Food Informants is a week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world. We hope it will give you a first-hand look at the many different corners of the food industry. Know someone who would make a great Food Informant? Tell us why.
Sean Henry is the owner of Houndstooth Coffee in Austin, Texas. Not until graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Radio, Television and Film, did Sean even begin drinking coffee. While working at a local grocery store, Sean began to explore the coffee world region by region. After the initial broad strokes of regional coffees, he began working at local cafes, learning the art of being a barista. At Houndstooth, Sean aims to provide customers with the sophisticated taste and presentation of a perfect cup of Joe. He not only finds value in a well-crafted cup, but in the coffee drinking experience as well.
Drawing from his passion of the craft as well as his passion for communal spaces, Sean keeps busy with planning and organizing Houndstooth events, overseeing quality control, monitoring all daily operations and paving the way to future coffee development. When he's not running and operating a small business, Sean enjoys non-fiction reading, film, and conversation. Even though Sean's work often leaves little time for hobbies -- or sleep -- he still finds time to spend with his wife Melissa and their two children, Ananda and Alden.
Read Sean Henry's diary below to learn how to manage a growing coffee shop and exactly what it takes to make a perfect cup of coffee.
After a week in Durham visiting one of our roasters, Counter Culture Coffee, this week starts out with a decent amount of catch-up.
Monday, November 7: Day Off
7:30am: Head to Houndstooth Coffee.
7:45am: Sit down with cup of house blend -- Meritage from Cuvee Coffee. Passes QC (quality control) test for balance, acidity and calibration of equipment... and awakes my brain.
7:50am: Write emails to leadership regarding our new hire, Liz. She has previous experience but we want to make sure that everyone gets up to speed with our methodology and practices. We want to make sure our standards and expectations are clear from the beginning, with the hopes that our baristas rise to the standards we have already set in place.
8:45am: I jump in behind the bar to help prep espresso-based drinks, brew coffees and orient people at the register.
10:00am: Leave to pick up family from airport. My family has been in West Texas all week, so I’m excited to see my wife, 26-month-old daughter and 3-month-old son.
11:00am: We hoped to stop for a burger on the way back from the airport, but my daughter was homesick (crying) to see her puppy, room and home.
12:00pm: Kids down for naps.
12:15pm: Computer work -- emails and social media.
12:45pm: Watch an online episode of Parenthood from last week with the wife.
2:00pm: Nap over. Potty time. Running around house. Dora the explorer on the couch. Potty Time.
4:00pm: Work on training materials a little bit more. We try to frame our training and evaluations under the overarching and all-encompassing umbrella of Guest Service. Three categories exist under Guest Service: 1) Bar Work (what guest sees) 2) Operations (work guest doesn't or shouldn't see) 3) Narrative, communication and articulation (increasingly important category of relating coffee knowledge in a real way).
5:00pm: Head out to dinner for the burger we missed at lunch. My brothers Paul (Houndstooth Coffee General Manager) and Marc (works at the business next door to Houndstooth) come to meet us.
6:30pm: Home for bathtime, bedtime and general rest.
Tuesday, November 8: Meetings
6:35am: Text message about needing merchandise from my attic.
7:15am: Walk dog, get kids up and dressed.
7:57am: Text message from shop -- "we need you" -- meaning "we are slammed right now and need your help up here... ASAP."
8:00am: Ok, great -- so now we load everyone into car and rush to shop with the family.
8:10am: Rush home due to forgotten shoes.
8:17am: Whew -- make it to shop for cleaning up after rush.
8:30am: Single Origin Espresso -- Finca Mauritania, El Salvador -- ahhhhh.
9:30am: Meeting with our trainer Daniel to discuss specifics of what he will go over with Liz next week.
11:30am: New Hire Orientation.
1:00pm: Home to clean out office of various boxes and packages of small wares we have accrued over past few weeks.
2:00pm: Suit fitting for my brother Paul's wedding in a couple weeks.
