A ‘Media, Not Marketing’ Case Study: The Rise of Chef Tim Anderson

How does a reality television competition help launch your career if the winner doesn’t receive a monetary prize?

Today’s guest on Editor-in-Chief is an American who won the British television program MasterChef in 2011.

Tim Anderson is now an entrepreneur and author whose first book, Nanban: Japanese Soul Food, is available from SquarePeg in the UK.

Let’s find out about the role media has played in Tim’s career and how producing media continues to enable Tim to do what he loves to do …

In this 60-minute episode, Tim Anderson and I discuss:

  • The art of using Twitter
  • The difference between a “beer geek” and a “beer salesman” (and why a “beer geek” is more powerful)
  • How MasterChef helped build Tim’s career even though there was no monetary prize
  • How to continually maintain your status as a likeable expert
  • Whether or not Tim is an Editor-in-Chief (or an Editor-in-Chef)
  • A key ingredient to success as a media producer (it’s more than hard work)
  • How Tim’s focused strategy led to his book deal
  • Who you want to include when building a business team
  • Updates to my definition of an Editor-in-Chief
  • Why podcasts are even more popular than matcha green tea

The Show Notes

A ‘Media, Not Marketing’ Case Study: The Rise of Chef Tim Anderson

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, a digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

Stefanie Flaxman: Hello there, my Editor-in-Chief friends. I’m Stefanie Flaxman, and you are listening to Editor-in-Chief, the audio broadcast that delivers the art of writing updated for the digital age to help you become a stronger media producer.

On today’s episode, I’m going to share a conversation that I had recently with an author who has a book coming out today, April 16th, 2015 — if you are listening the day that this episode goes live — it is called Nanban: Japanese Soul Food. He also won the cooking competition, MasterChef, in the UK in 2011.

He’s also an entrepreneur, but to me, he’s just my old friend Tim. On Twitter he is @ChefTimAnderson.

Now let’s find out why I consider Tim Anderson to be an Editor-in-Chief. Can we talk about the bacon pancakes that you tweeted about this morning? It was very distracting. You put characters that made me want to sing along, those little music characters, and your Tweet, where I kind of knew what you were going for, so I made up a little bacon pancake song. Can we talk about what happened with those?

Tim Anderson: It is a song.

Stefanie Flaxman: Oh.

Tim Anderson: I wasn’t actually making bacon pancakes. Do you watch Adventure Time?

Stefanie Flaxman: I am not familiar. Hmm.

Tim Anderson: No?

Stefanie Flaxman: I did not get the joke. I’m that lame person that took a Tweet literally.

Tim Anderson: No, no, no. It’s a children’s cartoon show, Adventure Time. It’s more nerdy to get the joke. Five people favorited it, and I was like, “Ah, nerds. Fellow nerds.” But anyway, it’s a song. It’s a very catchy song.

There’s a character, he’s a shape-shifting dog on the show. It’s a great show by the way. It’s awesome. It’s very surreal. It appeals to adults who have kind of a weird sense of humor and a nerdy love of the occult and fantasy-type things. Anyway, he sings a song about it — I could sing it — while he’s making bacon pancakes.

Stefanie Flaxman: Do you want to sing it? Can you sing it?

Tim Anderson: Yeah, sure.

Stefanie Flaxman: Go for it! Unless you don’t want to, I don’t want to force you.

Tim Anderson: “Bacon Pancakes. Making Bacon Pancakes. Take some bacon, and I put it in a pancake. Bacon pancakes, that’s what I’m going to make. Bacon Pancakes.”

Stefanie Flaxman: Thank you. Thank you for doing that. I did not know that it was a real song, so thank you for enlightening me. It’s funny to me when people don’t get jokes on Twitter and then take them literally, and I just did that because I have ideas that I wanted to talk to you about, and then when I saw you Tweeted that, I got really …

Tim Anderson: We had to talk about the bacon pancakes.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah. I was like, “OK, I’m hungry now,” because following you on Twitter is very distracting because all the food that you Tweet looks so good. I understand now why you did it.

The Art of Using Twitter

Tim Anderson: That’s part of the fun of Twitter actually. You can say things that can appeal to people on one level and then another group of people on a different level. You know what I mean? Everybody kind of sees bacon pancakes. They’re like, “Oh, I don’t know what that is, but that’s sounds good.” Then there are other people, maybe 10% of them who are like, “Oh, I get it. He’s doing the thing from the show.”

You can have little inside jokes on Twitter but still make it work as long as you say things that sort of have some weird silly appeal for the people who aren’t in on a joke. I like stuff like that. I like saying things on Twitter and social media in general that may not be totally understood by everybody. I don’t really know why. It’s just my sense of humor.

