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Chefs, What Would It Take to Sell Yourselves to a Major Corporation?

Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com.

Since James Beard likened himself to a "gastronomic whore" after signing an endorsement deal with Jolly Green Giant to tout their Corn Niblets and wax beans in his recipes, culinary personalities shilling for food companies has been on the rise. A few notables include Food Network's Alton Brown hawking Welch's, Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio singing the praises of Diet Coke, and celebu-chef Rick Bayless raving about a Burger King chicken sandwich.

So what would it take for the Valley's chefs to sell their personalities to a major corporation? Here's what a few of them had to say.

Aaron May, Chef and Restaurateur

As a general rule, I severely distrust major corporations. The two times I did anything with large corporate landlords ended in disaster, which further fostered my affinity for smaller independent business as partnerships. The situation would really have to be extraordinarily financially rewarding in addition to being something that I really believed in. So don't look for me on a frozen pizza box or Costco pancake mix anytime soon, but never say never.

Charles Wiley Chef and Food and Beverage Director, ZuZu

First, I would have to have respect for the corporation and be assured that what they project would not dilute what I spent the last 40 years building. Second, a boatload of money.

Christopher Gross Chef and Owner, Christopher's & Crush Lounge

It would take money! As long as I didn't have to get involved, they could even make "Chef Christopher's PETA Approved Faux Foie Gras" on a stick. I would take the money and run and open a place where I didn't need to make money -- a place where I could just cook.

Josh Hebert Owner and Chef, Posh

A large enough check that would allow me to live a really good life off the interest. I'm thinking something to the tune of $10 million, plus residuals.

Chef Kurt Jacobsen, Hidden Meadow Ranch, Greer

I would have to really like the major corporation. Money and peace of mind do not always go hand in hand.

Jeff Kraus Chef and Owner, Crepé Bar

A heavy-duty contract stating that I can run things my way but with a major corporation's residuals.

Deborah Schneider Chef and Partner, SOL Mexican Cocina

Complete control and tons -- absolutely tons -- of money.

Chef Payton Curry, Brat Haus

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A financial obligation on their behalf for a garden to produce real food, period. I don't want a manipulated compensation package, I want people to eat real food. Give me a plot to richly thicken with vegetables, herbs, and greens and we will go to town.

Michael Brown Chef and Owner, Jamburritos Cajun Express

If given the opportunity to realize 1,000 units nationwide and accelerate the growth of Jamburritos Cajun Grille by teaming up with a larger corporation, I would want to be certain that our company values matched and that key role players including myself, my CMO, my CFO, and key managers were given key positions. I would also ask for a fair market price for the business and retain at least 51 percent of the corporation.

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