Food is a passion that for many begins in childhood. Leslie Danelian, co-owner of Sweet Butter in Sherman Oaks, CA says "I started cooking in my 'Susie Homemaker' (toy oven circa 1960s) when I was five and I never stopped." The kitchen was her classroom and the hours accumulated there gave her the education needed to work as a food stylist, recipe writer, caterer and cake designer before recently opening her own beautiful restaurant on Ventura Blvd.
But it takes much more than a love of food to run a busy hot spot. Leslie says "You need to love a challenge, have a work ethic that will rub off on your employees and be wiling to do the dirty stuff, it's all consuming."
As a mompreneur, Leslie has less guilt than many as she waited to open Sweet Butter until her kids were in college. She feels that raising kids is the "most important and challenging job a woman can ever do. It not only prepares you for the chaos and intensity of owning and running your own business, it paves the way for being a quick & savvy problem solver."
Melanie Barsuk, founder of Simple Gourmet in Los Angeles, CA completely agrees that being a mom is a huge bonus in operating a very successful eight year old catering biz and culinary school. She says "A mompreneur's day is one great big distraction and we become masters of handing that sort of chaos. There's something fun about the challenge of managing it all." Melanie's two kids were two and four when she left the corporate world of retail sales/marketing to follow her lifelong passion for food. She began by volunteering at Sur La Table's cooking classes. It was there that she met her business partner and executive chef, Taji Marie who at the time was Sur LaTable's Culinary Manager.
Melanie has a jam packed day after getting her kids to school around 8AM, the first stop is the gym. "Being over forty and eating for a living, makes daily exercise a must." Then she works on a variety of business tasks until picking up the kids around 3:00. She juggles kids, emails and dinner and after the kids are in bed, Melanie has what she calls "Power Time" between 9pm-12am where she can work uninterrupted in silence and quickly slips into "the zone of productivity."
During the workday when Melanie is consumed with details of the day to day for catering and classroom, she tends to just graze and taste foods. Melanie has such a passion for food that she has no eating routine at all. She likes to eat small portions of lots of different foods and rarely sits down for a meal unless she's in a restaurant, where she'll also likely order small samplings to get the best variety. She found that packing her kids' lunches became too boring after many years, so she delegated the task to them now that they're ten and twelve years old. With this responsibility, they can now experience the love of food that Melanie did as a child.
On the other side of town, Leslie is also just "tasting" all day long at Sweet Butter. She has to be sure the recipes are correct, that there's enough salt on the candied pecans or the correct "crisp" factor to the homemade granola. But she never sits for a meal all day long, she only tastes. I have a new respect for my daily sit down lunch. When Leslie finally winds down and goes home around 6 or 7 PM, all she wants is her pillow and a martini!
Both women though proudly admit that they truly love their work and wouldn't have it any other way. For Melanie, it wasn't easy admitting that she simply isn't one of those women who could be completely content as a stay at home mom. She sought professional guidance to realize that it's okay to enjoy working. She's very conscious of balance and says that her success comes from putting family first.
Both Leslie and Melanie strive to have a healthy work environment and surround themselves with a great team of people who share their vision. They both have supportive husbands and family. Leslie believes that by following her dream she has taught her children the most valuable lesson, "Follow what you love, take risks and work hard. Don't try and figure it all out before you begin...just start! The act of beginning is the first step to making it happen." Now that's a recipe for success.