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Name:  Ashley Hart

Business: Book-a-Cook, LLC, an agency providing chefs for your next party

Industry:  Food & Beverage

Location:  Fairfield, Connecticut, U.S.

Reason for starting: I have always been passionate about food and entertaining. I left my job at a marketing agency and attended culinary school. Having cooked in professional kitchens and private homes I keenly understood some of the challenges associated with making cooking your living. I wanted to give chefs the opportunity to build their own brand and business and clients a once in a lifetime culinary experience. There weren’t really any companies filling this niche so it seemed like the perfect time.

Related: Ana Sortun: From Dishwasher to Head Chef

How do you define success? I look at success in very immediate terms; how happy our chefs are and how happy our clients are. We have done our job every time we hear a client raving about their last event or meal service. As for our chefs, I had one of them recently tell me he is able to live his dream of cooking fulltime because of the business we’ve sent his way. Ultimate success will be taking the Book-a-Cook model to another market or two.

Biggest Success:   I recently signed up for a new yoga studio. As the manager of the studio was typing in my information she said, “Oh, you’re Book-a-Cook? I just heard a group of ladies gushing about a party they went to where one of your chefs was cooking.” That kind of positive word of mouth is what it’s all about. It was in that small moment I realized, we’re building something really awesome here.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Consistency has been the biggest challenge. Our chefs walk into different kitchens and situations everyday. Helping ensure they are executing to the best of their ability each and every time they go to a client can be a challenge. We’ve tried to address in a few ways. We’ve implemented a 5 step hiring process we follow closely to ensure we are only bring on the best chefs. We also make sure each chef has been trained in proper service practices and understand our expectations and best practices.

Related: Jody Adams: A Woman in the Kitchen

Who is your most important role model? My father. He’s  been in the restaurant industry for years running large multi-unit and publicaly traded chains. He has incredible focus, determination and a way of understanding not only the business but also the people. He could walk into any one of his restaurants across the country and know the names of every manager and waitstaff. It’s that balance that has made him so successful and I hope to emulate that. It’s equally important to know where our P&L is as to remember our chefs’ birthdays.

Twitter   @bookacookct

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Edited by The Story Exchange