Welcome to the first edition of Founder Fridays, where we ask some of the special people whom we work with and inspire us to answer 5 questions to tell us a little more about themselves and their companies. We are fortunate to have crossed paths with many awesome people and are going to use this space to share their story.
Up first, we are going to hear from our very own founder, Ben LeBlanc.
Why did you start Good Stock?
I started Good Stock because I wanted to create something tangible. I spent 10 years in finance but was never really fulfilled by my work. Don’t get me wrong - I liked my jobs, I just never loved them. I always felt a desire to do something more, to either build something or help someone build something.
After leaving Goldman Sachs in early 2014, I finally had my opportunity. I thought about many things, did some self-exploration, and talked to friends about what was next. I’ve always loved to eat, drink, cook, and entertain, as it’s such a big part of life in South Louisiana. I also have family in New Orleans in the food business, and I guess it was inevitable that I would finally be drawn into it too. Perhaps it should have been more obvious to me, since deciding what to have for lunch was pretty much the most important part of every single day of work.
After starting Good Stock, tell me about your first “Oh shit!” moment.
Because I came into this business with zero restaurant experience, I had no idea how long it would take me to cook. The night before our first day at Smorgasburg, I cooked by myself for about 12 hours. I got home at 6am which meant I could grab 45 minutes of sleep before waking up to pack everything for the market. I clearly had no clue about what I was getting myself into. A few hours later, someone actually gave me money in exchange for something that I made with my hands. And they liked it! After we served a few customers, I couldn’t help but thinking “Holy shit, this is happening.”
What are some challenges you didn’t foresee?
On a basic level, I didn’t realize how manual this job was. Cooking is very physical work. Hauling ingredients, lifting pots, stirring, doing the dishes, being on your feet all day - it’s pretty exhausting. I’ve run a few marathons and half-marathons, and at the end of a full day in the kitchen, my body feels the same as after a race. I have a greater appreciation for cooks now.
Another thing that I didn’t realize is that when starting a company, everything is the most important thing. If our soups aren’t excellent, no one will eat them. So making delicious food is the most important thing. But if no one knows we’re making this great food, then it doesn’t matter how good it tastes. So telling our story is the most important thing. But we need to be able to pay for everything and also make sure our finances are in line when we seek investors, so balancing the books is the most important thing. Doing this by yourself is close to impossible, so you need to find some talented people to work with you. So recruiting and training are now the most important things. And on it goes.
What do you listen to while you work?
I love cooking to music, whether it’s making dinner at home or in Good Stock's kitchen. I like almost all types of music, barring new country (it’s the worst). The mood will determine what we’re listening to. If it’s early in the morning and we need something to get us going but we’re not ready for too much energy, we might go with some jazz like the Éthiopiques. A little later with when we need something faster, probably old school hip hop. And if we’re doing dishes and need to get the hell out of the kitchen, something faster like LCD Soundsystem. At home, especially when we’re cooking Italian, Sinatra is playing in the background.
But lately, what I’ve been listening to most is Chances With Wolves. They are a DJ duo who do a weekly show on East Village Radio and put together these amazing playlists of old R&B, reggae, funk, soul and more. They find so many great but overlooked songs, B-sides, and obscure covers. It’s unbelievable how much diverse music they piece together, and have definitely become an inspiration for Good Stock. When I want to put some great music on and not have to worry about it for a couple of hours, Chances With Wolves is the way to go. Some of my particular favorites are Live at Ballroom Marfa, Vibes & Stuff, and Episode 302.
What’s your favorite soup?
Gumbo! I’ve made ours hundreds of times and I’m still not tired of it. And I love trying new gumbos when I’m back in Louisiana because there are so many different ways to make it.
After gumbo, Hot & Sour Soup is probably my number two. We’re working on a recipe now and I can’t wait to break that one out.