RIT Professor Says High-end Chefs’ Success Starts at Home

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Success as a master chef of haute cuisine depends less on going to culinary school than having an innovative support team along the way, according to a new study by John Ettlie, professor and Rosett Chair for Research at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business.

“This is not cooking; this is creativity and craft, and food happens to be the medium. What we discovered was that it was the parents who were the primary influence on a high-end chef’s success. It all starts at home.”

Success as a master chef of haute cuisine depends less on going to culinary school than having an innovative support team along the way. That’s according to a new study by John Ettlie, professor and Rosett Chair for Research at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business.

“The extra ingredients to a chef’s success as an entrepreneur are parents and mentors,” said Ettlie. “If you don’t have innovative parents or mentors, your chances of becoming highly successful are really low.”

Ettlie’s social learning theory, “Observe, Innovate, Succeed: A Learning Perspective on Innovation and Performance of Entrepreneurial Chefs,” was published in the Journal of Business Research in partnership with Celine Abecassis-Moedas and Francesco Sguera, researchers in the Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics, Lisbon, Portugal.

The team sampled a total of 55 restaurant chefs using two Gourmet Magazine rankings of the top 50 U.S. restaurants. They first investigated how competent role models (parents, mentors, not academics) influenced the innovation behavior of entrepreneurs in the context of haute cuisine, then evaluated how much the chefs’ innovative choices influenced the performance of the restaurants.

“We wanted to see who bubbled to the top in this highly competitive area of haute cuisine,” said Ettlie. “This is not cooking; this is creativity and craft, and food happens to be the medium. What we discovered was that it was the parents who were the primary influence on a high-end chef’s success. It all starts at home.”

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Saunders College of Business is one of nine colleges at Rochester Institute of Technology and accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). Recognized and ranked, Saunders College enrolls more than 1,000 students, has over 18,000 alumni worldwide, and works in partnership with RIT’s Venture Creations incubator and top ranked Albert J. Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Degree offerings include undergraduate (BS), master’s (MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Executive MBA (EMBA) programs where students gain real-world business experiences in the classroom and through cooperative education programs.

Rochester Institute of Technology is home to leading creators, entrepreneurs, innovators and researchers. Founded in 1829, RIT enrolls about 19,000 students in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs, making it among the largest private universities in the U.S.

The university is internationally recognized and ranked for academic leadership in business, computing, engineering, imaging science, liberal arts, sustainability, and fine and applied arts. RIT also offers unparalleled support services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation. Global partnerships include campuses in China, Croatia, Dubai and Kosovo.

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Marcia Morphy
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