City Club Luncheon With Mr. Zachary Bruell
On Friday, July 29th, we went to a City Club luncheon in which Mr. Zachary Bruell, noted Cleveland chef and owner of such restaurants as the Parallax in Tremont, was interviewed by Mr. Doug Trattner, who has written about restaurants and good eating opportunities for years.
During the course of their conversation, Mr. Bruell discussed the ups and downs of the Cleveland restaurant industry over the years. He said the market was now stable and a renaissance was taking place but growth was still needed. He shared with us a story about one of his young employees who commented on how crowded Cleveland was during the RNC. He told the youngster about a time years ago when Cleveland was always so crowded.
As for himself and his business, Mr. Bruell said that "I want to continually improve what I do and people will come. It's like a golf game-a marathon."
Along these lines, Mr. Bruell consistently stressed how important growth was to both a business and to an individual. He also talked about the tremendous importance of having a staff that was willing to work hard, learn new tasks, and grow with the business. He also mentioned the need to have a good relationship with the landlords he rents from as well as a carefully written lease.
Although he respected the writings of such people as Mr. Trattner who appreciate what a good restaurateur must go through to provide good food and service, he was wary of social media because a bad comment/tweet can cause great harm. Additionally, Mr. Bruell gave good reasons why raising the minimum wage in Cleveland to $15 an hour all at once would be harmful to the restaurants such as his own.
An interesting point that he made concerned the need for a restaurateur in Cleveland to cultivate repeat business; in New York City where people come and go this is not as important. But a Cleveland restaurant must develop a strong clientele who will come back repeatedly otherwise it will not be successful.
During the Q and A, we asked about restaurants owned and operated by people who have immigrated to the United States. Mr. Trattner replied that ethnic restaurants were the places he liked to eat at the most; he loved discovering a great "mom and pop" establishment and spreading the news. He considered such businesses to be a "great economic driver" and good for Cleveland due to our abundance of available rental space. Later on in the Q and A, Mr. Bruell credited immigrants for being very hard workers.
Before the program started, we introduced ourselves to Ms. Vel Scott who used to own "Vel's on the Circle" and is a good friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong. In fact, they shared a room together in Los Angeles at the 2004 Democratic Convention.
We also talked with Ms. Stefanie Paganini of the International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute. Her mother, Ms. Loretta Paganini is another long-time friend of Ms. Wong's.
At lunch, we shared a table with Mr. Robert P. Kirschner, Vice President of Development and Communications with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries; Mr. Bob Voss and Ms. Mary La Venia from the Great Lakes Brewing Company; and Mr. Greg Murray, a local photographer who we have encountered at other events.
Other people at our table were Mr. Eric Williams, chef and owner of "El Carnicero" in Lakewood where we attend "Taste Latino" each year. Mr. Williams was accompanied by his wife, Ms. Heather Williams. It was especially fun to sit with Ms. Sabine Kretzschmar from the "Breadsmith" in Lakewood where we go almost every day for a vegan cookie and a coffee.
From listening to the conversations of our table partners, we learned that the "chef community" in Cleveland is "tight" and they always try to work with and help each other.
We visited for a moment with Ms. Mary Ann Warner who was sitting at a table right next to ours. Ms. Warner had heard about Ms. Wong but wanted to know more about her so we ran to our car and came back with a copy of "The Immigrant's Way" for her which she was most happy to receive.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC