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Geoffrey Cambal is an aspiring master chef with his own restaurant in Tucson, Ariz., near his hometown. While he believes his cooking has something to do with the success he’s seen, he attributes the growing number of regular customers to the way he has been able to increase customer satisfaction. He has been focusing on a few key areas to make his restaurant stand out amongst the others.
The first area is menu design. The menu is what really sells the food and needs to be well thought out, like the cover of a book or the trailer of a summer blockbuster movie. The best menus are not busy and cluttered but have plenty of space and character. Make sure the information does not run together and the different sections of the menu are clearly separated so that people know what they’re getting. Avoid cheesy graphics, like anything from clipart. There is no reason to insult a diner by assuming they do not know what a sandwich looks like.
Adding a secret menu is a good way to make regulars feel like they are a part of something special. Maybe there is a sandwich that a lot of people order with the same substitutions or without the same ingredient every time. Give it a name and add it to the secret menu. Similarly, as the menu changes over time, chances are a popular item or two might get squeezed off the list. Be sure to keep the ingredients for it, however, and keep it on the secret menu. Geoffrey Cambal says he has been able to keep a lot of regular customers this way.
Geoffrey Cambal is the product of an Italian immigrant who moved to Arizona to focus on his geology career and the author of a Latin American cookbook. His mother had no formal training in cooking, but used her knowledge of Hispanic cuisine that was passed down through the generations to create some tasty recipes for her book.
Some would say that Geoffrey Cambal had cooking in his blood. Just as his mother’s family had mastered the art of cooking, so too had his paternal grandfather, who was a professional chef in Italy. His father knew a thing or two about gourmet Italian cooking as well. This meant that while some kids were stuck with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or hot dogs for dinner, he and his two siblings were regularly treated to delicious and authentic Italian or Hispanic meals daily.
Of course, this kind of exposure to cooking and food led to Geoffrey Cambal wanting to become a chef himself. He learned at a young age that he had the skills to do something special in the kitchen. He graduated from high school in 2001 and decided to look for a good culinary school. Obviously pleased that his grandson was taking up the same profession as him, his grandfather offered to help get him into the culinary school he attended years ago. Cambal and his family discussed the pros and cons of going abroad, but eventually at the young age of 19 he moved to Italy to attend an international culinary university there.
Over the next five years, he practiced his skills at a number of places. Formally, he took classes at his university, and informally he would practice whenever he visited his grandfather who passed along some of his secrets. Backpacking trips across Italy helped him expand his cooking knowledge even more. As a broke student, he stayed in campgrounds with just a tent and the basic supplies. He would buy whatever cooking supplies were the cheapest in the area and use them to create new meals and dishes. These trips fueled him to open his mind and experience a wide variety of local cuisine. These trips also led to Geoffrey Cambal meeting his future wife, who he found out lived near his hometown in Arizona.
In 2007, he left the culinary university with a degree in the culinary arts. He spent a month saying goodbye to his grandfather and learning the last of his tips and secrets before moving back home. Over the next four years, he held three positions as a chef in local restaurants with each job better than the last. There was no question that his cooking talent was making him popular amongst the local owners and helped each restaurant become better than it was before he was there.
After he eventually married in 2010, he decided it was probably time to get his professional dreams rolling. Through the support of family and friends, he decided to rent a small property nearby. He left his well-paying position as a chef at another restaurant to open his own. Early on, he relied on his relatives and friends as well as their relatives and friends to help him run his restaurant. He got help cooking some dishes from his mother and siblings and promoted his restaurant through the simple yet effect means of social media and word of mouth.
Just two years after he started his restaurant, Geoffrey Cambal is already tasting wild success. Understandably so, his restaurant focuses on Italian cuisine, but there are also some Hispanic and American flavors on the menu to make sure there is something for everyone. He no longer needs his friends and family to help run the place and instead can afford more experienced chefs who have worked in other restaurants professionally to help him run the ship.
Those backpacking trips that taught his to be as thrifty as possible so he could buy as many ingredients as he needed translated into savings for his business. In order to cut costs and increase his quality, he made the decision to grow his produce on-site. He said he always had an interest in gardening, so this finally gave him an excuse. He purchased a greenhouse and made sure to fill it with every natural ingredient he can grow that is found somewhere on his menu. Of course, as his restaurant grew so did his garden, and he eventually hired a professional to keep up with everything.
Believe it or not, Geoffrey Cambal does make time to leave the kitchen every once in awhile. Since he had to give up running his greenhouse at the restaurant, he started to keep a personal garden at home. The arid climate in Arizona is not very conducive to gardening, so he has to pay extra attention to his crops to ensure their healthy growth and eventual harvest. He loves seeing the contrast of his green veggies against the desert.
He has also taken to flying. A lot of his in-laws have ties to flying, whether it is from their days in the Air Force or simply flying for fun. He started working on his sport pilot certificate in 2012 and, once he’s finished with a solo flight across the country, he will officially earn his pilot’s wings. He says he is grateful that his wife talked him into becoming a part of her family’s tradition.
Finally, when he is not cooking, gardening or flying, Geoffrey Cambal can usually be found giving back to his community. He supports Feeding America, which is an organization that focuses on hunger and malnutrition. He contributes a portion of his personal profits from his restaurant to go toward Feeding America. Those funds are then used to operate food banks all throughout the United States. The organization also focuses on advocating for government programs that can help eliminate hunger. For someone who has focused his life around the love of food, Geoffrey Cambal cannot think of a better organization that hits his passions more than Feeding America.
Geoffrey Cambal hopes to open up another restaurant as soon as he feels comfortable with the amount of capital he has available. His first restaurant has been such a huge success in the area that it is understandable why he feels a second is necessary. Since he has seen so much success, people regularly turn to him to ask how he did it. Once he gets settled into his second business, he plans on talking to groups of entrepreneurs on how to successfully open and manage their own restaurants.
The first thing that is needed is some practical experience. Anyone with a boatload of cash can open whatever they want, but it helps if the owners have some knowledge about food and cooking as well. There are so many restaurant options for people in America that the simplest mistakes can be what makes any investment a waste of cash. For people that do know food, they should stick to what they know. Cambal knew Italian, which is why he focused on that. Someone who knows southern cooking but goes to open a sushi restaurant has the wrong idea.
Geoffrey Cambal also warns that patience is necessary. The restaurant probably will not take off overnight, and turning a profit can take a while. With these simple tips in mind, he believes that anyone who wants to run a restaurant will be able to do it.
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