conscious of what is happening hour to hour and minute to minute in the restaurant.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I am a history buff. It is fascinating how history can repeat itself. I like reading about things that great people have done in the past. My favorite book is Napoleon Bonaparte the Biography. He was a great legislator and he created the Napoleonic Laws which are still in use today, despite getting a bad rap sometimes. He was also a fan of science and really supported the scientists. Under him, the scientists developed canned goods. He needed that for his soldiers. He is just very interesting.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.