MILLI MOGUL MOVES | Charly Pierre, Co-Owner of Fritai Restaurant

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CHEF CHARLY

[All photos provided by Eater & Google]

To be the best at the top you have to be the best at the bottom.
— Charly Pierre

Getting into the restaurant business is risky — 80 percent of restaurants that open fail the first 2 years. According to Entrepurner.com “Though the future looks bright for the food-service industry overall, there are no guarantees in this business. Even the most successful operators will tell you this isn't a "get rich quick" industry. It's more like a "work hard and make a living" industry.” Although opening a restaurant has risk, it's nice to see confident Millennial's like Chef Charly Pierre take the risk and love the journey.


Who is Charlie Pierre?

Charly Pierre is a Haitian-American millennial navigating the maps of entrepreneurship.  He realized at an early age that food played a powerful role in strengthening bonds and being creative. His first step into the culinary world was when he participated in a competition and won 2nd place. He wanted to pursue this passion deeper, and attended Southern New Hampshire University on a scholarship while earning his Bachelors degree in Restaurant Management.

After taking a few positions in fine dining and holding various restaurant positions, Charly participated in the Food Network television show Chopped. In this show Chefs apply their skills to multiple "mystery baskets" which usually end up being certain ingredients us non-chefs could never dream of actually creating anything edible out of. However with tv pressure and tight deadlines Charly created masterpiece dishes the judges could not ignore.

We recall watching that Chopped and noticing a familiar face battling another chef for the 1st place position. Charly soon rained victorious becoming the Food Network's Chopped competition winner on June 27, 2017. He took home the $10,000 prize with an ear-to-ear smile while sporting a Haitian bandana to represent his culture. Food has always been an important part of the Haitian culture. Charly took this passion of food, moved to New Orleans, and now co-owns a restaurant called Fritai in the St. Roch Market (a venue similar to what Bostonians know as Boston Public Market).

 

"They say Successful restaurateurs agree that the best preparation for owning a restaurant is to work in someone else's first. Think of it as getting paid to be educated. Certainly you should read books and take courses, but you should also plan to work in a restaurant for at least a few years doing as many different jobs as possible. And if you're not actually doing the job, pay attention to the person who is--you may find yourself doing it when your own restaurant is unexpectedly shorthanded." [Read more here]

How & WHEN was Fritai created?

Fritai was created by Charly, but is brainstormed and operated with his former girlfriend Eva Chereches. We found this pretty amazing because although their intimate relationship didn't work out, they still remained great friends and did not allow their personal indifferences to affect their friendship or business success. These two have been able to pursue this venture and have had their doors open for almost 2 years now!

Fritai, a well known fried Haitian dish, is the restauraunts most popular dish. Charly and Eva have been able to create Haitian inspired dishes he learned to cook right in his mother's kitchen for the people in New Orleans to enjoy.

 

After exchanging a few laughs and dropping some creole words to each other, we dived into some questions that allowed us to understand Charly, his goals, and his purpose.

Where does your motivation come from?

So many things… my love of food and music really were the drive behind me moving to New Orleans. My dad was a chef at the Marriott Hotel in Boston, and my mom was always cooking at home. We got along really well and loved sharing experiences and learning together. My life was somewhat strict (growing up Jehovah’s witness) so I was always rebellious, but parents understood that.

Who/What influenced you to take on this new role in your life?

My passion of food. I’ve always wanted to be a chef since a kid. I always wanted to own a business. My mom passed away but is still always motivating me. I was always focused in high school; working at restaurants at the age of 15 — just working hard and saving up until I made enough to move to New Orleans.

As a business owner, how do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?

You have to be innovative, make it look good. We give our employees free will. We’re always open to suggestions, always changing and understanding what works and doesn’t, while giving them freedom and making sure they enjoy themselves. I take pride in who and why I hire people. I want to teach people while providing a good job and life skills.

How do you advertise for fritai?

Social media and word of mouth. Make sure your product is good and people will spread the word.

What would you consider your target audience and why?

Millennials. They’re willing to spend money and try new things, so I’m not afraid to introduce new things to them.

What does success look like to you? What does your finish line look like?

The greatest people never have a finish line. I want a lot… everything is constantly growing and I don’t want to stop. I have an entrepreneurs’ curse and the best don’t rest. I hope to be voted best restaurant in New Orleans and eventually the whole U.S.

What do you think it takes to run a successful business — especially in the restaurant industry?

Every restaurant has financial problems. Only 20% of restaurants make it to 2 yrs. People need to understand money and how it fluctuates. You think you’re doing well and then equipment busts, or you have to train a new employee which could gets costly due to paying employees overtime time for training, broken glassware by trainees, etc… Being efficient and money knowledgeable is key.

What would you consider unique about your business?

Our food stands out from the crowd. Our signature is the Fritay dish. It’s a taste of what we represent as well as out authenticity.

Do you always see yourself owning a restaurant with your business partner Minerva?

We met while both working at Area 4 and dated for a while. She’s much more business savvy and I hope to always be in a partnership with her — we work well together.

Does your restaurant help the community where it is located?

I hire underprivileged people — people who actually need jobs. I always think of the lack of black people hired and ethics is a big part of my food and restaurant. I’m very conscious of who I provide resources to. We have been able to supply food to the children of the 9th ward summer program. Since opening, we’ve held a yearly fundraiser and have raised between $2 - $4K for community programs so far.

If you had some advice to someone just starting out, or trying to find their path, what would it be?

Focus on what your good at. I also wanted to rap for a while and became a good advertiser. But I realized I’m a really good chef and had won scholarships for it… so I should focus on being a chef.
Be yourself! Being naturally you will lead you to success. Work hard and there will be a lot more success.

Try new things and be adventurous, step outside the box — it’s all a mindset.

Have a good plan. If you have a good plan people will follow you and invest in you. Go out there and get it.

What are some of your proudest moments on this journey?

Winning Chopped. Everything around winning… and all the love I received during my homecoming after winning. And a little 12-year-old girl from Oklahoma once came up to me and said that I inspired her, that was amazing.

As fellow Cantabrigians, and Cambridge Rindge & Latin Alumni, we congratulate Chef Charly on all of his accomplishments and positive impacts thus far -- we can tell this is only the beginning! If you're ever in New Orleans, stop by the St. Roch Marketplace and grab a bite at Fritai Restaurant. You won't regret it!

Check out Fritai's mouth-watering menu here!

 

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