Stefanie Flaxman: Well, if you’re trying to please everyone, you’re going to please no one. I mean that sounds cliché, but it’s very true. Also what I really liked about it is people interpret things based on their own worldviews. This is kind of my view of art in general — that the artist’s intent plays some role in a piece of artwork. I am comparing a Tweet to a piece of artwork right now.

It takes on a whole new life once a piece of art is put into the world because then it’s interpreted based on someone else’s worldview of how they see that art, which could really differ from the artist’s original intentions. It takes on this whole life, and the artist has to release control. I like that you like it could be interpreted in different ways because that’s kind of the beauty of creating anything.

Tim Anderson: Right. The only time you run into trouble is when you try to be sarcastic or ironic on Twitter. You always have a straight face on Twitter unless you put a little smiley or something afterwards. There’s no way of gauging whether or not somebody is trying to be funny.

I’ve said things on Twitter that are completely sarcastic, and people would come back and say, “How could you say that. That’s a terrible thing to say.” Or, “That’s completely wrong.” It’s like, “Well, yeah, I know. That’s how irony works. I’m saying something and intending the opposite.”

I can’t remember who it was, but somebody described somebody on Twitter. I think it might have been Roy Choi. Roy Choi is a great example. You know Roy Choi? Should I explain Roy Choi?

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, you could explain. That’d be good.

Tim Anderson: Roy Choi, he’s the founder of the Kogi taco trucks, Korean taco trucks. He’s sort of known as the father of the modern taco truck, or the food truck movement, which is sort of taken over the whole Western world now. He invented the Korean taco, or at least popularized them depending on who you believe. He’s also known for being sort of an advocate of smoking pot. He also just has a weirdly stream of consciousness-type Twitter feed, which not all of it’s ’cause he’s stoned, but some of it is.

But you read his tweets — and somebody described him as weird Haiku — they’re just sort of bursts of words sometimes. Sometimes you get it, and sometimes you’re like, “What? What’s going on?” But it’s intriguing all the same.

There’s another couple of bloggers. It’s these chef couple who blog under the name Ideas and Food. Their Twitter feed kind of goes that same way as well. They’ll just tweet three words, three ingredients in succession, and it’s like, “I don’t really know what I’m looking at.” But sometimes it’s brilliant ideas. One of their most recent ones was ‘Reuben Fried Rice.’

Stefanie Flaxman: That was the whole tweet.

Tim Anderson: The whole tweet. No explanation. No photo. No nothing. I was like, “Yeah, but that’s brilliant. That makes so much sense. Fried rice with everything that’s in a Reuben sandwich.” Other people might look at them and be like, “What? I can’t even move my head around that.” I like Twitter because you can be kind of weird, and then the people who are weird like you appreciate it.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, definitely.

Tim Anderson: You find the people who have the same weirdness through Twitter.

Stefanie Flaxman: And you learn that quickly because the people who want to be combative to you, who don’t understand sarcasm, you’re like, “OK, those aren’t my people.” Then there are people who will write back, and they’re like, “Yeah, man, I get it.” That’s really cool. It helps you find your people. It makes you more likable to the people who would like you already because they get a sense of your personality, and that they understand too. Go ahead.

Tim Anderson: Do find that you have to edit yourself a lot on Twitter, or stop yourself saying things, for one reason or another?

Stefanie Flaxman: I don’t really. What I’ve been doing with Twitter lately is I’ve been only tweeting one word at a time.

Tim Anderson: Really? I have not noticed this, sorry. I’ll have to follow you more closely.

Stefanie Flaxman: I haven’t been too active. I’ve been tweeting a story backwards one word at a time. So when you look at my timeline, it reads forward.

Tim Anderson: Ah, pretty cool.

Stefanie Flaxman: Thank you. I’m taking an intermission from it right now. I kind of have one thought that actually was over the past year. I haven’t been very active. I think a couple of people that I don’t know did @-message me and say, “I don’t understand your timeline,” or things like that. It’s funny because this is probably the first time I’ve explained it. I didn’t want to make a big explanation. That’s just kind of what I wanted to do with Twitter.

Tim Anderson: Well now it’s out there.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah. I think of my timeline, again, as a piece of art that I’m crafting. I was being very selective. What’s cool, what I really liked about it is only for the past year that my timeline is just one word — each tweet on it is one word — it is that interpretation of it as a standalone piece of work. If I just tweet the word “intentional,” people might interpret that based on what’s going on in their own lives, their, again, worldview of the things. That stands alone, but it’s also part of a bigger story.

