Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Baldwin.
Mike, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
At 16 years old, I got a job as a “short order” cook at what was then known as a Coffee Shop.
Continued at a succession of cooking jobs until at 20 years old became a franchisee of the Sambo’s pancake house chain. Left them when I discovered that I was not suited to corporate style employment.
Had a few management positions with various independent restaurants until I opened my own independent restaurant, Tartuffles, in Orange, CA. This venture was very successful and initiated innovations that are still popular today including Belgian Waffles, the chicken breast sandwich, whole fruit garnish and several others.
My next venture was California Pizza Company in Belmont Shore. This is where the concept of California style pizza was created. There were a couple of customers that kept pushing me to team up with them to build the concept into a chain. I declined as I was a new parent and there was not a successful restaurateur I knew that I would also consider a successful parent. One night these customers came in and told me they had hired a chef and were going to proceed with building a chain without me but would I show their chef what I knew. I agreed and that became California Pizza Kitchen.
I left operations shortly after that to be able to focus on my new family. To support that family, I began working for SYSCO Foodservice, a broad line food service supplier. I was successful but miserable working in a corporate environment.
I soon left to work for RW Smith & Co designing kitchens. I discovered that I was not happy spending so much time behind a desk and switched to sales of food service equipment and supplies. My innovative style was appreciated there and I was doing well until my wife died.
I was now raising two young boys by myself and was looking for more freedom and income. The RWS design director had left to start his own company and invited me to join him selling and managing projects.
After 10 years He and I had built Webb Design into a national powerhouse. However, my youngest son was now a teenager in need of strong supervision that I could not provide as I was traveling around the country. In 2001 I decided to leave Webb and start my own company managing projects from my house.
This eventually evolved into further success in design and equipment sales. This success required a growing staff and an office from which to operate. 16 Years later, KPI is now a nationally respected company offering innovative design and equipment solutions for the food service industry.
Most important, my son has been clean and sober for 14 years and is a successful photographer and business owner.
Has it been a smooth road?
Besides the personal struggles, being in business inherently has many struggles. There is always the issue of the typical financial concerns (having enough cash, having enough material resources, where to invest in the business, etc.) that are amplified when it is your business. For me the most challenging is finding, attracting and keeping staff and clients. It can also be difficult defining your role in the company as it grows. This is especially challenging as you are emotionally connected to the business and can find it difficult to objectively assess this important factor.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Kitchen Professionals – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Kitchen Professionals is a food service design company that also sells and installs food service equipment. We are a boutique company that intentionally keeps our client list manageable as we specialize in extraordinarily high levels of competence and service. We are known as a problem solving company that does not give up.
I am most proud of the long tenure of our staff and clients. We have very little turn over in either category.
We are unique in the high level of service we provide and the resulting size and prestige of our clients and projects for such a young small company.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I am a Los Angeles County native. I love the diversity and accessibility of everything, geography, people, art, food culture, sports, etc., etc., etc.!! Also had to beat the weather.
I dislike the traffic and parking challenges. The fast pace can also be disheartening. Although both of these are byproducts of the things I love. Seems we cannot have one without the other. I have had the opportunity to live in many different places, LA/OC is all around that I have experienced.
- Address: Kitchen Professionals
16742 Gothard Street, Suite 103
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
- Website: thekitchenpros.com
- Phone: 714-841-0531
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org