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Secret Service

A stint in the underground can provide valuable training for restaurateurs.

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This story appears in the May 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

One of the hottest trends in restaurants these days isn't a type of cuisine; it's a mode of operation. At underground restaurants, a mouth-watering dinner is served at someone's house . . . or a cool loft . . . or a converted 1950s creamery. The restaurant's location is always changing because, like prohibition-era speak-easies, underground restaurants are fly-by-night operations, skirting the law to provide divine cuisine. For entrepreneurs hoping to launch full-scale restaurants, the underground can be an excellent training ground. Dissident Chef, the 43-year-old proprietor of San Francisco-based SubCulture Dining, found that the underground was a way to indulge his passion for cooking while he got the plans for his traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant off the ground.

Dissident Chef, as he's known in the underground scene, has found many benefits to SCD, which he launched in March 2006. Not only is he cooking, but he's also using his enterprise to build his staff. "I'm able to take raw, talented kids and teach them and train them--to nurture their skills and build that infrastructure for myself," he says. SCD has even become a place for him to meet investors for his full-blown restaurant, planned for late 2007.

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