Tim Anderson: That’s really interesting because I’m totally the opposite. I don’t ever even think about what my timeline would look like as a collected body of work. I think most people are like that. They sort of just put stuff out there. It’s almost whatever comes into their heads. Often what they want, you’re trying to be interesting or cool or something. There’s this great Twitter bot called Anagramatron, and it finds tweets that are anagrams of each other. Then it retweets them together.

Stefanie Flaxman: Oh, wow.

Tim Anderson: So you see these two totally completely unrelated tweets from people who you would never know normally. Sometimes they seem to fit together weirdly, and sometimes they’re just nonsense. It’s all about how the reader interprets it mostly. And also, it lets you see how other people tweet because we all follow people we think are interesting, or we follow people that we have to for social reasons. Then with this random retweeting, you see people talking about just anything. Like somebody says, “Oh, tried a new shampoo today.” It’s like, “OK.” It’s just weird because what people put out there, it’s totally different for everybody.

Stefanie Flaxman: I think it is smarter to not be as calculated. I think that you can, not have to edit yourself. Where I was going with explaining my timeline when you asked about if I find myself editing, that’s a whole calculated move on my part. I have the story written out one word, and then I chose when to tweet each word.

Tim Anderson: That’s the extreme case.

Stefanie Flaxman: I’m an extreme case, yeah. I think there’s a lot of value when you aren’t worrying too much about censoring yourself. You don’t want go off the deep end. But it is a really interesting platform. I really like it. It’s my favorite of the social media platforms. I’ll get notifications now in my timeline that are things that my followers favorited or not just retweets and things like that.

It’s exactly what you said. You’re kind of exposed to these people that you wouldn’t normally follow. But it’s interesting to see because there are so many people talking about so many different things. It’s an interesting way to find out those people that you wouldn’t normally seek out, and say like, “What are you doing on Twitter. How are you using it?”

Tim Anderson: Yeah, it’s very weird, isn’t it? Very interesting.

Stefanie Flaxman: I like it. So your food pictures always make me hungry. I think that’s why I interpreted the bacon pancakes literally. Thank you again for giving us that song. That song was a treat, and it was educational because I was not aware of it other than the jingle, like you said, I made up in my head. I’ve been talking about the food on your Twitter timeline. I would like to go back, if you don’t mind, talk about MasterChef a little bit and how you got involved with the show you won in 2011, is that correct?

Tim Anderson: That’s right.

Stefanie Flaxman: I’d love to hear about your culinary background, how you got involved with the show, and then we can go from there.

Tim Anderson: OK. For people who haven’t seen MasterChef, it’s basically like American Idol for cooking. It’s for people who are amateur cooks who think they’re hot chefs, and they want to start a career with cooking or food in some way. That’s the idea. It’s like a talent show. So you’re put through a lot of different challenges, and trials, and tastings and stuff like that with dishes that you make yourself and sometimes you make under big name chefs. It’s a really great show and a good experience. It’s a lot of fun.

Anyway, I’ve always been into food ever since I was a teenager, Japanese food in particular. I’ve also always been into food TV like cooking shows. When I was growing up, I used to watch like Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali and stuff, and Anthony Bourdain on TV. And Iron Chef. Iron Chef was the big one. Not really the remake, but the original Japanese one, which I discovered when I was like 14 and they started showing on the Food Network. It sort of blew my mind. Never really seen anything like it before in terms of the actual entertainment of it, which I’d never seen a cooking competition show, and this one was particularly over the top.

I’d never seen that level of cooking and those kinds of ingredients, things like sea urchin, and foie gras, octopus, and all this crazy stuff. Anyway, long story short, I got obsessed with Japanese food. Moved to Japan for two years after sort of studying Japanese food at college. While I was there, I sort of taught myself to cook and familiarized myself with the ingredients.

Never trained properly or anything. The show is for amateurs, and that’s what I was when I applied because after that I moved to the UK to be with my wife, who’s English and who I met in Japan, I had a bunch of jobs that I didn’t like when I lived here. I was a travel agent first, and I worked in the beer business. I was a beer salesman, which I was terrible at. Then I was a beer buyer for Whole Foods, which was miserable for reasons I won’t get into. Then I ran a beer bar, which is kind of fun.

Anyway, I always sort of loved cooking and wanted to give it a go. So I applied to MasterChef, kind of on a whim, thinking, “Well I don’t like what I’m doing. I’m not making any money. I don’t have any reason not to apply.” I didn’t think anything would come of it because it’s easy to apply. You just fill in a form online basically. You answer 20 questions or something, and then you forget about it. I wasn’t really that ambitious about it. I just thought, “Well, what’s the harm in applying.” Anyway, I did a series of interviews and auditions, and then you’re on the show. Then it’s like a three-month filming process. Blah, blah, blah, and then I won. That’s the MasterChef story.

