Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Washington, DC native, Chef Haidar Karoum's passion for food developed at a young age while traveling Europe with his mother and father. This passion eventually lead him to study at the Culinary Institute of America. After graduation he found his way back to Washington, where he worked under some incredible mentors including Gerard Pangaud and Nora Pouillon. With experience under his belt Karoum partnered with others to open, Proof, Estadio Doi Moi in Washington D.C.

As of January 2018, Karoum broke off on his own to tackle is first ever solo project Chloe, located in Washington DC's Navel Yard neighborhood.


Show notes…

Favorite Success Quote or Mantra.

"He who is not courageous enough to take a risk is one who not go far."


In this episode, we discuss:

  • Haidar's early travel experiences in inland Europe, and the influence it had on his mindset about taking risks and "go for it" attitude.
    • Experiencing the smells and visual senses in London and all over Europe and how that instilled his love of food.
  • Being in the 7th grade and racing home to watch Discovery Channel's "Great Chefs of the Wild" and being completely consumed by the show and this being when he KNEW it was what he wanted to do.
  • While working in early jobs, starting in the 9th grade, picking up habits of his bosses and mentors.
  • The importance of starting out in excellent jobs to develop great habits that will follow you through your career, as opposed to shitty habits that follow you through your career.
  • Starting out strong at Gerard's Place, with mentor Gerard Pango, who taught him how to create an environment where people respect you, an environment which is disciplined and where the chef is sharing his knowledge with his team.
  • How Gerard shared his love of simplicity, and letting ingredients really shine in his recipes, and how that shaped Haidar's culinary cuisine.
  • How the level of commitment when you share your knowledge with your team will create huge amount of loyalty amongst your team.
  • Haidar's experience at Nora Poullion's restaurant
    • Restaurant Nora inspired him to develop strong relationships with farmer's.
    • Nora's love and dedication to organize and seasonal produce was a huge influence on how Haidar cooks today.
  • How one of the biggest pieces of pride for Chef Haidar is crafting and molding chefs into who they are in the industry
    • Pushing them to not limit themselves
    • Inspiring them to go after their dreams is a reflection on his own career and what he can share.
  • The transition from sous chef to leadership at Restaurant Nora, and how it took a culmination of natural leadership skills and operational standpoints to create success in his transition.
  • Gut feelings. Always trust your gut.
  • Utilizing multiple experiences from your life and from your business experience is essentially what we do every single day as business owners. Having realistic expectations of what to do as far as running your business can make or break you. i.e.: track labor costs!


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Knowledge bombs

  1. Which "it factor" habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?

    • Being a good coach and treating people with respect.
  2. What is your biggest weakness?

    • Having a FOH presence- learning to practice touching the tables and being with guests.
  3. What's one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?

    • Chef Karoum looks for balance between men and women on his team.
  4. What's a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?

    • Not becoming complacent and growing every day. Identify what you want to work on and develop a plan.
  5. Share one code of conduct or behavior you teach your team.

    • Being conscience of what you're doing and how you're affecting the world around you.
  6. What is one uncommon standard of service you teach your staff?

    1. If you're in an open kitchen be mindful that you're on display. Don't turn your back to the guest, if possible.
  7. What's one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?

  8. What's one piece of technology you've adopted in your restaurant and how has it influence operations?

    • Smartphone
  9. If you got the news that you'd be leaving this world tomorrow and all memories of you, your work, and your restaurants would be lost with your departure with the exception of 3 pieces of wisdom you could leave behind for the good of humanity, what would they be?

    1. Don't be afraid to give it a shot.
    2. Karma can be a real bitch. Treat people the way you'd want to be treated.
    3. Whatever you're serving, whether it's food or drink- only put out things that you're proud of.

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Thanks for Listening!

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Huge thanks to Haidar Karoum for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!


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Direct download: 501_Haidar_Karoum_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT