We had the good fortune of connecting with Jarrett Stieber and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jarrett, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Work life balance is without a doubt the hardest aspect to navigate as a professional cook, especially a chef/owner of a restaurant. The impulse to constantly be in your restaurant is almost impossible to suppress. You want to be involved in prepping every single item, conceptualizing every dish, washing every plate or glass, organizing then reorganizing followed by organizing again, deep cleaning equipment/furniture/floor boards/every nook in cranny in the restaurant, answering every email and social media message and media inquiry and phone call, checking the numbers, balancing the books… it’s endless. In the case of people like myself, who are married, nobody suffers more than your spouse, which is totally unfair since they are supposed to be your partners in life yet constantly end up drawing the short straw with regards to your time. Ultimately, finding a way to balance work and life will be the most crucial aspect needed for the long term stability and success of your business. Without striking a balance between your personal time and work time, you’ll end up burning out way too hard way too early, and most likely divorced alone and miserable haha… so MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF! Let go. You HAVE to trust your staff and rely on them to steer the ship so that you can start phasing yourself out of every single aspect of the restaurant (or other type of business) until you whittle down your work load to the essential backend and administrative tasks most sensitive and necessary to continued operation, with a little spare time to jump in and help with your passion/specialty (like cooking, bartending, whatever it may be). Then GET THE HELL AWAY and GO HOME, spend time with your family, travel, play sports, watch tv, find a hobby… anything that isn’t work related. Life is all about balance so you cannot work well if you don’t live well, too.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have been working professionally in restaurants since I was 15 years old and never really looked back. It was always music or cooking for me and cooking paid the bills (barely) so as time went by, and I continued working in high end restaurants, I started to realize this was the path forward for me. Plus you get to a point in your career where the only way to continue progressing is by committing to said career, leaving you with less free time outside of work for other endeavors. I worked in restaurants around Atlanta like Holeman and Finch (before there was even an off menu burger, that’s how long ago it was haha), Pura Vida (RIP!), Abattoir (RIP!) and Empire State South when Ryan Smith (the chef/owner of Staplehouse now) was the chef and then started a pop up by accident, called Eat Me Speak Me. The popup ran for nearly seven years, against all odds and without ever having any start up funding or consistent revenue, and that helped generate a loyal customer base before opening Little Bear. For six years or so, while the pop up was going on, I started working on business plans for Little Bear as the exact restaurant it would one day become and finally got the place open on February 26, 20202…. two weeks before the state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic… less than ideal timing (lol fml)… but c’est la vie. Nothing we can do about it except keep on grinding and hustling to be the best takeout restaurant possible until we can safely reopen our dining room, hopefully by spring or summer of 2021.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Northern China Eatery is hands down my favorite restaurant in the city. My wife and I also love eating food from Poor Hendrix, and really enjoyed takeout from Redbird, Southern Belle and Bar Mercado. For coffee, we are major Chrome Yellow Trading Co fans but also love drinking beans from Portrait, East Pole and Valor. Cocktails wise, Mercedes O’Brien (Sippn at Home) makes my favorite drinks in town but it’s hard to go wrong with Ticonderoga, Kimball House/Watchman’s or, hell, even Little Bear’s cocktails 🙂 And for beer, our neighbors at Halfway Crooks of course!! Love them and love their beer! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to dedicate my shoutout section to my wife, Hallie Stieber, who puts up with my shit on a daily basis yet still supports me, helps me be a better man and proprietor all the time and holds our little family together.
headshot: Kate Blohm food photos: @littlebearatl