Stefanie Flaxman: That’s how you got into it? Wow.

Tim Anderson: Yeah it’s something I did on a whim because I like to cook and I liked the show, basically.

Stefanie Flaxman: What is interesting to me from hearing that story is you found a way to involve yourself with food and travel because those are things that you enjoyed.

Tim Anderson: That’s true. It’s almost like I almost had no choice. When I moved to the UK, I needed to get sponsored on a work visa because I wasn’t married yet, and I didn’t have my spousal visa. I applied for all these jobs, sort of digging deep at whatever sort of skills I might possibly have, and one of them was this travel agency job. I had traveled. I lived in Japan, and I had traveled to Hong Kong and Thailand at that point. That was just the one that said, “Yeah, you can have a job, and yeah, we’ll sponsor you.”

I didn’t really enjoy it, although I did get to go to Burma and Taiwan, and Thailand again, while I was working for them. Anyway they made me redundant at the end of the three months anyway. It’s weird because there are travel jobs that are very glamorous and cool that I really would love to have, like being a travel journalist. I get so jealous of these people who get flown off to the countries, put in the most luxurious rooms and the best hotels.

Stefanie Flaxman: I don’t think it’s always like that.

Tim Anderson: No, but people do. I know people who work for national tourist boards and stuff. I know because I’ve tried to get money from them. I’ve said to them, “Can you put me in some of these places?” They’re like, “No.” Because they’re putting actual journalists in them. That kind of job related to travel would be awesome. Being a travel agent’s not quite as nice.

The Difference between a “Beer Geek” and a “Beer Salesman” (and Why a “Beer Geek” Is More Powerful)

Tim Anderson: The beer thing, that was a weird thing too because I got the first job having never done sales, but they were impressed with how much I knew about beer, which is a weird one because you don’t actually have to know a lot or even be passionate about your product if you’re a salesperson. You just have to know how to sell, which are different things I found out.

That didn’t last long, but it got my foot in the door of the beer industry at least. I have a degree in Asian studies, which is ridiculous. I looked for jobs related to Japan and stuff as well, but there’s nothing out there for the most part. It happened to be beer. Everything I’ve done in a way is just because I would throw anything at the wall and hope something would stick basically. Anything I had interest in or even some semblance of skill in, I would give it a go. See what worked basically.

Stefanie Flaxman: Were you blogging about beer? Is that how they knew that you had an extensive knowledge of different types of beer? How did you present that to them?

Tim Anderson: That’s a good question. At that point, I’d hardly done any blogging about beer, a little bit. It was a hobby. I would write beer reviews, because I was a geek, on a website called Beer Advocate. By the time I’d apply for that job, I think I’d reviewed something like 650 beers or something. I just put that on my CV after all this stuff that was totally unrelated. I guess that’s what they noticed, and that’s what got me the job. It’s weird because it wasn’t something I really had any professional expertise in. It was just a hobby, but it was a dedicated one.

Stefanie Flaxman: Oh, definitely. 650? Whew.

Tim Anderson: You should see, some of these dudes have done thousands. They’ve reviewed thousands of beers. It’s nuts.

Stefanie Flaxman: So you had a body of work just by reviewing beers even though you didn’t really think of it as something. It really was a body of work. That’s what strikes me for 650 reviews that you just threw on your resume.

Tim Anderson: That’s really a nice, professional-sounding way of describing just absolutely geekery. I don’t know. I never thought of it that way. For me, it was a self-education. I never thought anything would come of it. But I guess it did, sort of. For that 6 months I was a terrible beer salesman.

Stefanie Flaxman: It positioned you to just want, “Why not try to apply for the show. I have nothing to lose at this point. It’s what I want to do. It sounds like something that’s interesting.” You ended up winning, and you’re American. We should probably mention that. You live in London. This was MasterChef UK. An American wins this English cooking show.

Tim Anderson: Yes.

Stefanie Flaxman: What did that do for you? What happened next? Did you even have any idea? Was it what you expected? Was it more or less?

How MasterChef Helped Build Tim’s Career Even Though There Was No Monetary Prize

Tim Anderson: I had no idea what to expect, and my expectations were very low because you don’t win a prize in the UK MasterChef. I think in the American one you get a chunk of money and maybe a book deal or something. But in the UK, you don’t get anything. You get a trophy. It’s kind of up to what opportunities come your way after. Because it’s not set, you don’t know what those opportunities are going to be. I had low expectations. I really did.

