The Co-op Hits Mott St.
Taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is no easy task, especially in the restaurant industry. That’s partially why Chef Edward Kim’s successes in the industry are such notable accomplishments. Kim and his business partners invited the Chicago Ideas Co-op for an evening of energizing conversation over inventive food and cocktails.
Edward Kim spent time at notable establishments in both New York and LA before opening his first restaurant in Chicago, Ruxbin. We sat down with Kim to talk through the entrepreneurial side of his world.
Why did you select Chicago?
My sister and I were originally going to open a restaurant in LA, but it was 2008 and the market had just collapsed, and we just didn’t have enough capital to do it there. We really wanted to move back to Chicago and it ended up being the right move for us. When opening the business, it was really important to be close to our family, but also in an environment that we knew really well. Knowing the clientele became important. It also helped that Chicago was more affordable, and provided us a better business climate for our start.
How did you scale from one to two restaurants?
Ruxbin was a success that came in part from hard work, creativity, and good people. That last part is especially important. Opening Mott St essentially came down to having more good people than we had hours in the day. Ruxbin is an intimate restaurant with limited space. We ended up hiring so many great people that we literally had to expand.
Knowing that you’ve been able to get great employees, what’s your approach to hiring?
It’s most important to have people whose learning curve is exponential vs. one that has plateaued. I would rather hire someone with little experience, but who is teachable and who wants to contribute to the team beyond their primary job function, over someone with 20 years of experience but who is done learning. Our beverage director at Mott St came from an Apple Store. But he very much wanted to learn, and he has built an incredible beverage program.
What advice do you have for others who are interested in opening their own business?
Two things: First, it’s important to at least get a taste of the business that you want to open. For restaurants, make sure that you’ve spent some time working a restaurant to understand it. Second, the thing to remember is that it’s not just the job, it’s the people you surround yourself with.
Chicago Ideas extends a big thanks to Mott St for their generous hospitality and photographer Ryan Beshel for capturing the evening. The next time you’re in Chicago, be sure to check out Mott St or Ruxbin.