The meez Podcast

Franklin Becker of F. Becker Hospitality

July 11, 2023 Franklin Becker Season 1 Episode 19
The meez Podcast
Franklin Becker of F. Becker Hospitality
Show Notes Transcript

#19. With a successful 30-year career in the culinary world, Franklin Becker is not only a talented  and award-winning chef, but also an inspiring leader and kind-hearted individual.

Currently, Franklin is the founder of F. Becker Hospitality, which includes several thriving restaurants such as the Press Club and Oliva Tapas.  Beyond his culinary achievements, Franklin is the culinary chair for Autism Speaks Celebrity Chef Gala, an event that supports autism.

In this podcast episode, Franklin discusses his remarkable ability to cultivate talented kitchen teams and create new businesses. Franklin's approach is focused on building leaders rather than managers, fostering a sense of ownership and empowerment among his team members.

Throughout the conversation, Josh highlights Franklin's kindness and willingness to help others, which has been a defining trait throughout his career. They touch on the importance of community and how Franklin actively brings people together, both within his organization and the wider culinary industry.

Where to find Franklin Becker: 

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

In this episode, we cover:

(3:50) How Franklin got into cooking
(6:44) Why Franklin is a chef
(8:13) What is Franklin’s superpower?
(12:19) How Franklin empowers his team
(16:35) How having a child with autism shaped Franklin’s leadership style
(21:13) Finding inspiration from all people
(27:02) Shaping the talents of future generations
(30:08) Learning to give up control as a leader
(32:10) Leaders versus managers
(39:07) The biggest life lessons Franklin’s learned over the years
(45:06) Franklin’s vision for his businesses
(47:50) The inspiration behind Press Club

Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]: 

Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world-class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show. 


My guest today is chef, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Franklin Becker. Franklin has had a successful 30 year history in the culinary world and is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. I met Franklin about 15 years ago while we were both working on some new projects, and his willingness to go out of his way to help was really inspiring and he continues to do that to this day.


He's won a ton of awards and been on shows like Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef. And he's currently the founder of F. Becker Hospitality, which includes a bunch of restaurants like the Press Club in New York City, as well as Oliva Tapas and a handful of other concepts in this area called Manhattanville in a ghost kitchen setting.


And they're all really thriving. I've always been really enamored of Franklin's ability to cultivate and curate talented kitchen teams as well as continually create new businesses. And he's got a ton of them. He's also the culinary chair for Autism Speaks Celebrity Chef Gala, which is a really incredible event that supports autism.


And in our conversation, we dig into the spectrum of autism and the impact that it's had on him. His son is autistic and he's learned a ton from it, and I think it's actually made him a better leader, a better chef, a better person. So we dig into that as well as building great teams and why Franklin doesn't want to create managers, he wants to create leaders. So I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Welcome to the pod man. I was really excited to have you on, and I don't even remember the last time I actually saw you in person, but I don't think we've ever had a chance to talk about this because we met for the first time I think like 13 years ago at a co-packing kitchen or something like that in Brooklyn or Queens or something. You were working on a gluten-free brand of some kind. One of the many businesses that you run.  

Franklin Becker [00:02:17]: 

It was Brooklyn and you were doing the hotdogs. 

Josh Sharkey [00:02:20]: 

Yeah, it was Bark. Yeah, we were doing some, we were like making a bunch of relishes. Well, I'm framing that for today because obviously we're gonna talk a lot about cooking today, cuz you're a chef. I think that most people maybe don't realize how much more than just a chef you are. That's what has always touched me so much, like that you are in every sense of the word, an entrepreneur. It's been inspiring for me, like for the first time I met you, and then obviously I've seen you in many roles. We've crossed paths many times throughout the years, but I've always seen you as very fearless and ambitious and most importantly just a kind person. You happen to be a great chef. 

Franklin Becker [00:02:59]

How about crazy? 

Josh Sharkey [00:03:01]

You're a chef and you run restaurants. That's by default. You can't be that and not be crazy as well. But, you know, I wanted to say to you, frankly, before we get started, that your kindness, I think, is something that comes through first, at least for me. Everything else that I know about you, I've ever, ever known about you. And I don't know how many people think of you that way, but the first thing I think of when I think of Franklin is just like this overly kind and sweet person who's always going out of his way to help.


So thank you for that. But you know, to wind everybody up, I think a lot of people probably know who you are, but maybe just give a little background on yourself and you know, how you came to where you are today. 

Franklin Becker [00:03:50]: 

Oh my God. I'm 53, but thanks. Thanks for the kind words. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. Ocean Parkway. Midwood. And I think that being born and raised in Brooklyn really shaped me. It is such a diverse borough that just has so many different pockets.


Incredible cultural experiences and you go from area to area and you, you know, you could drive a couple of blocks, you could walk a couple of blocks and you're in a whole different area. That's what makes Brooklyn so unique and so amazing and you know, I was always inspired by food early. My mom had a stroke when I was seven, so I was kind of her hands in the kitchen.


And she was paralyzed on one side of her body. So I was kind of just helping her and I just never left. And then by 14 I was in a professional kitchen doing the typical things, you know, washing dishes, busing, and then eventually prepping and went to college and did all the cooking in the fraternity and everything else, and just started working in restaurants again and just experiencing it and deciding that that was the course of action that I wanted to take, and I went to the Culinary Institute of America after graduating college, and the rest is history.

Josh Sharkey [00:05:22]: 

What made you decide, I know I went to college, that's fine. I got a degree, but I'm gonna go cook instead. 

Franklin Becker [00:05:29]:

I just loved the feeling that it gave me to make other people happy with what I was doing. You know, ultimately the most important thing I think we have as chefs is the ability to transcend people's lives in a meaningful way.


You know, somebody comes into your restaurant and they sit down and they have a bite and they're trusting you to be number one, truthful to yourself. And number two, provide a great service to them. And you really can move mountains with food. Food's been at the center of society forever. It's how people get together, families, friends. So if you have a bad meal, that can ruin a person's mood. So I always took it very seriously to provide a great service to people and exceed their expectations. 

Josh Sharkey [00:06:17]:

I've been asking a lot of chefs why they cook cuz it's not as straightforward as an answer. As at least for some of us, as we think.There's a bit of a narcissistic piece to it for us, right? Because like we get to give you something and you make us feel good because you feel good. But there's also, we love to cook and we love the people around us and there's, there's so many reasons why we love to do what we do or why we do what we do.


But I'm curious, obviously you said you love to sort of like to serve people, but you could do that in a lot of ways with a lot of things. Chef is one of those ways. But have you ever thought about why you are a chef? 

Franklin Becker [00:07:01] 

I have, yes. Of course there's a selfish point of view, it makes me feel good to make others feel good. But that said, it's where I'm at peace the most when I'm cooking and when I'm providing people with something that exceeds their expectations, that's very powerful. You know, it's a very special feeling that you give. And then the ability to work with others that are like-minded or the ability to teach somebody that doesn't necessarily know the power of their gift and what it can actually do. I've managed to raise lots of money through my cooking for charities. I've managed to teach a lot of very talented people how to become even better at their craft. You know, that's an amazing feeling to be able to impact the world in a positive way.


There's so much bullshit out there. There's so much, I don't know, it's just when you’re in the kitchen, you just you're in the zone and you just, I mean, you know, you're a chef. You know, it's just this incredible feeling that you get and you just gotta pass it on. 

Josh Sharkey  [00:08:13]: 

Yeah. I couldn't agree more. I think one of the beauties of teaching cooking is the skill that you teach. Here's how to roast, here's how to saute, here's how to emulsify something. But you're also teaching discipline and how to be organized because that's endemic to being able to be a good cook. And I think that's something that you're giving someone that they can take with them no matter if they stay being a cook or if they go into another industry. Those principles and those things that they learn cooking are something that can take with them for the rest of their lives. What do you think is your superpower? 

Franklin Becker [00:08:46]

My ability to touch people and my ability to get people directed in a way that does change the course of their own personal history and mine as well. 

Josh Sharkey  [00:08:58]: 

It seems to me just from the outside looking in at everything that you do, like community is such a big part of what you. Not just the people that you serve, but the community of chefs, the community of kids and cooks and everything that it's almost just as important to you as running the restaurant and running the business.

Franklin Becker [00:09:19]: 

I think it's more important during the pandemic, so I created this website. The idea was to basically allow chefs to make money, because not all chefs are created equal, especially financially. It's a tough industry to get into, and I've been very fortunate to be successful in it, but it's super tough and you know, when you're coming up the ranks, you're making peanuts.


And I mean, especially in our era, right? I mean, now they get paid. You know, they come in and they can't even boil water and they get paid $20 an hour, but don't get me started on that one. I look at it as my responsibility almost to make sure that the community comes together and does good things. I guess that's in many ways my superpower because I'm able to bring those people together in a meaningful way. And it's funny, I don't have a filter, which is part of my biggest problem. 

Josh Sharkey [00:10:26] 

It's a gift and a curse. 

Franklin Becker [00:10:28]: 

Exactly. It could rub people the wrong way, but at the end of the day, it does make for passion. Or it does complete my passion. I don't accept mediocrity. I think mediocrity is what has paralyzed this country in many ways and certainly our industry. You gotta strive to be the best at whatever you do. I don't care if you're making a hot dog or if you're making a hamburger, or if you're making something topped with foie gras. At the end of the day, you need to be a person of conviction and a person that's full of passion and you're not cooking for yourself. Yes, you are in some ways making yourself happy by doing this for others, but your real purpose is to make people happy with what you do. And if a person wants a well done steak, then give them a well done steak. 