They’ve all been exceeded. I have done a lot of awesome things since. For the first sort of six months after winning, or maybe the first year, you get little offers that just come to you because you’re the reigning champion. They want a title to be at their events or to endorse their products, or whatever it is.
After that, work kind of drops off, and you got to go hunt for it, which is fine. Obviously, you’re still in a great position to find work as a freelance chef or whatever it is you want to do.

I feel really lucky to be in that position. But the opportunities sort of shift and change, and then you figure out what you really want to do. Then you have to go do it, basically, after the initial 15 minutes are up. The first year was weird because a lot of things were coming my way, and I was just trying sort of find my feet and figure out what I wanted to do.

After that, I’ve done a bunch of stuff. It’s only really now that I’m sort of getting my act together and actually doing a lot of my own stuff. It’s weird because the tagline for the shows is like, “It’ll Change Your Life” basically, and it does. It’s hard to know what that means until it happens because it’s such a broad thing to say. There’s no more normal 9 to 5 thing for me. It’s just been a real weird mix of odd jobs basically, and it continues to be that. But there’s a little bit more I think of a structure to it now. Maybe.

Stefanie Flaxman: Well, I imagine it really takes time because you’re thrown into these whole new experiences and you’re trying to figure it out at the same time. Your life changes kind of gradually, too. I’m sure it changed quickly, but also you’re so close to everything that’s happening. It’s hard to have that bigger picture perspective of how different your life does look from month to month if you’re constantly going in different directions and doing new things based on the opportunities that were given to you.

Tim Anderson: That’s true. You get certain things that happen, and you think, “Wow this is it. I’m living the dream.” I remember, it wasn’t in 2011, actually I think it was that fall, I got invited to the Japanese Embassy to speak there at a tourism forum. I was like, “This is amazing.” This came from MasterChef. This is because I got to be known for cooking Japanese food, or with Japanese ingredients on MasterChef, and they like me. I was like, “This is an honor. This wouldn’t have happened before. This wouldn’t have happened because I was running a bar. This is something special.”

But then other days you’re sort of sitting by the phone waiting for work to come in or chasing people for payment from something you did, and it’s like, “This kind of sucks.” It’s a total change, but you kind of only feel it when it’s good. You know what I mean?

Stefanie Flaxman: Right. If you’re disappointed or, like you said, waiting for payment for something, to me that seems more like “normal life” in a sense.

Tim Anderson: Right. Then you’re just another freelance cook. And that’s the other thing, the market for D list celebrity chef is quite crowded these days. There’s a lot of people who are out there trying to do the cooking, the live food show circuit and stuff like that and trying to get a cookbook published. It’s weird. You got to go out there and find the work.

How to Continually Maintain Your Status as a Likeable Expert

Stefanie Flaxman: Well, absolutely, because what I was thinking was through MasterChef, you became this media personality. You became this likable expert, as we say. I’m calling you likable expert, where people were exposed to your personality. There was something about the food that you made, and your expressiveness, and the way that made you elevated to this level of, “I’m an authority of this world of chefs and cooking.” But like you said, you have to keep that up. Once you achieve that, you’re not on autopilot. You constantly have to earn that trust and earn that likeability.

Tim Anderson: There is a guy who was a finalist on MasterChef the year before I was on it. He opened a restaurant that’s doing really well, and he said on an interview once, “MasterChef gets people in the door, but it doesn’t keep them coming back.” Which is a very good way of putting like, it’s easy to get people into sitting you from the get-go. But then getting repeat business and repeat customers, that’s the tricky part. That’s what you have to work at.

The other weird thing about MasterChef is — the most awkward thing for me — was because it’s a show for amateurs and because I was an amateur coming right out of it, I wasn’t an expert and I didn’t know anything about cooking professionally. I’d never worked in a kitchen, like a professional kitchen. I had never gone to culinary school. I was actually in a really bad position to be considered an expert or a great chef, but that’s what people expect.

You do your best to deal with that. Sometimes it’s a matter of just pushing yourself to live up to people’s expectations and meet them. Sometimes it’s a matter of turning jobs down and saying that’s beyond my ability, which you don’t want to do, but on the other hand, it’s really bad to disappoint people. That’s bad for business. That was rough in the beginning, sort of figuring out what I could and couldn’t do, what was really expected of me I guess, and things like that.

Stefanie Flaxman: Sometimes knowing your limitations is really beneficial because you don’t want to disappoint anyone, like you said, that really fine line of when do you push yourself and when do you not try to overdo it.

Tim Anderson: It’s really tricky, isn’t it?

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, that’s really interesting.