3:00pm: Meeting Houndstooth barista Sammy to discuss operational/ordering issues. As we’ve seen great growth since the end of the hottest Texas summer on record, we've needed to up our pars the past few weeks and continue to make time for our daily cleaning duties.
4:30pm: Half a beer by myself on the porch before heading home.
5:00pm: Phone call with Realtor to discuss future opportunities for growth, however far off they may be. It took us 1 full year from signing a lease to opening in our current space.
6:30pm: Dinner, bath time, bedtime.
7:30pm: "Meeting" with wife about last week's trip, finally we get to talk about it. Somehow we had been too tired between youngsters and business to do this until now.
9:00pm: Watch Parenthood/drink a Sierra Nevada Celebration -- love this beer.
Wednesday, November 9: Hmmm
7:00am: Handsome Roaster espresso -- ahhhh -- so interesting as espresso. It requires "work" to dial in and usually results in a very unique coffee.
7:15am: Check yesterday's numbers then help out behind bar. Not only do I enjoy working with coffee everyday, I enjoy sharing it with people as well. Hopefully I can model for my staff different ways to help our guests get excited about coffee. This requires knowing them personally and knowing our coffees intimately, then trying to match the two together. Always a fun dance.
9:30am: Converse with customer-friend about theology from my previous week sitting in on classes with my friend at Duke Divinity School.
11:30am: Lunch/conversation/meeting with Paul, who's taking over more responsibilities around the shop.
1:00pm: Discuss ordering coffee with Daniel. It can be a fiasco getting coffee from four roasters (Cuvee, Verve, Counter Culture, and Handsome Coffee) from four different cities to be ready for brewing the correct number of days off roast. This is the easiest arena outside of overstaffing to lose money... and quickly.
2:30pm: Head home to spend time with kids.
6:00pm: Dinner, bath time, bedtime.
8:00pm: Time to sit down with the wife, beer in hand.
Thursday, November 10: Beautiful and Productive
5:30am: Daughter awakes earlier than usual, but we have a good time playing in her room and watching Dora the Explorer on the iPad.
7:15am: Take car to the repair shop.
8:00am: Help behind bar.
8:30am: Morning espresso -- handsome, even better today than yesterday.
9:30am: Shop door propped open at the shop -- weather feels great outside with lots of sun and temperatures in the low 70s today. All guests feeling the good vibe for coffee shop weather.
11:00am: Lunchtime with fam.
12:00pm: Kids down for naps.
12:15pm: Quickbooks! A necessary evil of computer work to ensure our books are in as good a shape as the coffee.
3:30pm: Inquire with staff at shop as to how our public cupping went. We offer two each week to help educate people and create more opportunities for palate growth in the community for our guests and staff. Sometimes 10 people show up, sometimes two. Today brought five people.
4:00pm: Pick up car from shop. Thankfully all is well, just cost me $150 to have them say so.
6:30pm: Dinner meeting with leadership team. We try to meet once a week over dinner, sort of family-style to discuss and brainstorm and keep each other in the various loops. With a small staff of seven people, having three of them be leadership might seem like overkill, but it’s really more about creating a true team who makes the most of one another's talents. Paul is the GM in charge of Human Resources and overall shop execution. Sammy is our operational gal who keeps pars stocked, a cleaning regime in place and does lots of little things no one notices. Daniel has become our trainer/educator in charge of disseminating all coffee knowledge, technique and continuing education.
8:30pm: Pub night at the Draught House down the street from the shop. I've been doing this weekly routine for seven years, not about to stop now. A chance to unwind and see any number of old or new friends. People know we're going to be there. In a world where so many people are flaky, it’s nice to know that pretty much no matter what, Pub night is on Thursdays from 8 'til whenever...
Friday, November 11: #fancyfriday
7:10am: Wake up late thanks to pub night... tie my tie for #fancyfriday. One of our employees Rudi began wearing a bowtie on Friday to spice up the week, kind of salvage casual Friday. In a city like Austin where most things are pretty casual, the tie-wearing took off and now we all do it. Customers love it and it adds a special feeling to the whole day.
