Barbara Bredehoeft on the Business of Food
Over 20 years ago, Barbara Bredehoeft met Karin Tucker, changing the course of their lives, and the food scene in Jacksonville. And boy has that scene evolved since Biscottis opened in 1993, for the better we should say! This pioneer of the Northeast Florida food community talks about the growth of culinary talent, collaboration among restaurateurs and the challenges of access to locally grown produce.
You own and co-own two successful restaurants and a bakery in Jacksonville. How many years have you been in the business of food and how did you get started?
Biscottis will celebrate 23 years in October! Karin and I met in 1992 when we were living in Atlantic Beach. She was the adventurous personality while I was the stable corporate gal...we decided that Jacksonville needed a good coffee shop and a place to eat a rustic California style sandwich. I remember having to get fresh mozzarella "special order" from Atlanta Foods...now it is in Publix. Food has come a long way.
Do you have a culinary background? How did you learn about owning a restaurant?
Karin had her own cooking show for a while, and she has always been the "culinary" side of our business. Karin traveled professionally with Unique Adventures for years as a tour director, so she knows spices and ethnic food better than anyone I know. Plus, she lived in San Francisco most of her life so she expected that quality of food in her new home-town. There were not many places like Biscottis in '93, so anyone moving here from metropolitan areas felt comfortable in our place...including my European husband Michael.
I worked for the corporate restaurant world (Ruby Tuesdays) for almost 10 years...opening up restaurants and learning how to operate in the black. I am more left side of the brain, and Karin is obviously the creative right side.
Our region's food community is growing and you've undoubtably seen many changes. What evolution has been most notable in the last five years? Where do you see opportunities? What are the challenges?
In the last five years, Jacksonville has seen some fantastic things happen in the food industry. First, we have a bunch of talent in this city...people who grew up here, moved away and came back, and they have created great places for us to dine. They are making Jacksonville a more desirable culinary destination. Second, the comraderie amongst restaurateurs is very healthy here in Jacksonville. The encouragement to share good and plentiful resources has benefitted the farmers and our community. You can also see this through dinners that have multiple restaurants producing a coursed meal for the enjoyment of all attending.
You have a lot of women on staff at your restaurants. What are some of the benefits of getting women involved in restaurant careers? What are some of the challenges?
Yes, the majority of our management team is female. Like so many things in business, this was not planned. However if it works, don't change it. The drawbacks are that we all have to pick our kids up at 3:00 :-) Shift change can be brutal!
What's the one thing most people don't know about owning their own restaurant business, but should? From your experience, what's the biggest challenge to being a woman in the food business?
The one thing most people do not know about owning a restaurant is that Karin and I have made some of our best friends with the people who eat in our restaurant. Our relationships (over the years) have been one of the best gifts from our business...what a blessing! The food world is driven by people, it really knows no gender.
We talk a lot about seasonal ingredients and consumers, chefs, restaurants, artisans and farms working together as a "food system." What are some of the hurdles to restaurants "buying local" on a consistent basis? What could be done to help bridge this gap?
The big hurdle in "buying local" is the lack of supply to put on a core menu. Most (locally sourced) ingredients are used in nightly specials on Biscottis' menu. These items are usually more expensive, so it is difficult to use them in price sensitive dishes. Chefs are really busy people these days. Back door delivery helps to bridge the gap of availability.
Finally -- is there something, in particular, that draws you to food? If so, what is it and how has it captured your attention?
I went to school to be an engineer, but graduated with a degree in nutrition. Food has always been my interest. My father was a farmer, and I grew up watching him make decisions about how to grow, how to pick and how to sell. I think he planted me firmly...in the food business.