One of the keys to sustained success in any industry is to be continually growing and learning, in order to constantly perform at a higher level than you did the day before. In doing research for my own book and watching my own growth in the industry that has stemmed from an array of incredible books, it was nearly impossible to narrow this list of books down to ten— I did though and here they are in no particular order.
Side Note: My first book about the Hospitality Industry is out May 24th, 2016 and is entitled Making the Cut: What Separates the Best From the Rest. I hope you’ll spend just a minute to learn about it and I would really appreciate your support — i.e. buying a copy. Thanks in advance.
Setting the Table: The Transforming Power if Hospitality in Business
by Danny Meyer
When I first read this book that was written by CEO/Founder of Union Square Hospitality Group and Shake Shack, I was working part-time in the industry. As those pages of the book came to a close, I knew I had to take the leap into restaurants full time. It literally changed my life. If there was a favorite of mine on this list, this would be it. If his perspective on hospitality (taking care of employees, creating unforgettable guest experiences and more) were to be implemented across the hospitality industry as a whole, this world would be a much happier place to live.
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
by Simon Sinek
If you didn’t read Sinek’s first book, ‘Start With Why’ read that first — it’s on my ‘Top 5 of All Time’ list, or at least spend 18 minutes and watch his TEDx talk by the same name — it’s among the most watched of all time.
‘Leaders Eat Last’ is a great narration of how certain people and organizations thrive as leaders, while demonstrating the inability of others to properly lead can be lethal. As Sinek says, you don’t have to be the boss to lead, you just have to be willing to raise your hand — this book is for anyone in any organization working in any capacity.
Raise the Bar: An Action-Based Method for Maximum Customer Reactions
by Jon Taffer
Pretty much everyone I’ve ever met loves Taffer, the host of SpikeTV’s Bar Rescue. He’s a super experienced restaurateur (former) and consultant and has been helping save bars and restaurants for years. His entrepreneurial mindset provides the perfect actionable ways for all of us to create dynamic customer reactions — the kinds that turn customers into raving fans. He’s a genius and this book is an example of that. He also has a ton of other great resources over on his website including a free app for restaurant and bar operators.
Food Lover’s Companion
This is an encyclopedia of anything you might find either in the kitchen or on a menu in a restaurant. This is a great resource for eager cooks, but also for FOH staff that doesn’t understand certain menu items, pronunciations, origins of dishes, etc. They have a variety of additions and they’re all quite useful.
The Flavor Bible (and others)
by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
When I first started cooking without recipes, this book changed my life and helped me better understand cooking. It’s similar to ‘Food Lover’s Companion’ in that it’s encyclopedia-ish, but it’s so much more and focuses on the ingredients. For example, you see an ingredient at the Farmer’s Market — you pick it up, take it home or back to work, and open up ‘The Flavor Bible’. It tells you how strong or mild a given ingredient’s flavor is, the flavor profile, how to best use it (cooked, raw, etc.), when it is seasonal and BEST OF ALL: what ingredients it pairs well with and what ingredients you should avoid. This book is incredible. Another favorite is ‘Culinary Artistry’, a more advanced and academic book, but is stylistically similar.
If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, this book might scare, shock and dissuade you from ever stepping foot into a restaurant as an employee — especially as a cook. If you have worked on the industry, you can most likely relate to Bourdain’s breakout book in a number of ways. The truth is, the restaurant kitchen dynamic is changing , in a good way, but ‘Kitchen Confidential’ is still a great peak into this crazy industry of which we’re a part.
Life on the Line
by Grant Achatz
This is a powerful memoir from the incredibly talented chef, Grant Achatz of the now shuttered Alinea, who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer — of the tongue (of all things) and how he beat it, but was faced with potentially never being able to taste again — the kind of things that exist only in a chef’s nightmare. This honest read takes you through his journey to greatness, cancer survival and the path to creativity. The main ideas of the book are issues we all deal with in the industry day in and day out on a more meta scale. Great read, great chef.
This will help you better appreciate the chef at your restaurant or if you’re a chef yourself — maybe what it takes to be a chef.
The Michael Ruhlman Collection
This is another author who changed the way I look at the role of a ‘Chef’, how you become one, and the idea of constantly striving for perfection.
‘The Making of a Chef’ is Ruhlman’s experience attending the Culinary Institute of America as a journalist, and ‘The Soul of a Chef’ walks you through the lives of several chef greats including Thomas Keller and Michael Symon (before he was ‘Michael Symon’) —it is an inspiring read.
His more recent books are more focused on kitchen and cooking execution that are greats for restaurant cooks and home cooks alike.
The Obstacle is the Way
by Ryan Holiday
This book recently floated around NFL locker rooms around the U.S. and in many ways changed the way players and organizations started to approach their work and the challenges they face as players and people. Holiday draws from a lot of Stoic philosophy, which unlike most philosophies, is quite practical and more of a mindset. The thesis of the book is this: the challenges I face in life are here to help me grow stronger. Ryan does a great job of telling stories that are powerful examples of this. This is a book that everyone should read. Seriously.
Seth Godin Collection
by Seth Godin
Godin is known for his entrepreneurial prowess and unconventional marketing that had changed the way a lot of people see the world — including myself. He’s got 17 bestsellers and for me to choose only one of those to include on this list would be inpossible. If you read him, he will flip your head upside down and challenge you to question the status quo, to try things that might not work, in order to grow and how many of life’s rewards come when you take chances in life that benefit other people.
The first thing you need to do is subscribe to his daily blog — sometimes it’s a one minute read and other times its a five minute read — either way, it’s a great way to start the day.
Google Seth and he’ll be at the top.