7:30am: Arrive at work to a five-deep line, work bar. With all of our coffees brewed to order, sometimes it takes a while. We try to get people on their way, but at the same time -- we make an individually crafted cup of coffee just for you... and folks seem to appreciate that attention to detail and quality.
11:00am: More coffee ordering discussion. We ordered 15% more coffee in preparation for Thanksgiving.
12:00pm: Work on new schedule with Paul... so important to get right... so not fun to do.
3:30pm: Email out new schedule.
4:00pm: Have a half-pint and conversation with a wonderfully creative regular, who rode his motorcycle all the way across town just to have a beer with us. It’s encouraging to have so many talented people enjoy what we do and how we do it.
Saturday, November 12: Busiest Day of the Week
8:00am: Brewed coffee this morning -- Ethiopian Idido natural sundried from Counter Culture -- berries & body -- yum.
9:00am: Busiest back to back hours ever at the shop.
11:00am: Wash dishes.
12:00pm: Home for lunch.
2:30pm: Pack up machine, grinder and tools for espresso training class tonight and Personal Barista Service tomorrow morning.
5:30pm: Quick dinner.
6:15pm: Head to shop for espresso class. We have a couple of regulars who were interested in learning more about the particulars of brewing espresso and steaming milk so we put them together and made a class that was based on our espresso curriculum, but tailored for the home user. They seemed to have a great time. One more class next week.
9:30pm: Class over -- time for a beer with our trainer, Daniel. We had a great conversation about the future and those "teachable moments" where we bring somewhat different ideas together for people when they least expect it in a way that pleasantly surprises them.
11:15pm: Head home.
Sunday, November 13: Taking it to the Streets
6:50am: Arrive at shop to prep cupping materials for spot on the weekend local news.
7:05am: Sermon Espresso from Verve -- nothing better than a juicy "sermon" on Sunday mornings... yes, we serve this as one of our espressos every Sunday..
7:30am: Arrive at KXAN News studio.
8:20am: Local news spot about the "official" way to taste coffee -- a cupping. What we call "slurping with style." This kind of event is fun because we get access to a wider audience to share what we love about coffee and help people change the way they think about or taste it. Education is a key component of our business model because a smart guest is a good/ repeat guest. So doing events like this is a great way to propel not just our coffee, but specialty coffee forward. (Here's a link to the news segment)
9:00am: Head back at shop to help out behind bar.
11:30am: Print out new hours of operation sheet. We are shaving a couple of hours from Monday nights because they have been extremely slow.
12:30pm: Unpack stuff from espresso class & personal barista service.
1:30pm: Try to relax rest of the day...
2:30pm: Pay shop bills.
3:00pm: Create labor hours spreadsheet for weekly schedule.
4:00pm: Start dinner and relax.
7:00pm: Kids down, drinks, Scrabble time.
See more Food Informants below:
John T. Edge writes a monthly column, "United Tastes," for the New York Times. He is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun and a longtime columnist for the Oxford American. His magazine and newspaper work has been featured in eight editions of the Best Food Writing compilation. He has been nominated for five James Beard Foundation Awards, including two M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Awards. Edge holds a master's degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. He is director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he documents, studies and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the American South. Read John T. Edge's diary here.
Chris Jones and Richie Farina are chefs at Moto, a fine dining restaurant in Chicago that focuses on innovative and futuristic cuisine. They are both contestants on this season of "Top Chef: Texas." After attending Johnson and Wales University, Farina, the executive sous chef, started cooking in several Boston restaurants, and then joined Moto in 2008. In his spare time, he trains in mixed martial arts, a mixture of Ju Jistu wrestling and boxing. Jones, got his start cooking in his grandmother's kitchen. After working his way up the ladder in several restaurants, Jones is now the chef de cuisine of Moto. He lives with his wife and young daughter, Savannah. Read Chris and Richie's diary here.
