What started as an MBA project is now the newest addition to the South Andrews Avenue business scene in Ft. Lauderdale.
Aaron Michaels, owner of Culinary Convenience, started working in restaurants and hotels after earning his undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago. After moving to South Florida at the behest of a former colleague to become the purchasing manager at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach, Michaels eventually decided to follow his inner entrepreneur.
It was while studying for his master’s degree at the Keller Graduate School of Management, that he followed the suggestion of his former executive chef, Andre Bienvenu, to create a mobile chef’s supply business. He started with a panel van going around to restaurants sharpening knives and selling chef supplies, the culinary version of a Snap-on tool truck.
His entree to the yachting world was through a chef who had gone from restaurants to yachts and had called Michaels to come sharpen his knives. Owen Doyle, who was working for National Marine Suppliers at the time, was onboard and was soon passing Michaels’ cards out to his customers on other yachts.
After 12 years as a mobile business, the new store is the next phase in Culinary Convenience’s expansion.
“One of the reasons we moved to a store location is the South Florida chef community was asking for a chef’s supply store — not a restaurant supply store, not a Williams Sonoma — a store oriented toward chefs.”
Culinary Convenience picked its current location, the old MYD building at 2212 S. Andrews Ave., to be more convenient to its broad base of clients, which stretches from Miami to Palm Beach and from yacht and restaurant chefs to home cooks and people in health care. Its collection of Dansko clogs are popular with medical professionals at nearby Broward Health Medical Center.
When asked about the success that lead to this expansion, Michaels said, “It’s all about customer service. If my customer is being demanding, I can guarantee his or her customer is being even more demanding, so I do whatever I can to meet their needs.”
These days Culinary Convenience’s inventory stretches beyond what will fit in the back of a panel truck. It has everything from chef’s uniforms and footwear to knives, cooking utensils, flatware, dishes and even appliances. According to Michaels, the response from the yachting community has been positive.
“We are getting a number of yacht chefs stopping in and stewardesses that are surprised at the variety of our inventory,” he said.
The new store has attracted the interest of yacht chefs such as Chris Garvey, chef on the 130-foot Mangusta M/Y Incognito.
“I am on an Italian boat, and Aaron has helped a lot by finding 220-volt appliances for me,” he said. “There are also a number of other items like food molds that I would have to buy online in the past, but now I can walk in, and if Aaron doesn’t have them, he usually gets them in a day or two. It’s easy to drop off knives to be sharpened; I used to have to go up to Oakland Park.
“It’s a great addition to the culinary scene around here,” Garvey said. “He’s a provisioner of culinary cool.”
Michaels runs the business with his wife, Limor, and six employees. Even though they have a brick-and-mortar location, they have not left their mobile roots. Culinary Convenience is available to bring the truck out to shipyards and marinas to sharpen knives and to let chefs who can’t get off the boat peruse the inventory.
Michaels said he plans to host events at the store including cooking demonstrations, hopefully a dinner series, and chef club events.
“We want to be part of the community,” he said.
It begins with Triton networking next week, May 21, from 6-8 p.m. No RSVP required.
By the way, that graduate school project rated a grade of B+.
Culinary Convenience is located at 2212 S. Andrews Ave. It is open to the public Monday through Friday. For more information, call +1 954-967-1512.
Capt. Deb Radtke had a previous career as a journalist and copywriter. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.