© 2014 Kevin Longa

Getting Back Into the Test Kitchen; Your Input: Should I Reformat #FoodEntrepreneur Friday?

The food: Crème Brûlée

Where to find it: THREE Restaurant, San Mateo, California


Welcome to another edition of #FoodEntrepreneur Friday, where I serve up an order of international food with a side of insight for entrepreneurs. And today I’m featuring a quick, three-question (and the last question is optional) survey where you can tell me what you want to see in future Friday blog posts. Take the survey.


THREE Restaurant in San Mateo, California shares the same building as my entrepreneurial alma mater, Draper University. Even though this restaurant has been in the building far longer than DU, the place still runs like a startup. When I walked into THREE to film the “Hands in the Orchestra” episode for TASTE, the restaurant buzzed with drive. Food entrepreneur Alicia Petrakis started the restaurant with zeal and passion commensurate to any world-class enterpriser. To this day the high standards have not changed. Grills fire at full blast. Waiters zoom through packed tables to place orders. And THREE’s talented pastry chef works diligently in a private room behind the main kitchen. In her ‘pastry laboratory,’ Leslie experiments with new tastes and sweet confections. Sometimes she’ll make classics like crème brûlée, and other times she’ll investigate creative, homemade Pop Tarts. She epitomizes the startup concept of testing, iterating and pivoting to perfection.


Chef Francisco fires up a dish on the grill at THREE Restaurant - Kevin Longa -

Chef Francisco fires up a dish on the grill at THREE Restaurant

Cooks at THREE keep up with the fast pace of the kitchen - Kevin Longa -

Cooks at THREE keep up with the fast pace of the kitchen


The entrepreneurial modus operandi called ‘lean startup’ argues that every company needs to test, learn and iterate as it grows. Following a rigid business plan only goes so far. Planning can work under environments of relative stability, but in uncertain economic times and rapid change, it is extremely limiting, if not dangerous. Your business will change. The conditions around your business will change. Your customers will change. This means that what made your business successful in the past might not make your business successful in the future.

Thankfully, the folks behind THREE Restaurant are smart and know this, including Leslie the pastry chef. When you crack the shell of her crème brûlée, you can hear the fresh flambé’d sugar layer shatter into sweet shards of awesome, revealing a velvety custard base. This culinary magic didn’t happen by accident. Leslie works tirelessly in her private pastry laboratory figuring out different ways to make her pastries more delicious than the previous season. She and THREE founder Alica Petrakis both know that they serve customers with high standards and changing tastes. What worked last winter (like Leslie’s divine bread pudding and homemade Ho Hos; pictured below) might not work in the summer. Customers might prefer lighter pastries during the warm season. So it’s back to the pastry laboratory for Leslie.

THREE Restaurant's bread pudding and homemade Ho Hos

Leslie isn’t afraid to share her new recipes with others to get instant feedback on what needs to be changed or improved. For example, while working on a special apple crisp recipe she offered tastes to her fellow cooks in the kitchen. They offered their reactions, and a few said it was too sweet. So Leslie made new batches of apple crisp with less sugar and a few other refinements. By the following week, customers of THREE enjoyed a perfected apple crisp on the dessert menu.

Leslie, Alica and THREE Restaurant all know a key practice for all successful startup businesses: always plan to adapt. Don’t be afraid to test your work, get feedback, learn from mistakes and iterate as times change.


Speaking about adaptation and change. I want to hear from you about your thoughts on the future of my Friday blog posts. Fill out this survey, which is only three questions (and the last question is optional).