Sean Henry is the owner of Houndstooth Coffee in Austin, Texas. Not until graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Radio, Television and Film, did Sean even begin drinking coffee. While working at a local grocery store, Sean began to explore the coffee world region by region. After the initial broad strokes of regional coffees, he began working at local cafes, learning the art of being a barista. At Houndstooth, Sean aims to provide customers with the sophisticated taste and presentation of a perfect cup of Joe. He not only finds value in a well-crafted cup, but in the coffee drinking experience as well. Read Sean Henry's diary here.
Jean K. Reilly MW is the Wine Director for the Morrell Wine Bar and the Wine Buyer at Morrell Wine Co. She is a 10-year veteran of the wine business and has worked in numerous parts of the trade. In 2010, Jean became this country's 26th Master of Wine, only the sixth American woman to hold this prestigious title. Jean's interest in wine began as a hobby while pursuing a career in corporate finance at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and Deloitte & Touche. Abandoning the corporate track in 2001, Jean plunged into wine full-time, traveling the vineyards of Europe and the U.S. After a stint as sommelier at a small French restaurant in Manhattan, she worked as a wine instructor for several culinary schools, including Schiller International University in Switzerland. From 2007 to 2008, she also served as the Wine Consultant for Hilton Hotels. Read Jean Reilly's diary here.
Todd Coleman is the executive food editor of Saveur magazine, where for six years he's run the food side of things, including recipe selection, and overseeing the test kitchen. He's also an accomplished photographer who props, styles and photographs the majority of Saveur's covers, as well as frequently shooting and producing stories both in studio and on location. A graduate of the CIA, he's worked in restaurants, has been a private chef, edited at Everyday Food, produced shows for the Food Network, and has photographed cookbooks like The Japanese Grill by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, and the forthcoming Katie Workman book The Mom 100. He lives in Brooklyn, loves the Strand bookstore, hoards photo lenses and is a fiend for Indian food. Read Todd Coleman's diary here.
Chef Stephen Kalil joined PepsiCo and Frito-Lay in 2007 as their first ever corporate chef. In his role, he leads and inspires product development through the application of "Culinology", the blending of culinary arts and food science and technology. He is based at Frito-Lay headquarters in Plano, Texas. Read Stephen Kalil's diary here.
Food maintains a nearly constant presence in the life of 34-year-old competitive eating champion Timothy Janus, known to his fans as Eater X. Ranked #3 in the world by Major League Eating, Janus spends many of his weekends on the road, competing in contests across the country and around the world. A seven-year veteran of the sport, Janus has competed in over 100 events, owns seven world records, and yet still looks pretty good in a pair of pants. At night, Janus is a waiter at a pizza shop in Manhattan's East Village. His life, he says, has been a very good adventure. Read Eater X's diary here.
Geoff Bartakovics, 34, is the co-founder and CEO of Tasting Table, the free daily email publication all about food & drink culture. Before starting Tasting Table, Geoff was a business manager in asset-backed finance at UBS Investment Bank, where he coordinated business activities among the fixed income trading desk and the bank's middle- and back-office functions. Geoff was formerly a business analyst at Deloitte Consulting. He attended The University of Chicago, from which he graduated with honors in English. He was a Fulbright Scholar in comparative literature and philosophy in Berlin and Hamburg. He's an obsessive dinner party entertainer and a serious home cook. Read Geoff's diary here.
Elizabeth Laseter, an aspiring food journalist, is a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins University and lives in Washington, D.C. She received her diploma in Writing and Art History and is now pursuing a Culinary Arts Degree at L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md. The one-year program includes six months of learning techniques in the classroom and six months at an externship in a D.C. fine dining restaurant. Elizabeth documents her food adventures through two blogs, The Baltimore Food Rag and The D.C. Food Rag. She decided to attend culinary school after interning at Baltimore magazine and working with the food editor. Read Elizabeth's full diary here.
