'Success All Comes Down to Storytelling' How Chef Adrianne Calvo Is Cooking Up Big Business Through Podcasting and Social Media The Miami-based restaurateur and content creator discusses her recipe for success in and out of the kitchen.

By Dan Bova

entrepreneur daily
Maximum Flavor Hospitality

Many entrepreneurs achieve success by sharing their bold vision with customers. But Chef Adrianne Calvo is making big things happen by blindfolding them instead.

In 2007, at the age of 22, she opened her first restaurant, Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Bar, in Miami, where dinners are offered award-winning cuisine inspired by Napa Valley, as well as a truly unique "Dark Dining" experience. This involves guests being seated in a darkened room, blindfolded and served mystery meals. Adrianne calls it a "step away from the norm" and judging by its routinely sold-out status, it's the kind of culinary adventure that diners crave.

Related: Nina Manchev of Forte Tapas on Engaging Customers with Social Video

Adrianne is now bringing that eating-in-the-dark experience to her new podcast/vodcast, Searching for Maximum Flavor. On the show, Adrianne sits down with celebrities like Patton Oswalt and chats about their ongoing search for a personal "bliss point" through food, travel, and connecting with other people. Each guest is served Chef Adrianne's signature blindfolded meal, and unexpected delights, laughs, and emotions soon follow.

I spoke with the inventive chef and host about her show and career, and about what closing off one sense can do for opening up our minds at the dinner table and beyond.

You're a very successful restaurateur and cookbook author and have a booming e-commerce business — why have a podcast?

I really believe that in business today, success all comes down to storytelling. You need to tell the story of whatever your business is. Mine is food. It's the experience of food. The people who come to buy products now more than ever come because of the why, the story behind it. The only difference between my plate of food and 7 million other plates of food is that it's my story that belongs to me and is unique to me.

You've embraced storytelling through social media long before many understood its brand-building power.

I was there when Facebook and Instagram first came to shine. So my followers have been with me from my very first post at my very first restaurant back in my early 20s. We've gone through the ups and downs and the different trends together — all the cookbooks and the TV shows and the competition shows. I would advise people who are just starting with brand-building on social media that it's a marathon, not a sprint. Find a cadence for posting that works for you and your life — you don't have to share everything!

Over the years, what is a trend you doubted as having value but now see as a big asset?

Well, I'd first say that there are always a lot of new trends happening and that experimenting is great, but you really need to stick to things that feel authentic to you. What's classy, what's elegant, what's good is the most important thing. That's what people will gravitate to. It's why a burger will never go out of style. The world's love affair with a burger and fries will never die.

In terms of business trends, I do remember saying, "I will never do delivery!" Uber Eats and Postmates and Grubhub and all of these platforms — I just didn't think our restaurant's food would translate. People will not order our $70 Five Diamond Reserve Filet Mignon delivered to their homes! Well, guess what? They do. And a large part of my revenue now comes from delivery. So keep your eyes and mind open to opportunities and prepare to pivot.

Related: Food Network Star Geoffrey Zakarian Distills the Hospitality Industry Down Into Just 48 Words

Speaking of eyes being open, tell us about the blindfolded segment of your show.

I take guests on this experiential journey of the sense where I blindfold them. It's this vulnerable situation that makes you experience food like no other way. It's almost like a metaphor for lots of life lessons. If we remove our prejudices about what we think we like and don't like, we experience things with a much more open mind. When you eat blindfolded, you really pick up on nuances you might have missed with your eyes open — the subtle flavors in the background, different textures and even temperatures that you're experiencing.

What do you advise to people who are hungry to start their own business, but don't know what that business should be?

The first big thing is that it's much like a relationship and that you have to stay in love with it. I love what I do. I'm very blessed that I get to do what I love every single day. I just get out of bed every morning excited to do something in this culinary world that I love so much. And I get to do it with my incredible team. An important point I'd like to make: This can not be run by a solo person, so having a team around you that's just as in love with the brand and the company culture is vital. Those are the secret weapons: love and team.

Related: Four Things Entrepreneurs Don't Need, According to This Outdoor Adventurer and Creative Founder

The second thing is narrowing ideas down. Ask yourself, "Can I do this round the clock every single day of my life?" Twenty-four hours a day, even when you are on vacation. Narrow it down to the top three and then from those top three, hone in. Spend a month doing these as hobbies and see which one brings you the most joy. Focus on that.

And finally, if you want it to be really successful, think about whether this is something that people need. Think about categories in business that people will always spend on no matter how the economy is doing. If you can align your true passion with a product or service people always want or need? You're off to a great start.

Dan Bova

Entrepreneur Staff

VP of Special Projects

Dan Bova is the VP of Special Projects at Entrepreneur.com. He previously worked at Jimmy Kimmel Live, Maxim and Spy magazine. Check out his latest humor books for kids, including Wendell the Werewolf, Road & Track Crew's Big & Fast Cars, and The Big Little Book of Awesome Stuff.

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