Do you ever have that feeling when you meet someone that you instantly realize that you could sit down and ask them endless questions about what they do? That was how I felt when I met Adam Wisnewski. Adam was the reason that this series was created, I suspected that I was not the only one who was intrigued by his business and what led him to this point. The enthusiasm he has for his business and clients is infectious and I am delighted to be able to share his story with you today.
Food is life, cooking is an art, and eating dinner should be a team sport, shared with pride and love.Adam Wisnewski
Sierra Bailey: I’m so happy to have a chance to be able to find out more about you and Breakfast, Life and Dinner. Give us an overview of the business.
Adam Wisnewski: Thanks so much! I’m a cooking coach and personal cook. As Breakfast, Life, and Dinner, I provide personalized, in-house meal services, cooking classes and event meals. That means I come into your home and I cook with you or for you. I think of myself as an educator, and whether that means I am doing a demo at a Farmer’s Market, filling your fridge with meals that fit your diet plan, leading a kid’s pizza party or helping you host a sushi rolling double-date night, I want people to experience food and cooking with joy, not as a burden.
SB: As with many entrepreneurs, the path to what you are doing now I’m sure has had twists and turns and was by no means straight. Share a bit about what careers you have had and projects you have worked on before Breakfast, Life and Dinner.
AW: I have a literal lifetime of cooking experience. My mom was a single parent and I started helping with the shopping and cooking as an 8-year-old. I’ve always been interested in teaching and building community, so I invited friends over in middle school for a cookie baking class, I did my first 7 course meal as a freshman in college, just to see what it was like and I did my first “for pay” cooking classes about 10 years ago. I spent a lot of time in restaurants, mostly in the front of the house as a waiter and manager, plus some wonderful time working at a cheese counter in a grocery store.
As part of that journey, I worked for family-owned joints and famous names. I did openings and corporate training for two different chains, so I’ve actually been in something like 26 locations with 8 companies over 17 years in the food biz. I’ve seen what’s standard across kitchens and cooks, I’ve experienced the rigor of the rule-based, hard-core structure of a franchise and the creativity of the lone cook in a little kitchen making up a “Monday night special”.
On top of that, I spent 15 years in Silicon Valley working for a couple of high tech companies. I did customer support and project management and learned a lot about being organized, efficient and effective. I think that’s really helped me realize that lots of what happens in the world can be boiled down to what works and what doesn’t, what’s necessary and what’s just “extras”. There’s value in things like planning, and systems and marketing, and then sometimes you just need to get things done without all the frills. Life is about figuring out what each situation calls for most.
SB: How have the skills from your past experiences made you different in the food space?
AW: I learned my craft at home, starting as a kid, and in the restaurant biz training to be a prep cook, line cook, and manager. Plus, I kept my eyes and ears open around my supremely talented friends and family. So, I’m not a chef. I didn’t go to an accredited school and earn the title. I have a lot of respect for the folks who have spent the time and effort to become the “real thing”, so I’m very careful with that word. But, I’m also very proud of being a great cook. I want people to know that you don’t need a degree or the TV version of a kitchen with copper pots and truffle oil to be able to make amazing food. Most of us don’t need that Olympic level of knowledge and effort. Most of us are just trying to put a quick dinner on the table on a Thursday night that’s pretty healthy and the kids will actually eat.
If you broil a chicken breast, steam some broccoli and make some rice in the rice cooker, then YOU ARE A COOK. And, a pretty good one, if you can serve that meal without drying out the chicken and turning the broccoli to mush. Embrace that! Expand on it! Be proud of what you know and seek to learn more. Food is life, cooking is an art, and eating dinner should be a team sport, shared with pride and love.
I cook intuitively and encourage my students to practice these techniques, as well. I cook to the season and to what’s on hand in the fridge, so meal service dishes may change a bit from week to week. I provide recipes as examples for my classes, but then we’ll do our best to ignore them. I have students regularly tell me that they can’t cook without a recipe, and then by the end of the evening, they are winging focaccia with-out measuring spoons/cups and telling each other they had no idea that making bread was SO EASY.
SB: What is your favorite part about what you do now?
AW: Well, one of many aspects of my job that gives me joy is sharing a trans-formational moment with a student. I’ve seen this over and over in my classes. Say a young couple is making pasta for the first time and right when the noodles start pouring out of the hand-cranked machine, they exchange this look of wonder and joy, this obvious feeling of accomplishment. “OMG! We made noodles!!”. (So, yes, I call it “noodle face”.) I’ve also seen the same astonishment with a 4-year-old pulling a carrot out of the ground for the first time or a 10-year-old making a sauce from scratch with no recipe and quietly saying to herself “This is really good.” YES! Yes, it is really good. And YOU MADE IT. So, go forth and continue to experience that joy and wonder in the kitchen.
If I can just keep giving that moment and that confidence in the kitchen to more people, I will feel like I’ve spent my time well.
SB: What is the part you dread the most? Is it something you can out-source and plan to in the future?
AW: My business model is pretty lightweight and that’s on purpose. I can walk into a home with nothing but my experience and start teaching. I may start doing kitchen rentals for corporate events or larger classes in Austin as the brand gets out there, but it’s hard to imagine going through the hassles of owning a storefront at this point when there are so many other directions to work in. I’m all about doing the small, personal classes; the demo dinners for larger, but still intimate, groups; and I’ll develop more video content in 2020. I like shopping and I have this great autonomy in building my schedule and I LOVE doing the social media and marketing, so I have very little to complain about. Someday, I’ll be able to outsource paperwork and bookkeeping, dropping that sort of thing from my week would be awesome, but that will come when it comes.
SB: What are your goals for the next 1-3 years?
AW: Ah, so many! This is Phase 2 of a 5 phase plan (cough Project man-ager cough). My intention is to spend up to 5 years in Austin, plugging into this amazing foodie culture. I’m going to be working on building my voice as an educator through blogging, cookbooks, and workbooks. I hope to have some media presence on TV, podcasts, radio and other blogs (thank you!). I’m looking to teach some people how to do what I do as a personal cook, essentially as a career launch coach. I’m looking for the right partner to talk to about a localized version of a meal-kit delivery service and a nutritional expert to talk about healthy meal planning. Branded kitchen tools. Continuing to develop the National Food Holidays app that I launched last year. Mentoring middle- or high-school students. Pop-up dinners with local personalities. It’s all in the works.
SB: If we could do one thing to help you get to the next level, what would that be?
AW: Right now, I need to build my weekly meal prep services schedule up. That’s the engine that pays the bills and allows me to get out there and create the classes. So, give it a try, tell your friends, share my videos that I post of the work I do each week. THEN as the classes become more in demand, I can move towards more and more education. So, give a call and schedule a session or two of meal services or classes. You’ll love having your own kitchen adventure!
SB: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
AW: You are very welcome. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my world and passions.
Interested in finding out more, booking Adam or following him on social media?
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