Make sure it's properly seasoned. Make sure it is good. I mean, do I like cooking well done steaks? No, of course not. But I'm not the one eating it. It's somebody else eating it and that's what they want. So give it to them. You know, I think the youth sometimes gets caught up in and forgets that, you know, they forget the fact that we have a responsibility and the responsibility is to make a person happy when they're in our restaurant.

Josh Sharkey [00:11:51]: 

When we talk about your superpower, because I thought about it before, before the call, you make delicious food obviously, and there's obviously a theme to how you cook, but the one thing that I've noticed throughout your career you have this incredible ability to bring people together, to curate talent and to somehow empower all those people to independently be great as well as, you know, sort of be great within your organization and you have some incredible people working for you.


And that's not easy, right? It's not easy to be a chef, to be a chef at your level, and also be able to bring in other chefs that are incredibly talented and have them align with you. And you do it really well and I’m curious like how do you think about curating talent? How do you empower those people? Someone like Sam Mason, like how do you get them to be able to be themselves and also be part of F Becker's world? Do you think about how actively you go about that? 

Franklin Becker [00:12:47]: 

I set the framework for what the project is. You never want to put talent in a box and you never want to stifle talent.You always want them to be able to contribute and to be able to feel special when they're contributing. So I create the framework and I create the direction or the plot of what we're doing. And from there I start kind of grabbing ideas from different people and say, Hey, you know, what do you think of this?


What do you think of that? As we're doing this creative process the whole time, I'm not stifling them and I'm letting them explore their own minds and explore what they wanna do, but then I'm nudging them back into the box that I'm looking to create. So it's a constant flow of ideas and energy that just passes from one to the next.


We just start kind of circling back and ultimately I get to where I wanna get to and people feel empowered and feel as though they're contributing. Then when they do that, they're obviously gonna feel a sense of ownership, and if a person feels a sense of ownership, the likelihood of them staying with you and the likelihood of them growing as a leader is high.


I don't want to create managers. I want to create leaders. There's a big difference. A leader is inspiring. A leader knows when to step in and when to step out. A leader sets the tone and a leader guides a team with conviction. A manager follows rules that are set out. They keep things in order. Maybe they control the food cost, maybe they control the labor cost, but they don't have that sense of inspiration that is necessary.


And I think if you can create a bunch of leaders, then you can expand your business and you can grow it, and you can open up other outlets. Not everything is gonna be perfect all the time. I don't think there's anything perfect. Perfect is very subjective. Do you think this steak is perfect? Yeah, I think this steak is perfect, but somebody else might think it's undercooked.


So is it perfect for them? No, in that case, it's not perfect for them. So I think we have to get out of our own way, and we have to realize that we're cooking for others. We can create incredible dishes. They look amazing. They taste amazing. They're artistic. They use incredible ingredients. But if you don't have an audience to cook for, how are you gonna be able to do that?


So ultimately, it can't be about you. It has to be about your guests and you have to know who you're targeting, and you have to know who you're focusing on. That will give you the ability to step out of your own way. And it'll give you the ability to embrace others' talents and foster the talents and grow the business.

Josh Sharkey [00:16:20:]

Essentially. You're creating a vision and then finding great people, making sure that they're leaders. I love that. You know, you talked a lot about how you lead, how you manage your team, and I'm sure that you've grown a lot as a leader yourself and as a manager. I have to imagine we both have kids.


I have two young kids. You have two much older kids. I have to imagine that having children has had a big impact on how you think about leading people. I know what it has for me. You also have an autistic child. You mentioned this poem. I don't remember where you mentioned it, but Welcome to Holland and I know it's pretty ubiquitous for the community of autism, but I found it pretty prolific in terms of how to think about just life, not necessarily even running a business, but how do you think the challenges that you went through raising your children is specifically maybe raising, you know, a child who is on the spectrum and the preconceived notions you may have had prior to post? How has that shaped you as a leader and as a chef? 

Franklin Becker [00:17:13]: 

Oh my God, that has been the most important impact on my life without question, I mean, my son Sean is 23 now, and I couldn't think of anyone I love more. Don't get me wrong. I love my wife and my other children as well. He's just a special boy and he teaches you that anything's possible.


You know, when I looked at him, and of course, he was born healthy, he was beautiful, he was everything that any parent could have ever wanted. And as time went on and he was diagnosed with autism, it’s a rollercoaster. You go through anger, you go through pain, you go through all these different emotions, why me self pity.


And ultimately what I learned as time went on was that I'm the luckiest man in the world. I have a boy who's alive. I’ve raised a lot of money for Alex's Lemonade Stand also. And think about that. If you, if god forbid your child had cancer, and you had to experience that. My son's alive, my son's healthy, my son's smart.


My son's beautiful. My son looks at the world in a positive way, and he changed my approach to the way I lead and the way I teach because I realized that not everybody's the same. And people have different motivations and different capabilities, and you have to tap into those. You have to find what somebody's superpower is and tap into it and allow them to grow and nurture that experience.


And some people listen, some people are not gonna be able to be nurtured. That's reality. There's gonna be some people who look at you and say, ah, you know, I know it all. I don't need you. That's gonna happen. You can't get discouraged by that. You can't get discouraged by what people think of you. You can't get discouraged by what people feel.


You have to just continue to push forward and continue to try and tap into every individual and try to bring out their own superpower. Sometimes they don't even realize they have it. You know, my son wrote me something that was so special and so profound. He wrote it on a keyboard because he doesn't always communicate verbally, you know, the wires are crossed, and so he doesn't necessarily communicate verbally, but he can communicate, you know, through typing.


I asked him what does he want to tell people, and he's like, I wanna tell the world that I'm smart, but my body doesn't let me do what I want it to do. I want to tell people that I wanna learn everything. How do I put that in all caps? Everything. I wanna inspire people. I want people to treat us like regular people, you know, like, wow.

Josh Sharkey [00:20:29]: 

Also, as a dad, that must have just felt like, just incredible to be able to hear that.

Franklin Becker [00:20:33]: 

Oh, I balled. I had to step out into the restroom and just let it go because shame on me. All along, I was treating him like my little boy. I was treating him as though making silly voices, you know, to make him laugh and things.


Meanwhile, he was growing into a man. He was becoming a man. So I think we have to bring this population. There's 5 million plus out there as young adults, and those are just the ones that are diagnosed that have to become a part of our society. And I gotta tell you, I think a lot of people in the kitchen are on the spectrum.


I look at different people. I mean, number one, I think I'm certainly, you know, ADD or ADHD, which is a spectrum disorder. I'm OCD when it comes to things. I mean, if you walk in my walk-in, you see a bunch of soldiers lined up and all the dates are in order and everything is neat and orderly, and all my guys know that if I walk into the walk-in, it better be that way.


Or else I'm gonna have a hair. So I think those are all spectrum disorders and I think a lot of us are so hyper focused and this population would do well in the kitchen. This population, they might need a little extra hand holding and guidance, but once they get it, they would excel. I mean, look at what Cesare Castella is doing up at the Center for Discovery and Thanksgiving Farm.


He's got all these workers working in the fields and the farms. They're cleaning eggs. They're, you know, picking lettuces, whatever it might be. They may be menial chores, but they're doing it and they're doing it with tremendous pride. And tremendous self-confidence. And it's an act of completion for them.


We look at prep. I mean, for me, you know, peeling peas and husking peas is like a zen moment. I was sitting there just pulling peas out of a pod and of course I take the pod itself and I juice it. And you know, I discovered something the other day, which I never knew. I took the pea juice and I froze it, and when I defrosted it, the concentration of sugars, and it makes sense.


The concentration of sugars was so much greater as it defrosted that the pea juice was like sugar water that tastes like peas. And so then I'm cooking my peas in that pea water. And it's like, yeah, how freaking good is that? And you know, I love this industry. Because we never stop learning. You can get inspired by the dishwasher. You can get inspired by all walks of life, and I love that.

Josh Sharkey [00:23:26]: 

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What you're talking about with the ability for people on the spectrum, whatever part of the spectrum they're on of autism. They can work in a kitchen. I totally agree. I also think that there's this deeper learning here, that one, as a parent, but also even more so, if you are a parent of someone who is autistic, the amount of understanding that you gain from that. Your son also said to you, I think like, I want to help people and feel meaning in my career, I wanna contribute to the world.


You thought for so long. Okay. He's a child. I have to sort of treat him this way because he doesn't understand, he doesn't know. And I think the learning lesson there for us is obviously that everybody has a reason for why they're doing what they're doing. If they're a kid and they're having a tantrum, there's something going on, there's some emotion happening there.


Everybody communicates differently and you just have to meet people where they're at. I think that translating that into leading people is priceless. Right? Because we come up from the late nineties, early two thousands of kitchens where you work before me, you're before me. But early nineties in my case, yeah.


You just get screamed at right. Something's wrong and you just get screamed at. And not a great way to learn or teach or to inspire. And also it's just not a great way to get people to do what you need them to do. But approaching things this way like, if there's no cook that's messing up, why?


Maybe there's something else going on. Maybe they don't know how to communicate that they don't understand something. Maybe they learn a different way. Maybe you need to like, you know, meet them a different way. I have to imagine that that light bulb shot up for you even more when you're like, holy shit, I had this, this notion of what someone, the closest person to me thought and felt and, and I was wrong. So what does that mean for everybody around me? Has that sort of played out for you with other people? 

Franklin Becker [00:26:00]:

Absolutely. A hundred percent. Yeah. I cook hard. I love hard, I play hard. Everything that I do, it is full on. When I take on a project, I own it. I mean, now I'm lucky enough to own my own businesses, but even when I wasn't an owner, I own it.


And I try to inspire as much as I possibly can, especially young people who sometimes I think are misguided and, you know, everybody's impressed by. How much they can manipulate a product. How about being impressed by how beautiful that product is in its raw state? Taking spring's first, asparagus and cooking it gently in a little bit of butter and water and letting it kind of come to life.


Inspiration is all around us. When my son turned around and said that and expressed how he was feeling, it was a big aha moment for me. It was. Wow. You know, I've been missing out on all he's had to contribute. Why didn't I find this device earlier? Why didn't I find his voice earlier? Everybody has something to contribute and you just have to find it, and once you do, these people will be loyal to you.


They will follow you. They will become your future generals, your future commanders in chief. But you've gotta give them what they're looking for. You've gotta give them inspiration, you gotta make them feel good, and you gotta allow them to speak. You gotta allow them to contribute. And if you do that, they're just gonna stick by your side and they're not gonna go anywhere.


And the best businesses are the ones where people are committed and people are, I don't wanna create a cult. I don't want to create something where everybody follows the leader. And that's the only point of view anyone has, everybody has to provide their point of view and the whole is greater than any of the sum of the parts.


It'll all just come together and it'll be incredible. I mean, we worked in passing with one another at Aurify brands, and those brands are still alive today, right? They're thriving. You know, maybe they had to be repositioned. Maybe they had a pivot Hungryroot. You know, maybe it had to go through a transition and pivot, but it's alive today.


Catch. Same thing. It's about systems, it's about people. It's about staying true to your vision and also being willing to be flexible when it's necessary. Adapt and learn from experiences and life that you're dealt. 

Josh Sharkey [00:28:46]: 

In terms of creating leaders and not managers and what you learned from your son, which is such a gift.I mean, he gave you an incredible gift, even though I'm sure it was hard to like hear that, but you learned from it. 

Franklin Becker [00:28:56]: 

It wasn't hard to hear. It was amazing to hear. It wasn't hard to hear it, it made me really look. It was sad that I didn't hear that sooner. But it was inspiring for me and it changed me a lot.

Josh Sharkey [00:29:35]: 

Yeah. And I think this common thread between how you sort of perceive that and sort of building leaders instead of marriages is a lot of it is about giving up control. A lot of being a chef sometimes is, we have this fear of everybody's gonna screw up my food, and so I need to put all these meticulous things in place and be maniacal about what I want because if I don't, then they will screw it up when that's actually counterproductive to creating what you're talking about, which is thriving business that can grow even when you're not there and grow.


When you go on to do the next thing and a lot of that is the ability to give up control to say, you know what? Like, I'm gonna set a vision and be clear on what the Press Club is and why we exist and who we serve. But everything else, you guys go do it. And I trust you. And that's hard. 

Franklin Becker [00:30:31]: 

Super hard, super hard, but super necessary if you want to grow a business, I have a vision of creating an empire. I have seven restaurants opening in the next year. But I can't do what it is that I'm setting out to do without releasing some of my power. Right. You have to learn to be a coach.


And if something is not right, of course you have to stand firm on what it is you believe and you have to redirect your anger because you know that's a natural feeling when somebody messes up something that you feel is super important. It's a natural feeling to get angry, but you have to harness that anger and you have to rechannel it.


And explain and teach why that's not right and why that's unacceptable. And you have to have constant communication with your leaders. And I look for that quality in individuals. Some have it, some don't. You know, I have an amazing Chef de Cuisine at Press Club Grill. His name's Alex Xinis, and he spent six years with Daniel Humm, whom both at 11 Madison and Nomad, he spent time with.


Gavin Kaysen before that, so forth and so on. So his pedigree was exceptional, right? And I knew that he knew how to cook, but did he know how to lead? Very different skills. And I'm teaching him every day to be a leader and we have an incredible relationship, and I think it's one that I would be surprised if it doesn't go on for the next 10, 15, 20 years.


It's an incredible relationship and it's an open communication, and he really is an extension of myself, and I let him kind of showcase his talents, but at the same time, I'll redirect those talents. If they're getting a little bit too tweezer,  I'll redirect those talents because they need to be redirected for the concept.


But together, it's a hell of a kitchen. I've got, oh my god. I've got Sam Mason, you know, who needs no introduction. I've got Ramina Peixoto who was the Pastry Chef at La Circ and she was the Pastry Chef at The Chocolate Room. And prior to that she worked under David Carmichael and Michelle Rashard.


And, you know, she worked for me back in 2008 and then I had her husband work for me as well. Her husband's now the chef at the Centurion Lounge for Danielle, you know, and she came back to work with me again. You know, I have an incredible guy. His name's Tomas. This is actually an important piece.


