By William S. Dissen
Posted October 2018
I began working in restaurants as a dishwasher when I was 15 years old. From there I moved into prep cooking and found that I got the "restaurant bug" early. Throughout college I worked at restaurants, and my studies of the French language and culture led me to enroll at The Culinary Institute of America to further my studies and passion for cooking. After years of working and traveling across the United States learning from great chefs, I felt that I needed to expand my knowledge of restaurants and moved to Columbia, South Carolina, to earn my Master of International Hospitality and Tourism Management degree from the University of South Carolina. My goal was to better learn how to operate a successful hospitality business.
Keep moving forward. Even when you don't know exactly what it is you want to do with your life; keep pushing, show your boss that you can work hard and understand the work environment around you, and keep learning every day.
— William S. Dissen
A few years after graduation, I moved to Asheville, North Carolina, to purchase The Market Place Restaurant. I dove head first into the restaurant and the sustainable food system and it has enabled me to expand our company to Haymaker and Billy D's Fried Chicken restaurants. The Market Place is now getting ready to celebrate its 40th year in 2019 and my 10th year at its helm.
Serving Up Sustainability
I get to work with talented people who are passionate about great food and hospitality, and I love that I get the chance to create great food every day. Our teams are what makes our restaurants great, and they believe in our commitment to local and farm to table cuisine. We take our guests on a mini vacation that nourishes them, brings friends and family together, and gets people excited about eating healthy, locally sourced food.
The most rewarding part of my career so far is teaching people about the importance of food. Food brings people together and is a way to shed societal issues and come together at the table. It's also been a way to teach others about sustainability and the importance of food policy and advocacy as so many things are directly tied to our agricultural and fishing industries. If we "vote with our forks," we can directly change the world for the better.
The Next Level
I was fortunate to have worked for many talented chefs and to have studied at other colleges prior to my time at the University of South Carolina, but it was in my master’s program that I was able to learn the specifics and fundamentals needed to run a business and manage people in a positive and professional way.
One of the most valuable things this program can teach you? Learning accounting! You can't operate a business properly if you don't understand the numbers. The metrics of a business tell the story of how you have been operating your business, and if you cannot properly decode what they mean, you won't be able to understand how to make your business really run well.
I also learned a lot about marketing during my time at the University of South Carolina. If you want to take the step to own your own business, you have to be able to tell the story of who you are and what your company and core values are all about. My marketing professors really helped me to understand how to tell my story.
Keep moving forward. Even when you don't know exactly what it is you want to do with your life; keep pushing, show your boss that you can work hard and understand the work environment around you, and keep learning every day. A life without education is a dull one, and the quest for knowledge is what helps you to achieve not only your goals, but to be able to teach and empower those around you.
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