Food Network Host Shares Restaurant Start-up Secrets with Culinary Students

Jul 12, 2013

Food Network's Ben Vaughn with Culinard Birmingham Students

The celebrity chef in the spotless kitchen on television seems to have such a glamorous life. It can be easy to overlook the hard work required or the emotional and financial cost of failure.

Chef Ben Vaughn, consultant, chef and host of Food Network's Health Inspectors, learned this the hard way.

"I've worked in the industry for 23 years now and it's been a full circle experience," Vaughn says. "I opened about six restaurants in eight years with about a 75% failure rate. I did that over and over until my wife wanted to strangle me, but it was such a learning experience about myself."

Now Vaughn lends his expertise as host of Health Inspectors and helps struggling restaurants get back on the path to success.

In May, Vaughn stopped by Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Birmingham, to speak with students and alumni as part of his culinary school speaking tour.

"I see a lot of myself in culinary students because [cooking] is a career that accepts all kinds of people," Vaughn says. "It requires your attention, the ability to show up on time and to work really, really hard and repeat that day after day."

During his visit to Culinard, Vaughn was candid about his past and how he has learned from mistakes and challenges. Culinard student Tom Williams, an Ohio native who moved to Birmingham eight years ago, found Vaughn's candor refreshing.

"I'd like to open a restaurant myself one day," Williams says, "so the big thing to me was what he told us about opening up his restaurants. He was opening up his third restaurant when his first two went under. It was eye opening and a bit scary."

Vaughn's honesty also appealed to Chris Moore, a Culinard student from Memphis. "He explained to us everything that he did wrong," Moore says. "He didn't tell us what to do but he told us what not to do. It just reaffirmed to me that I'm going in the right direction."

In addition to his Food Network hosting gig, Vaughn is busy working on a new show for the network, writing a book and spending time with his wife and four children in Atlanta. But he always finds time to speak with culinary students like those at Culinard.

"I finally have a platform where people will listen [to my story]," Vaughn says. "I'm really honest about the highs and the lows. I tell students to learn to tie a chicken before you work on your chef bio because it's going to be hard work, it's not all glamour."

Read more about Chef Ben Vaughn and Health Inspectors at Food Network.

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