So Tomas has worked for me for 15 years. You know, Tomas from Little Beat. He doesn't wanna be a leader. He doesn't wanna be a manager. He wants to be a prep cook. That's what he wants to do. And he's damn good at it. Okay? So I let him do what he wants to do. He's the highest paid prep cook in the city of New York right now, but he's also the best and he can do, I mean, this man, you know, can prep 1500 covers in the course of a day and not bat an eyelash.


He'll go home when he doesn't have work to do. He'll stay when he has to stay. He's never milking a clock. He's just that focused and that good and, and I've taught him other skills along the way, and he is the leader of the entire team, but he doesn't want that leadership role officially.


So I appease him and give him what he wants because to have him in my kitchen is invaluable. There's some people like that. And this bodes well for our conversation earlier about farming or about the autistic community. He takes great pride in what he does. He feels valuable, he feels important. He is important.


He makes the engine run. So tap into the skills that a person has and if they wanna grow into more, then teach them and give them the ability to grow into more. But if they're happy with what it is, that is their level of perfection or their level of success, let them be who they are and let them have a voice in doing so.


And when you start looking at management that way and you start looking at leadership that way, people will stay with you. I mean, my guys, I don't turn over crew. You know, Kevin Garcia's with me for four and a half years, and he's a minority partner in the business. Dan Drohan with me for four and a half years. He was with Mario Vitali for 16. Before that, Chris Renick's with me for five years. 

Josh Sharkey [00:35:27]:

I agree with you. It's really important. It's also really difficult to like know. I mean, you can identify somebody's skill and that's one thing, but the harder part that you've done with Tomas. I struggle with this, everybody struggles with this because the mistake that's usually made is you have someone that's really good, they're really good prep cook, or they're really good.


And you just keep moving them up without understanding what they actually want. Because sometimes you promote somebody and you end up like screwing up their job because they didn't wanna get promoted or they weren't ready to get promoted, and all of a sudden now they're doing something that they didn't want to do or they weren't ready for and they fail.


That's on you, not on them. And that's usually what happens in that case is someone like Tomas, he's crushing it. And you're like, well, we gotta give him a raise, but we can't just give him a raise. We gotta make him a manager now and give him new responsibilities. And all of a sudden, he's doing something that he's not even good at.


And now he seems like he's not the right shit anymore and you lose him. And that's hard. That's where most people miss. Right. Is saying, Hey, no, this is what this person wants. And it's what they're good at. It's hard to say, first of all, it's, it's hard to say, you know what, I'm gonna have the highest paid prep book in Manhattan, but it's worth it, you know? And it is worth it because everybody around him, he still, to your point, he still can be a leader without leading. 

Franklin Becker [00:36:47]: 

Right. He's teaching the others and the others, you know, I mean, the Raider works for me for nine years, right. She was another little beat person. They're happy. They're very happy and their production rate is so much higher than I would need three prep cooks to do what Tomas does.


So if you look at it that way, okay, sure, he's the highest paid prep cook in, in, in New York, but who cares because he's still still less money than getting free, and he's doing the job the correct way. He's over and over again. He's doing the job the correct way. He loves it. He loves it. You know, and if he doesn't wanna be a leader, I tried to get him to be a manager.


He didn't want it. What am I gonna do? Lose him? No, I'm gonna give him what he wants and I'm gonna make sure that he's happy. You know, during the pandemic, I kept my team together. You know, I financially paid for them out of my pocket. And I did that because I knew what my vision was and I knew.


The company that I wanted to build and what it was about, and I knew that I couldn't do it alone, so I sacrificed my own wellbeing in the short term for long term gains. And I look at Barbara Cochran. There was this there in the cab, and she was talking about how she took her money and reinvested it and how she was broke, but kept on reinvesting it.


Eventually it turned into what it is today, which is an empire. And I look at people like that, and I say, sometimes you have to sacrifice. I mean, look at you, you started a company and you sacrificed and you believed in it. Now it's growing into a juggernaut within the industry. You had conviction, you know, you had desire to push it forward.


And sometimes in the process, you know, you could have gone out and made more money elsewhere, but you believed in what you were doing. And so it'll come to fruition and it'll monetize because you stayed with it. 

Josh Sharkey [00:39:07]: 

The most important part of any entrepreneurial thing is you just gotta stick with it. The edge case is when it works, usually it's just hard and it's hard for a very long time until it gets easy. I think that's probably what most people miss. Well, you know, on that note to sort of tie this all together, you opened a ton of businesses. CPG you've done fast casual,  fine dining, ghost kitchens, tech companies. Any major lessons learned that have come to mind or, or maybe failures, biggest failures that you learned from over the years of, of what you've done? 

Franklin Becker [00:39:43]: 

Sure. I mean, I learned that systems are super important. I learned that hey, using meez has been revolutionary for us because everything, for all my operations goes into meez. And it allows me to have a baseline. It doesn't account for the human aspect of things. No two vegetables are the same. No two pieces of fruit have the same sweetness. So there's always gonna be a chef's need to tweak that recipe, but it gives you a baseline and it gives you control. 