Jane and Terry Levan operate a 20-acre pastured poultry farm outside of Lexington, Texas called Dewberry Hills Farm, after the dewberry vines that grow wild on their land. They raise antibiotic- and hormone-free meat chickens for sale. Their chickens mostly live outdoors. The Devans call themselves "omnivores with a conscience;" Jane won't eat any meat unless she personally knowns who raised it and how it was processed. Jane and Terry began farming in 2003, after reading Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma. The pair had always wanted to farm, but they didn't want to follow the industrial agricultural model. Jane and Terry built a processing building on-site and became state certified so they could sell their birds commercially in May 2008. Read Jane's diary here.
"James" is an Apple employee. He works at Caffe Macs, the on-site cafeteria of Apple's campus in Cupertino, Ca. Reminiscent of Google's epic food offerings, Caffe Macs is pretty much a corporate food court dream-come-true. Read James' diary here.
Brooklyn-based Aaron Lefkove used to work in book publishing and as a freelance writer. After his office re-located to New Jersey, Lefkove decided he didn't want to do the commute. Lefkove and his business partner, Andy Curtin, had the idea for a Cape Cod-style seafood joint for awhile. One day at a barbecue, they decided to commit to opening a restaurant, Littleneck, Brooklyn's first and only classic New England-style beach side seafood shack. Besides working in restaurants growing up, Lefkove had no experience as a restaurateur. He acknowledges that the process has been a major learning curve, but so far, there haven't been any obstacles they couldn't get around. At first, he thought opening up a clam shack would be easier than finding a new job but it turns it that it is actually "WAY WAY WAY harder." Despite this being the "hardest, most stressful, most frustrating, most time consuming, most ambitious thing" he has ever done, it isn't nearly as hard as he thought it would be. Plus, he says he loves working for himself, working toward something he has "always dreamed about," and building something really exciting. Read Aaron Lefkove's diary here.
Jonathan Stich, 29, is a third generation farmer from Burlington, Wisconsin. He grew weary of the corporate world, went traveling and decided to become a farmer. After reading about how heirloom tomato grower Tim Stark in Pennsylvania sells his products to New York restaurants, Stich made the decision to spend a night in restaurants in Milwaukee and Chicago asking if they'd be interesting in buying local produce. Read more about Jonathan Stich's week here.
Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada are the owners, managers and butchers in chief of LA's artisanal butcher shop Lindy and Grundy. (Erika is Grundy and Amelia is Lindy.) The two, who also live together and are a couple, opened their store on Fairfax last spring (profiled on HuffPost Food). Lindy and Grundy has already been feted as one of the most best butchers in Southern California -- and quite possibly its most sustainable. Read about a week in the life of Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada's here.
Recently, inspired by a meeting at the San Francisco Food Bank, chef Karl Wilder started the food stamp challenge: living and eating on a food stamp budget. What began as a one week project has turned into a two-month long commitment. Wilder calculated that a family has $1.33 to spend per meal, and decided that when using oil and seasonings, the cost would be $1.22. In total, he has less than $4 to spend on food per day. He monitors his nutrition and caloric intake on FitDay. You can read more about his daily experiences at on his blog, Fusion On The Fly. Read about a week in the life of Karl Wilder here.
Chris Cosentino is the executive chef of San Francisco's Incanto, an offal-heavy (not sure what offal is? Check out our Whole Animal Guide here) rustic Italian restaurant located in San Francisco. While encouraging patrons to try different cuts of meat, Cosentino also champions eating locally. He's previously cooked at such renowned restaurants as Kinkead's and Chez Panisse, and cites Jean-Louis Palladin as a big influence on his cooking style. He also co-owns Boccalone, which sells various cured meats and house-made salami. To learn more about Cosentino, check out his website, Offal Good. Read about a week in the life of Chris Cosentino here.
