insight magazine

GEN NEXT: Hungry for More? How to Blend Your Profession and Passion

What does public accounting and operating a Michelin-starred restaurant have in common? More than you think. By Andrés Clavero | Winter 2022

I spent my lifetime chasing food. Whether it was at family dinner parties feasting over Palestinian, Cuban, and Spanish foods or eating at as many restaurants as I could around town, I knew my career in public accounting wouldn’t be my last stop. Which is how I went from being a tax consultant at a Big 4 firm to now being the co-owner and operator of the Michelin-starred restaurant, Galit, in Chicago. Getting here was anything but easy. But with perseverance, humility, appreciation, and a hunger for more, I ventured down a path to blend both my profession with my passion. Here are some steps I’ve learned throughout my journey that may help guide you in yours.

1. Reach out to people you respect in the industry that’s calling you. There’s no shame in cold calling those you want to learn from. Most small, independent companies have no overhead, meaning an email with your résumé may go straight to the owners or decision makers.

2. Don’t second-guess yourself. It may seem daunting to transition into a new industry, and you may think your inexperience is a setback, but you should know that most people enjoy sharing what they know. Also, being green is a positive, as it means you likely don’t have any bad habits to break.

3. Be persistent and patient; it doesn’t happen overnight. My first restaurant opportunity didn’t come until after a year of reaching out to many different places.

4. Swallow your pride—don’t look down at the dirty work. The dirty work is what builds a strong foundation for your next steps. You may need to take a step back to take a giant leap forward in another direction. I didn’t walk into a restaurant and immediately start running the place. I started as a part-time host working nights. Through that experience, I was able to be a sponge and take in everything I wanted to know and learn about the industry. Ask questions, fail, learn, and try again.

5. Don’t assume your audience is the same as you. Learn how to best communicate with everyone. Your experience outside of your new role or the one you’re pursuing can be valuable, but be willing to learn from the people who’ve been doing it for longer than you.

6. Appreciate every opportunity, especially the challenging ones. I’ll never forget being complimented for my jacket one night and then immediately after being told the bathroom needed attending. I just had to remind myself that it’s better to roll up my sleeves than not having the opportunity to.

7. Network! You may be a rock star but creating something on your own normally requires the help of others. Introducing yourself and keeping in touch with those who don’t come from your same circle is imperative.

8. Don’t ask what people can do for you. Learn what others need and communicate how you can help them, not just how they can help you. Chefs and managers learned that I truly cared and wanted to apply my skills in the best ways I could. Trust is built when you have others’ interests in mind.

9. Volunteer your time. Not volunteering my free time to work special events or to say hello on someone’s behalf would’ve never allowed me to meet my future chef partner. Don’t be shy. Everyone wants to be acknowledged, so just say “hey,” “thank you,” and “hope to see you soon”—preferably in person.

10. Let go of the things you can’t control—plans change. Yes, accountants, things won’t go as planned. Yet, that breeds opportunities. My late father who was a CPA always said to me, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Simple, wise words. For me and my chef partner, our main thing is team Galit. We know that our personal and professional success will always be dictated by how strong our team is. For example, when COVID hit, we kept our team insured for over a year with most of them not working. When it was time to safely reopen and welcome our guests back, we had a healthy team ready to go because they felt cared for.

The last step is on you. What if you don’t bet on yourself? Chances are, we all have a passion that drives us—mine was food. Ultimately, if you can blend your profession with your passion, wouldn’t you like to try? What are you waiting for? What’s your passion?

Andrés Clavero is the general manager and co-owner of Galit, a Michelin star restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Prior to this, he was the senior accountant for acclaimed restaurant group One Off Hospitality and spent over five years working for Deloitte.


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