And certainly from both the financial aspect and also from the actual recipe formulation itself. So it gives you this baseline and, you know, then it's up to me to tweak the dishes and that's done through tasting. We taste everything before every service, you know, myself and my chef de cuisine, my R&D chef, Chris, you know, we'll, we'll go through every single thing on the line to make sure that it's seasoned or made the way it needs to be.


And so, If something's wrong, we catch it and we can replace it before it ever impacts the guest. But I wouldn't be able to create 70 items on my menu if I didn't have systems in place, and meez has added to that, that's for sure. It's been an incredible system. I love it. And I wasn't paid to say that, by the way, people, I actually just added that in on my own.

Josh Sharkey [00:41:07]: 

Appreciate that. You are a paying customer. I appreciate that, man. This just, you're already sharing some of the insights here, just like things that you've, you've, you opened so many businesses and disparate types of businesses. It's not like that at all fine dining restaurants.

Franklin Becker [00:41:22]: 

So what have I learned? So I've learned that systems are super important. I've learned that empowerment of individuals that work for you is super important. I've learned to listen to what people are saying and listen to physical cues. You can tell when a person's not happy in your kitchen.


You can tell when a person's doing a task that they don't wanna do. I've learned to read those cues. I've learned to try and mediate situations before they get outta hand. There's always gonna be discourse in life, and especially in the kitchen. There's always gonna be people who don't get along with one another.


Doesn't mean that they can't work together, but it's your responsibility as a leader to figure that out quickly, notice it quickly, and react to it quickly, proactively. I think a lot of people are reactive. The steak comes back and that's the first time that they're talking to the cook and realizing that all the steaks have been over seasoned that night, or everything is going out wrong or something sour on a station because they didn't bother to go through a tasting or they didn't bother to go through the details that are necessary.


There's a lot of details in running a restaurant. And I always say that being the leader or the head of the kitchen, you've gotta be a psychologist. Sometimes you gotta be a psychiatrist. Hopefully you don't prescribe any drugs, but you know, hey, I'm sure some, some of them do.


You've gotta be a psychologist, you've gotta be an air traffic controller, you've gotta be a businessman, you've gotta be a cook. You know, there's so many hats that we wear. You've gotta be a parent, you've gotta be a coach, and you've gotta know when to put on the right hat. Leadership is not easy, and it's not for everyone, but if it's for you and if it's what your end goal is as an individual, then you've just gotta put it in your, in your target, and you gotta just keep on going for it.


You're gonna slip back, you're gonna fall off the stairs. That's part of life. Life has setbacks, okay? Whether it's personal setbacks or it's professional setbacks. Life has setbacks. It's what you do. When you fall off the horse, do you get back on? Okay. Do you pivot? Do you figure out a way to make sure that you can ride that horse, or do you just never get on that horse again?


You know, for me, I've fallen, I've broken my bones, I've done everything. It's not gonna stop me, you know? I'm just gonna continue to go. I have a lot of horses in a lot of races right now. 

Josh Sharkey [00:45:02]:

Well, you know, speaking of that, I think the, to sort of wrap this piece up, you have a lot, obviously you have a lot of business and you talked about, I think we both are of the same sentiment. I'm pretty maniacal about systems as well, but I think over the years I've also learned, and it's been a hard lesson, that to really scale a business or businesses, systems are really important and helpful, but having a very clear vision and principles that you can promulgate to your team is the only way to really scale well. Right? So, you know, at meez, we have our, we have these four principles. The number one being operational empathy. Everybody needs to understand and be empathetic to what it means to exist in the kitchen. 


And mostly people are engineers or product people. They are not all chefs. And so it's imperative that they understand not just what it means to exist in the kitchen, but how people work, how they live, how they exist? And that's every decision made through that lens. And things like that are how I've sort of tried to help scale my business to help people think about what are the values that we believe in.


And you know, there's of course the systems that they have to follow, but then there's these guidelines of how to make decisions. I'm curious for you, like are there any common threads across all these businesses that you have? You have Manhattanville with all sorts of different types of concepts there, and you have Press club, Hungryroot, Little Beet. Are there common threads of like value prop or the vision of what you are putting out into the world with your businesses or your food?

Franklin Becker [00:45:31]: 

Absolutely never compromise. Always buy the best ingredients that you can buy and understand the ingredient. Understand what it is if you have a concept and it's fast casual, obviously you're not gonna serve foie gras, and caviar and you're not gonna serve filet mignon in a fast casual, but doesn't mean that that the product that you serve has to be inferior.


You know, all products have to be the best that they can be. That's paramount, right? You then have to turn around and you have to say, okay, is this the best price I'm paying for this product? So quality first. Price second. Okay. And then what can I do with that product to make somebody smile, to make somebody happy?