"Jane," 24, has been working for Trader Joe's since 2007, though in 2009 she left for over a year to go work for Whole Foods. She did not like it there and returned to TJ's. At Trader Joe's, every employee does a range of tasks, but Jane's speciality is dairy. Below is her explanation of the pros and cons of the job: I like working for Trader Joe's because they pay me well and offer great benefits. They also respect me as an employee and make me feel like I'm useful and needed and not just another part-time employee that can be replaced (which has been the case at other retail jobs I've had). Trader Joe's is really good at hiring great people and I'm lucky to have so many wonderful co-workers. I don't like working at Trader Joe's because the work can be strenuous on my back and wrists. Being on a register for several hours at a time is tiring and somewhat soul crushing due to ignorant people who feel the need to be condescending to me because I work at a grocery store. I also feel that the company is becoming more and more corporate as it grows and it is beginning to have an impact on the enjoyability of being a part-time "crew member." I also work in a very busy store which causes the managers to stress out a lot and I don't enjoy being surrounded by it. Read about a week in the life of a Trader Joe's employee here.
Chef Nate Appleman is the Culinary Manager at Chipotle. This involves a range of tasks including developing new menu items, opening ShopHouse (Chipotle's upcoming Asian fast-casual chain) and furthering Chipotle's commitment to sustainable sourcing. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Appleman was previously executive chef and co-owner of San Francisco's super popular Italian restaurants A16 and SPQR. Appleman moved to New York in 2010 to open Pulino's. After leaving, Appleman took his current position at Chipotle. He has received a James Beard award for Rising Star Chef, been anointed Best New Chef by Food & Wine and is the champion of Food Network's Chopped All-Stars. Read about a week in the life of Nate Appleman here.
Freeganism is a lifestyle in which one employs "alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources." Gio Andollo is a writer, artist, musician and freegan. Andollo became a freegan when he realized that artists don't get paid much, but he didn't like the idea of working a "crappy, part-time job" to pay the bills. So he found another way. Andollo performs on the subway for about 20 hours a week, typically in two-hour intervals. He makes $10 to $50 per shift and has a love/hate relationship with busking. Andollo will buy food, but very rarely. The majority of his food comes from trash touring, or dumpster diving. He's become increasingly concerned with the abuses inherent in current economic systems: waste of resources, exploitation of people, degradation of the environment, calloused treatment of animals, commodification of time, labor, even war (thus human life in wholesale). In addition to busking part-time, he writes songs, blogs and books about these issues. Read about a week in the life of Gio Andollo here.
Captain Jason Joyce is an eighth-generation resident of Swan's Island, Maine. He is a Coast Guard Licensed Captain and a registered Maine Tidewater Guide. He has done lobster and fish research with the University of Maine, the University of Massachusetts, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the Lobster Institute. Joyce is currently doing a lot of work with the Penobscot East Resource Center, which works to secure a viable future for the fishing communities of eastern Maine. Each week, he records HD video of lobstering that he gives to restaurants to educate customers about sustainable lobster fisheries in Maine. Captain Joyce is married to his high school sweetheart and they have four children. Learn more about Captain Jason Joyce here. Read about a week in the life of Jason Joyce here.
Martin Kastner is a serviceware designer extraordinaire/jack-of-all-design-trades for Grant Achatz's Alinea, Next and The Aviary. Kastner creates custom pieces that work with Achatz's elaborate and intricate food. Born in the Czech Republic, Kastner trained as a blacksmith and received an MFA in sculpture. (His thesis was about air). He met his American wife in Prague and moved to the US in 1998. In 2003, Kastner received an unexpected email from Grant Achatz, who had emailed a host of designers. Kastner was the only one to respond. They've partnered not only on serviceware, but also on web design, video and the Alinea cookbook. Kastner's other clients include L20 (an upscale, seafood-focused Chicago restaurant), Le Bernardin (Eric Ripert's homage to seafood) and Empellon (Alex Stupak's new Mexican restaurant in New York). Read about a week in the life of Martin Kastner here.