Tim Anderson: Have you taken on any jobs that you regretted, that you thought, “This was a mistake. I can’t do this.” Because for me, there’s been … go ahead.

Stefanie Flaxman: Go ahead what you were going to say. I don’t know if I have an answer to that.

Tim Anderson: Well, sometimes I take on the job and it’s something that I’ve never done before, and I’m like, “Well I don’t know if I can do this. But let’s do it anyway. Let’s see if it work.” Then most of the time it comes together. Most of the time I pull it off, but sometimes I haven’t. That’s the worst. It’s rare.

Stefanie Flaxman: I mean, I totally get that it will happen. You always can’t be that cautious. Sometimes you just have to go for it, and then you regroup for next time. This sounds a little cliché. How do you stay relevant? Because I know you blog. You’re a very active blogger. We were talking about Twitter. You’re active on Twitter. How do you stay in the space of letting people know what you do, and how do you position yourself to let people know what you want to do so that opportunities can come up that you would be really jazzed about?

Whether or Not Tim Is an Editor-in-Chief (or an Editor-in-Chef)

Tim Anderson: It’s a big mix of things. Social media you already mentioned. For lack of a better word, like the cool kids, you want to sort of associate with other chefs and food readers and bloggers that you like and that are also kind of relevant. I feel like you want to get in with them. Also, that’s a natural thing because those are the kind of people that have the same kind of passions as I do. People who are into food and beer as well, they’re really good people in general. Getting in with them, and there’s a really good the London beer and food scene. It has a real good community vibe. Everybody’s really supportive. Everybody likes each other. Nobody feels, usually, like they’re in direct competition with one another.

Getting with them has just been good. They’ll support you, and you’ll support them. Having that network, that’s a big thing for me. I’ve got a good manager who will put me in places that I wouldn’t find myself. She’ll find little cooking classes, and magazine articles, and all these different little opportunities that I wouldn’t find because I’m not in that world of PR and whatever it is. But she’s quite good at dealing with that. She knows people, and she knows how to talk to them.

That’s kind of a cheat I guess. Not everybody can get a good manager. But I’ve lucked out, and that helps quite a bit. Then the other thing is I always try to have at least one big project that I’m working on because people like it when they can attribute something to you. That’s been slow for me to get to because I tried to open a restaurant.

Stefanie Flaxman: You tried, so what happened there?

Tim Anderson: That’s a long, stupid story. It’s still sort of happening. That still might happen. That story’s not finished yet. The bottom line is it’s very, very difficult to get money, and it’s very, very difficult to find premises. After a while, I kind of gave up. The other thing is, I don’t know, I’ll just get into it, why not.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, get into it because it’s real. You have all these opportunities, but there’s something that you wanted to do that didn’t work out. And you have to recover from that and keep moving forward with other things you want to do.

Tim Anderson: Yeah. This is the thing. I met with a friend of mine who is a very clever man. While the first restaurant plans were falling apart, I said to him, “This was my big thing. I don’t know what to do now career wise. This was supposed to drive more stuff.” He said, “Why would you do the restaurant of all the things.” He said, “This is the worst thing you could do. If you do a restaurant, you’ll never be out of the kitchen. You might not make any money because it’s so risky. It’s so much stress.”

It was like, “Look you’re already doing other things. You’ve got other sources of income. You’re doing a bit of radio. You’re doing a bit of writing. You got a cookbook deal. You just have to keep that going.” I was like, “Yeah, but how do you keep that going without something substantial.” If you look at most celebrity chefs, for lack of a better term, they’ve got something. They’ve got a restaurant or at least something that’s behind them. It’s very rare to see a chef on TV that’s not from a restaurant background, basically, or a cookbook author or something like that.

He was like, “Yeah but you could still work at it. That might help, but think of the most direct route to what you want to get to.” He said, “What you want to get to isn’t the restaurant. Nobody wants to be in a restaurant their whole life.” And he’s right. You do the restaurant, and you work hard at it. Then hopefully you get out of it at some point.

Stefanie Flaxman: You do it to get out of it.

Tim Anderson: Well, kind of. I was saying to somebody recently, one of the chefs I work with, I was saying, “You never see anybody in kitchens who’s over 45,” because you’ve either decided it’s not worth it, like the grind of working in a kitchen, or you’ve gotten good enough at it that you can move on to a different kind of cooking job. That’s other thing. You realize that everybody expects you to open a restaurant, and you expect yourself to do that. But the more time you spend in the food world, the more you realize that there’s other kinds of jobs related to food that you can do.