That gets into the technique and gets into how you look at food and how you apply yourself to the food. And, you know, by having different verticals, which I also think is important for investment and with stocks and things like that as well, diversity, but have a portfolio that goes across.


Many different revenue centers or platforms, whether it's fast casual or it's CPG or it's fine dining, or it's casual, fine dining, whatever the scenario is, and have a vision and don't deviate from that vision. Hold your conviction. I remember when we were first opening Little Beet, we were slow for the first couple of months and I remember somebody coming to me and saying,we gotta get sandwiches on the menu.


We gotta get sandwiches on the menu, we've gotta get gluten on the menu. And I was like, no, this place is gluten free. It's gonna remain gluten free. I'm telling you, just trust me. Just let's go. Right. Well, what is it, 19 units now? It's still gluten-free to this day. There was a need for it.


And you have to understand and look for the need and you have to stay true to your vision. It's very important. Super important. And don't get discouraged. You have to know when to cut bait. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying die on the hill. This is not Custer's last stand. But be smart but at the same time have conviction.

Josh Sharkey [00:47:50]: 

I love that man. Well this was awesome Franklin. I appreciate it. Come to the Press Club Room, everybody come. I was there. It was absolutely delicious. Everybody should go. The room is really cool as well. Well, can you maybe just a little like you, can you tell a little bit about what that space is because it's, it's a pretty sort of unique New York style. 

Franklin Becker [00:48:08]: 

Sure. When we were conceptualizing the restaurant, you know, obviously we were coming out of the pandemic and what do people want when they were coming out of the pandemic, they want familiarity. They wanted comfort, they wanted safety. They wanted family. They wanted nostalgia. So we went back and we said, Hey, what was one of the best errors for nostalgia? And that's the fifties and sixties, the Mad Men era. It was also one of the most tumultuous eras at the same time, right? Like you had at the start of the Vietnam War, you had civil rights movements, you had all of these things, but it was an era that shaped America and especially New York, and we were opening in Harold Square, right?


For all in intent and purposes, not the best area, but an area that's up and coming. They're pulling the Penn District all the way over to Sixth Avenue. You know, I have a 15 year lease. I'm part of a hotel, the Hotel Martinique, which is a Curio Collection Hotel. And I have the F&B for the entire hotel. I’m opening up a donut shop with Sam.


I have a coffee kiosk with Sam and Ramina. I have an Italian cicchetti bar that's opening there. I have 521 rooms room service, and then I have 20,000 square feet of banquet space. So when all is said and done, I was like, how can I bring this nostalgia back? How can I make people feel good? What were some of the dishes that I can recreate? Turn on their heads and bring them into modern times, but still have them stay true to what they were. And what are the dishes that I don't want to even fuck with? You know, how can I make the best beef wellington in the city?


What techniques do I need to apply to make the best beef Wellington? And then creating things that you know, I mean, you know, the crab rangoon, you get those cheap wonton skins filled with the imitation crab meat and scallion cream cheese in every Chinese restaurant with this cloyingly sweet, sweet, and sour sauce.


But yet we crave it and we go for it. Well, that was a poo poo platter item during the late 1950s and early sixties, that was on every continental menu. So I took the crab rangoon and recreated it. I took fresh crab meat. I made cream cheese and scallion and infused it with some citrus underneath.


And I made a sweet and sour sauce using pineapple juice. And recreated the dish. Turned it into a modern interpretation of the classic crab rangoon. So I reinterpreted the Waldorf style. I just recreated General Tso's So instead of General Tso’s chicken, I have General Tso’s Sweetbreads at the bar. And they're awesome. And I serve 'em in a little takeout pint container with a press club grill sticker on it, and a pair of chopsticks.


You know, have fun. Have fun, and stay true to the inspiration that you've created. So the Press Club Grill is all about the Mad Men era. It's about the fifties and sixties. It's about getting back to comfort. It's about nostalgia. The music is classics and that's what it is. And I think we've done a great job and I hope to see everybody there.

Josh Sharkey [00:51:53]:

Awesome, man. Well, it's always a pleasure Franklin, and I'll be there again. I gotta come for dinner. 

Franklin Becker [00:51:59]:

Thank you Mr. Sharkey. It was there for lunch. You gotta come for dinner. You gotta come for dinner. 

Josh Sharkey [00:52:04]:

We had a blast when we were there, so absolutely. Thank you. I'll see you soon in the city. 


Thanks for tuning into The meez Podcast. The music from the show is a remix of the Song Art Mirror by an old friend, hip hop artist, Fresh Daily. For show notes and more, visit That's G E T M E E Z dot com forward slash podcast. If you enjoyed the show, I'd love it if you can share it with your fellow entrepreneurs and culinary pros and give us a five star rating wherever you listen to your podcasts.


Keep innovating. Don't settle. Make today a little better than yesterday. And remember, it's impossible for us to learn what we think we already know. See you next time.