by Joe Caruso
90 Minutes with Tim Hardiman: Kudos to the thINCubator on its inaugural thINC Tank Live! series segment, which opened last night featuring, appropriately, a boy from the thINCubator’s ‘hood – the Bagg’s Square neighborhood, that is. Tim Hardiman, co-owner (with wife Melissa and Chris and Tracey Talgo) of two Bagg’s Square establishments, the renowned The Tailor & The Cook farm-to-table restaurant and the newly-opened Utica Bread Company, shared an enlightening and inspiring coffee table talk on what got him into culinary, his own experience with the health benefits of locally-sourced foods, the winding road to success, and his encouraging thoughts on the future of Utica and Bagg’s Square. The humble Holland Patent native grew up in the hospitality business and studied for two years in the culinary arts program at Paul Smith’s College, but he credits a love for what he does, and working at it, constantly, for his success. His advice to young entrepreneurs in Utica: “If someone tells me ‘that’s not a really good idea for Utica,’ it’s a really good idea for Utica!”
17 Questions: Hardiman on Hardiman
On paying your dues:
“You do not have the skills you need coming out of culinary school.” (Tim interned in a handful of restaurants both in Boston and in France, including a stint with a Tex- Mex start-up, and after graduation, worked in a number of Adirondack establishments).
On the French work ethic (after a year spent working in restaurants in Burgundy and Paris):
“They work longer, and harder. I never worked as hard as I did there.” (Tim spoke of 18-hour days, Monday through Saturday, beginning at 8 am and ending at midnight, with short breaks for meals and rest).
On Catalyst Catering (an earlier venture):
“There are a million reasons why we didn’t succeed.” [Best Advice: “We didn’t know you had to pay yourself first.”]
On starting up in Bagg’s Square:
“We sat down and talked with Lynne Mishalanie, and walked out far less skeptical. And my wife encouraged me.” (Lynne was the originator and producer of the entertainment series Utica Monday Nite, and operated an art gallery in the Bagg’s Square building she sold to the Talgos and Hardimans for Utica Bread).
On the benefits of being in Bagg’s Square:
“Location, location, location.”
On the synergy between Tim and business partner Chris Talgo: “I’m like in the here and now, and Chris is two steps ahead of me.”
“It’s all about the service.” [Okay: food, service and ambience, but without the proper service you won’t be successful].
On finding the right employees:
“At every step of the way, the right people walked through the door.”
On how he keeps his staff on-point:
[joking:] “Threats. Seriously: if you walk the walk, other people will, too.”
On “why a bakery?”:
Tim and Chris bought dough for The Tailor and The Cook from an Adirondack bread maker, and sous chef Steve Arbogast – “a gifted baker” – baked it at the restaurant. As good as it was, they wanted to be able to create the product from scratch, themselves.
“I knew Utica needed this. I knew that bread has a way of exciting people and energizing a neighborhood. It’s really magical the way flour, water, salt and yeast come together. Bread truly can sustain a civilization.”
On the value of a faithful staff: [referring to the two years developing the business plan for Utica Bread]:
“Steve (Arbogast) gave me the biggest compliment: ‘I’m not going anywhere.’“ [Steve Arbogast, former T&C sous chef and a devoted baker, now runs the bakery operation].
On where they are, now:
“It’s awesome now but we’ve got a long way to go. We’re held to a very high standard [because of The Tailor & The Cook]; that’s what keeps us on our toes.”
What is success?
“Success is really, truly wanting to go to work every day. “ “Financial stability balanced by loving what you do: that’s success.”
On “the business”:
“Hospitality, culinary, it’s not for everyone.” [Long hours, and most of the time you just break even].
“Food is art, and the preparation of food is art.”
On what makes The Tailor & The Cook successful:
“We start with really good, high quality ingredients, prepared as un-extravagantly as possible.”
On sourcing local ingredients:
“I have ten, twelve farms that are certified organic. The rest [50 or so] of the farmers aren’t able to pull that off, but I can tell you without question that the farms I work with are practicing organics.”
“One of the really beautiful things that happened is people [farmers] started coming to us.”
Advice to young entrepreneurs in Utica:
“If someone tells me ‘that’s not a really good idea for Utica,’ it’s a really good idea for Utica!”