Entrepreneur met with celebrity chefs who served up tasty treats and business wisdom behind the scenes of the U.S. Open.
5 min read
As Nadal and Federer serve 130 mph balls of fury on the court of Arthur Ashe Stadium, a group of different superstars is serving up decidedly more palatable offerings at the Food Village of the 2019 U.S. Open.
Food, as anyone with a mouth can attest, is one of the last remaining incentives to get someone to actually leave their house, and recognizing the draw of making people drool, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has paid extra attention to this year’s selection of courtside goodies. “The U.S. Open starts with great tennis, but that is just the start,” Lew Sherr, Chief Revenue Officer of the USTA told Entrepreneur. “Our fans are on site for eight to nine hours, and tennis is only part of the experience. We pride ourselves on amazing dining options developed by the most well-known chefs, fantastic shopping including dedicated Polo Ralph Lauren stores, engaging sponsor activations — and, of course, no visit to the Open would be complete without sampling the Grey Goose Honey Deuce.”
Photo by Dan Bova (who may have sampled more than one)
At the start of this year’s tournament, Entrepreneur was invited to sample the goods and pick the brains of some of the award-winning chefs bringing sweet treats and life-affirming bacon to the tennis fans in the stands. Here’s what they had to say.
Chef Tom Colicchio, ‘Wichcraft, on being ready for anything:
“Two weeks ago, we weren’t here at the U.S. Open! Someone dropped out at the last second, so we got a phone call that said, ‘We have a spot; do you want it?’ And we said, ‘Yeah, sure!’ For me, It’s not about telling your team to ‘Drop what you’re doing,’ it’s asking, ‘Okay, how do we make this happen?’ We rallied the troops, and even our CFO was here last night putting flower arrangements together in our booth. So it is all hands on deck. That’s one of the great benefits of keeping your team small. It doesn’t have to go through layers and layers of decision-makers; it was one phone call. With big organizations, by the time you have the all-clear on a decision, the opportunity is gone.”
Chef JJ Johnston, FIELDTRIP, on the rewards of entrepreneurship:
“I am super passionate about food, and as a young guy starting out in this world, I wear a lot of hats: Some days I’m a chef crafting recipes, some days I’m a business owner looking at P&Ls, some days I am a marketer. I love doing it all, but sometimes I wish I was just back in the kitchen cooking! But for me, when I am working on expanding the business, I look at it as a way to give other people who are passionate about food opportunities they might not get at other restaurants. My restaurant FIELDTRIP is in Harlem, in an area with the highest unemployment rate. We were able to create 10 jobs, and six of those came from the community. And hopefully, if we find success there, we can move into other communities that look like Harlem and bring even more people into the fold.”
Related: 5 Lessons for Food Startups From Beyond Meat’s Stunning Success
Photo by Darren Carroll/USTA
“I don’t remember how many years I’ve been doing the U.S. Open, but safely we can say more than 10 years. I love it here! After this, we’re going to Japan, Las Vegas and Chicago for openings. Busy! I have three different parts to my kitchen life: maybe chef today, maybe business tomorrow, maybe opening something day after that. I can mix two together, but more than two I can not sleep. This is my goal and my dream. Every day is a dream. I’m serving food to Serena and Venus Wiliams, Naomi Osaka, Djokovic, Federer, Nadal — it’s all a dream! And then when I go to an opening in Las Vegas, that is my goal and my dream. Every day, different goal and a different dream.”
Photo by Darren Carroll/USTA
Related: Maria Sharapova Built a Business Empire Thanks to Her Winning Team
“On our TV show Nailed It!, all we do is drink vodka and make fun of people. I love it! I love to have fun, but I define myself as a very serious chef. You have to be serious about what you do. I always tell chefs who are starting out: Never work for a mediocre place. Always associate yourself with the best. That’s the path to success. That’s why I align myself with great events like this, where you have the best of the best players on the court and the best of the best food being served. It elevates you and forces you to bring out the best in yourself. I am always impressed when I see these amazing things the other chefs are doing, and I say, ‘I have to update my game!’ The more competition, the more motivation there is to be great.”
Photo by Dan Bova