Anyway, talking to him sort of put me off the restaurant idea. I was like, “He’s right. I’m just going to work harder at doing more media stuff like writing, YouTube, whatever it is.” I put the restaurant out of mind. But I always thought, “Well if I get a good offer. If somebody offers me the right amount of money, equity, they have property, whatever it is, I might do it.” That’s sort of what’s happened recently. The restaurant might still happen. I’m not counting my chicken this time because I’ve done that before and jumped the gun on getting excited about it.

The restaurant thing is interesting. For a long time, I felt I could take it or leave. I still kind of feel like that, but I also know that when I see other people opening restaurants, I get like a little jealous. I’m like, “I wish I had one.”

Stefanie Flaxman: Well, because you like to have creative control of things, and the restaurant seems like an environment where you could really direct things very creatively based on your vision. I definitely understand why would you want that outlet, but what you were saying about continuing with media activities and, again, putting you in that likable expert category, working towards that, the work’s not over. You win something, and then the work’s not over. You still have to keep going. You still have to use every day to the best your ability. There’s no relaxing just because you do have some opportunities. You’re very young still, still working on all those things.

Tim Anderson: I’m 42. I don’t know how old you think I am.

Stefanie Flaxman: You’re slightly younger than me if I remember correctly. We joke at work that I’m 12. That is our joke at Copyblogger.

Tim Anderson: There wouldn’t be jokes that way about me. Everybody says I’m 52 or something.

Stefanie Flaxman: You’re an old soul.

Tim Anderson: Anyway, God, don’t get me started on that. I don’t know. I guess the bottom line is you got to work hard at whatever you want you to do. I really tried to not work hard. I don’t want to work hard. Nobody really does if you ask them. You have to if you want to do what you really want to do. It’s tricky. There’s no way around it.

A Key Ingredient to Success as a Media Producer (It’s More Than Hard Work)

Stefanie Flaxman: I’ve been thinking about that recently, too. I was just talking about this the other day because I am totally into the hard work thing. There’s no substitute for it. There’s no substitute from the experiences that you get from hard work. I was also thinking you see people working, like person A and person B, and they’re both working really hard at what they want to do.

One person is making breakthroughs, and another person isn’t. What is the difference? Very philosophically, I was thinking — maybe it’s not even philosophically, maybe it’s just more scientific — of what does that one person have who’s getting breakthroughs and kind of moving forward that the person whose working hard and doesn’t, aren’t getting opportunities, what are they lacking?

What I came up with — This is a working theory. This is not anything set in stone — but I’m really big on positioning yourself always to be learning. Education as part of the mix of the hard work is something to me. I feel like if you’re open to learning more about everything that you’re doing, that mindset really positions you in some way where you don’t think you know it all. You mentioned something about you always, or even your beer reviews, it was a self-education you said. Right? You took them seriously even though it wasn’t for anything. You didn’t think of it as your blog.

It was on someone else’s website, but you were trying to educate yourself about beer. It was something that you were really interested in. One thing leads to another. Your story is like so many other people’s stories, or how that plays out. The education part, and then what you were talking about, getting in with the right people, or you want to be with your people because that pushes you forward as well.

Tim Anderson: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point actually. Thinking just opportunistically about it, the education thing, it’s not necessarily that the education will lead to the opportunities, although it usually will because it will give you new ideas and that can lead places. Also just having that sort of open-mindedness that you need to have when you’re learning stuff, it puts you in a good position. I should probably do more of that actually because everybody gets stuck in their ways. You end up sort of specializing, which sometimes I think is really good, and sometimes I think that’s really dangerous.

Let’s say I’m focusing on Japanese food, that’s great, and I could end up being a great Japanese cook. On the other hand, it could sort of close some doors for a lot of reasons because (a) I could, first of all, become so focused that I just don’t know anything about anything else. Also people would then see me as, “Oh, he’s the guy with Japanese food. We don’t care about him unless we’re doing some of the Japanese food.” I think just being open-minded a lot and always sort of looking at things that you don’t know anything about that might be important. I don’t know. I’m not really in a good position to be giving advice or coming up with these theories or anything.

Stefanie Flaxman: We’re just talking ideas. I didn’t want to say what my theory is, I’m just really curious.

Tim Anderson: It’s a good theory, though.

Stefanie Flaxman: Thank you. That person who’s working really hard at something and not getting anywhere, what are they lacking that someone else doesn’t? I’m not saying that all those people aren’t open-minded about what they’re doing, but sometimes when you’re working hard but you really think that you know how it is, it’s limiting. I’m not saying that you having a specialty, being Japanese food, is necessarily the same thing. I like what you were saying. You’re kind of thinking big picture in terms of, “How can I constantly push myself. How can I further what I want to do by learning about things that I’m interested in that’s not comfortable for me.” It’s taking out of that.

