I met Aaron J. Michaels in the back alley behind Pacific Time when his Culinary Convenience truck showed up, parked and invited the kitchen staff in to sample his wares. Culinary Convenience offers a truly mobile shopping experience. Let me reiterate, this guy has an uncramped, walk-in store built in to his truck. That day he was riding with Hiro Hirana, national sales director for Kikuichi Cutlery, a Japanese brand. Here's Hiro, Aaron, and Chef Jonathan Eismann.
I recently spoke with Aaron by phone, here's what he had to say:
"I came from high end, I went to Roosevelt University and Hospitality Management in Chicago. I learned the business in high-end dining and food service.
"I've been in hotels and restaurants for many years, I used to be purchasing director for Joe's Stone Crabs in Miami Beach. I was there for two years and then my old executive chef gave me the idea. He said, 'You know what would be great, a mobile truck with flatware and stuff.' I had to do a project for school, I was going for my MBA at Keller Graduate School of Management, and I did my project on Culinary Convenience. I called my father and told him about this great thing I was doing for school and he said, 'Well what do you need?' He loaned me the money and it started from there.
"I do business throughout tri-county as well as overseas. Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, the Keys, the Islands, British Virgins, Turks and Caicos, all over the place really. In Haiti, believe it or not, they just called me up and said 'Can you export?' They were an importer, they needed a big blender, and I hooked em up."
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"We started as kind of a mobile toy store for chefs, then people started asking 'Can you get me this? Can you get me that?' and I said yes. Now it's a completely different business from when we first started. We sell all type of food service supplies and equipment; cutlery, china, flatware, furniture, everything for a restaurant except the food. We design kitchens, open restaurants, install equipment, do resupplies, I deal with it from all ends.
"One thing in this business is you're always nice to everybody, you always talk to everybody, from the dishwasher to the corporate chef. I've got so many accounts where the dishwasher made the referral, or the dishwasher became the executive chef. Some people just appreciate high-end equipment.
"I've gotten strange requests: a $1,200 sashimi knife; people have asked me for larding needles; there's millions of items. I get strange requests all the time, but once you done it once or twice, it's not strange, it's real. Any request is real when you're making money."
"Business is okay. I'm very concerned about way economy is right now. A lot of good chefs and cooks are being let go. People are not going out to eat like they used to, and people are not ordering high-end items like they used to. People are struggling right now. You have to work harder now to make same amount of money, but you just got to be strong, you got to have the will power to get through this. There are people spending, you just have to find them.
"We're always trying to be innovative and better at what we do. We do knife sharpening and we do sell to residential, not just high end restaurants. We can do anything. It's for all people who appreciate quality and service. We've got it, just give us a call and we'll drive up and meet you."
Anybody interested in reaching Aaron J. Michaels, president of Culinary Convenience, should call 954-967-1512.