We had the good fortune of connecting with Steven Gostin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Steven, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
2020 has been a year of challenges, difficulties and change for many of us. I found myself starting a new consulting business at the start of the year and things were progressing nicely. I had several new clients who were looking to expand and grow and focus more on training and technology to manage their restaurants and business operations. This is exactly what was necessary to help them improve their standards and increase their bottom line. When we were hit with the pandemic and COVID ran its course, hospitality was hit hard. I found myself forced to close my new business because let’s face it, if my current clients no longer needed my services, why would anyone else? I was still consulting for the SBDC in Orange County and found there was still some hope as people were beginning their own homebased food businesses and finding some success. I helped open several new small businesses during this time and I was pleased to see some people not allowing the circumstances of the world not get them down and stand in their way. The experiences of COVID and the effect on hospitality made me realize that no business is immune to what the world will present. Hospitality was strong and growing, but in the blink of an eye, we watched it crumble and millions of people out of work. But this industry is strong and as it has in the past, will again rise and people will find new opportunities to build an opportunity for themselves. I have been told in the past that I too have never let life get in my way and I continually reinvent myself to match what is happening around me. In short, I found myself fortunate enough to get back into teaching and am now helping to create new Hospitality and Culinary programs at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education. I have chosen to continue my focus on education and hospitality by working with those who have the dream of being their own boss and working from home. So of course, I’m teaching How To Start Your Own Homebased Food Business at SAC as well. I am working on a new idea, HospitalityEd.org and am looking at other colleges and consulting groups to help provide knowledge and education to people who wish to start a new homebased food business, or any new homebased business. Afterall, this seems to be the hot new direction thanks to COVID. HospitalityEd.org is designed to help people who have an idea or a dream but do not know how to start. I provide the information for them to create the “launching pad” for their new business. I’m not only working and teaching at the college level, but I am partnering with a shared kitchen space in Orange County to provide my training and educational platforms to their clients. We are creating a completely new concept; a one-stop shop for new food startups. We are going to offer not only the kitchen spaces for prep and execution, but the classes and information necessary to build the business, generate revenue and fulfill dreams. As humans, we tend to fear change, but as I teach in my courses, change can be good. I share with my students and former clients that change can be good, and we should plan as we find ourselves needing to rise above COVID and the struggles in society and life. This will pass and hospitality will grow, but are you going to be a passive bystander or take charge and create a new destiny for yourself? Some businesses were forced to close because they just could not find the means to salvage the destruction to their operation. It broke my heart to see friends and clients who could not hang on and were forced to walk away from their dreams. But many of them have told me that once they are able to completely let go and find stable ground again, they will be back. Sometimes we are forced to let go, but I do not believe we must ever give up. We just need to find a new path to set ablaze.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It’s funny as I realize that I have been in the food and beverage/hospitality world for over 30 years. I just turned 55 and I don’t feel like I’m that old. But I started as a Door Host/Bouncer in Long Beach at Legends in the 80’s and worked my way up to being a bartender, a manager, a director and even a vice president of a small chain over the years. I’ve had a lot of challenges and disappointments but many successes as well. My 30 years in the industry have helped me to be where I am today and doing what I love, teaching. Whether I am teaching in a classroom or teaching in a restaurant, I love doing it. I love being able to share my failures and successes, along with some pretty funny industry stories, and watch my students’ faces. Nothing is more gratifying to me than having a former student reach out and ask for help or tell me how what they learned (in my class) has helped them with their work. When I started teaching at The Art Institute of California, Orange County, I was the happiest I had been in many years. I made some wonderful friends and worked with amazing people. When I was promoted to Program Chair for the Culinary and Hospitality programs I was overwhelmed, but never happier. I learned more than the students and found myself to be happier working than I ever was before. You can imagine the sadness when I locked the doors for the last time as they shut all our campuses down. I was devastated and felt very lost as the job I was loving and wanted to grow in had ended. However, I was grateful to have been hired at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education. My growth over the past 2 years has been life-changing for me as I see myself with opportunity to change and recreate myself through a different manner of teaching and sharing for the future. I am yet again recreating myself with HospitalityEd.org and hope to build a business through training and education with hospitality partners and community education programs, non-profits and clients. I have written a book on bartending and bar related information, Bar Guide 101, which I self-published for fun on Amazon. I have written curriculum that is being used at the community college level and I am the founder and creator of Intelliserve Responsible Beverage Service Training which is California ABC approved. I’m also trying to write a how to book on opening a restaurant or homebased food business and hope to be able to help others fulfill their dreams. I am also working with a new startup in food production, NutroCore. We are creating a line of products that are clean, natural and healthy. We have an amazing line of coffees and teas that are boosted with beneficial nutrients as well as amazing flavor. We are working on scientifically balanced snack packs that are not just tasty but offer specific benefits based on a person’s own health concerns. I have even created clean and healthy dog food and treats. All this will be leading to more with our technological pieces to help people understand foods and the benefits they will derive from the NutroCore brand. So, a lot to look forward to during this time of change and reincarnation.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Right now there’s not much to go to due to COVID, but I know what I want to do when we reopen again… Orange County has grown so much in food and flavors over the past several years. I’m on the Board of Directors with the Costa Mesa Chamber and we have seen some amazing foods come to the city. Joy and I still love Mastro’s and there are a number of new restaurants in the South Coast Metro area are creating foods like never before and offering the best atmospheres to enjoy a meal. Irvine, where we now live, has an overwhelming choice of foods and flavors at the Spectrum, which is always a fun night to walk and people watch after a great meal. If I have a week though, I’m going to San Diego for a ballgame at Petco, walking around downtown and then driving back up through Carlsbad and stopping in Laguna Beach for lunch. Then, continue driving the coast and taking in all the sights of the amazing coastline. Stopping in Newport for sushi, a cocktail at Mutt Lynch’s to see my friends, and then heading to Huntington Beach to walk around the pier area for dinner and cocktails. I’m going to drive up further and hit Redondo and then Santa Monica and go to Hollywood. I want to share with people all that So Cal has to offer, which is a lot. And if there is more time in the week or we decide to play hooky, I’m going up the coast further to Santa Barbara and then Solvang for waffles. We live in an amazing area with some great sights, food and entertainment. I hope to be able to enjoy it more with my wife and share in it all with friends. I think many of us take for granted all that is here in So Cal and how we can drive a few hours for a complete change of scenery and season.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This was a tough question as there are a few people who have helped me over the years. One is God as he has always picked me up and while I have tripped myself, he has led me to a better place today. Another is my dad. While he passed away many years ago, he instilled a great deal in me that I was not aware of until recently. Most importantly though, I have to thank my wife, Joy, and my family. As I mentioned, COVID has been very tragic, but in many ways, it has been a blessing. Through all the death and the heartache COVID brought to the world, we found ourselves growing closer. We have spent more time together over the past several months than we probably had in the past 5 years. We have talked and laughed and ate meals together, as a family. Yes, we have had some “loud” discussions, as any family does, but through it all we have learned that we are a loving family and we are very fortunate. Joy has been my best friend and I’ve found myself to grow more in love with her during this difficult time. I know I am not an easy person to live with and while neither of us is perfect, if I am going to be in lockdown, I’m glad I am with her. Our world has changed in 2020 and we are all still trying to understand how we will change with it, but I know that I have my family with me during this time and I am a lucky guy.