You can get very comfortable with certain topics, and then it can get old. Or like you said, you don’t want to be pigeon-holed and then no one is interested if you’re doing anything else. Unfortunately, I do want to talk about your book, which is about Japanese food, so that is a good transition.

Tim Anderson: That’s cool.

Stefanie Flaxman: We’re going to peg you as the Japanese food guy. The name of your book is actually the name of your in-progress restaurant.

Tim Anderson: Yeah. The embryonic restaurant.

Stefanie Flaxman: You’re what restaurant? Sorry I was talking over you.

Tim Anderson: Embryonic restaurant.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, it’s in the embryonic phase of creation.

Tim Anderson: Right.

Stefanie Flaxman: I don’t know very much about the book. How did what you were doing media-related or otherwise lead to getting this book deal, and can you talk about whose publishing it as well? That’d be great.

How Tim’s Focused Strategy Led to His Book Deal

Tim Anderson: Right, it’s a funny story because I had come to a point post MasterChef where I was like, “OK, I need to do something big now.” I was trying to put the restaurant together at this point as well. I’d been doing popups for Nanban — Nanban was going to be the name of the restaurant — and it still is. It’s what I call the popups and the street food when I do that. I was doing popups to sort of drum up interest for that and also to get customer feedback and test out recipes and see how they work in service.

I started to put this pitch together for a book. Actually then, right when I was about to shop it around, a publisher approached me and said, “We know you know Japanese food. We’ve seen you on MasterChef. We’ve seen your popups. We need a Japanese cookbook.” I was like, “Well, I’ve got just the thing.” They’re like, “Oh great, it’s a restaurant tie in as well.” I was like, “Yeah, well the restaurant’s not open yet, but it’s going ahead.”

The restaurant didn’t happen, so then I had to have that conversation with him. They’re like, “OK, well it still will, right?” I was like, “I don’t know.” By that type of deal was done. But the book now sort of stands alone. It’s ‘Nanban.’ If the restaurant happens, which it might, then I keep saying, “We’ll be the first restaurant based on a book,” which is awesome.

Stefanie Flaxman: Wow. Then the movie, right?

Tim Anderson: Exactly.

Stefanie Flaxman: Nanban the movie. What does ‘Nanban’ mean?

Tim Anderson: It means literally “’southern barbarian.” It’s what the Japanese called Europeans when they arrived in Japan the first time because they came up from the South China Seas, the Spice Islands, where they were trading, and they arrived in south Japan. And they were barbaric, obviously, so southern barbarians. They don’t use this word anymore in Japan to talk about Europeans. It’s kind of mean.

But they still use it as like a descriptor for certain dishes. So like ‘chicken Nanban’ is a fried chicken dish, and it’s originally from the Portuguese. ‘Nanbanzuke’ means ‘Nanban pickle.’ The Japanese call it ‘escabeche,’ which is another Portuguese thing. The reason I sort of settled on it was because I am that. I’m a foreigner who’s lived in Japan and is cooking Japanese food, and that’s something I’m always aware of. People are always skeptical of the white guy cooking Japanese food, as they should be.

Also, I lived in the south of Japan, and I really got to love the food in the south of Japan. That’s the southern part. Yeah, so southern barbarian, Nanban, there you go. Southern barbaric cooking.

Stefanie Flaxman: I like it. So what is the style of the cookbook? Again, I think I saw some pictures of it on Twitter, maybe the cover. It just looks beautiful, like a really just very, very visually friendly experience. What was the writing process — like working with their editorial department to get it actually produced into something that you’re both happy with?

Who You Want to Include When Building a Business Team

Tim Anderson: The book, it looks great, and that was a team effort. I had a great photographer, a guy named Paul Winch-Furness, who’s always on my photography, and he’s just awesome. We had a great designer, and we had a great editorial team. From my perspective, it was actually quite easy. I tend to write it — a lot of it was already in me — I was ready to write it. I didn’t have to think about it because it was my story of how I love Japanese food and moved to Japan and cooked it, and moved here and blah, blah, blah.

Then the recipes were already sort of half written as well because I’ve done them at the popups and stuff like that. It was just a matter of building up the recipes, testing the ones I wasn’t sure about, sort of editing it down, letting the cream rise to the top basically. There were recipes in the text that weren’t really good enough, that weren’t relevant. Then sending it to the editor and having their team go through it with a fine-toothed comb and taking bits out and whatever.

I wasn’t really precious about the text. There were certain things I wanted to keep in there, but I just sort of trusted their judgment. It was a really cool project for me because I like working alone a lot, but I also like it when I have a really good, competent team working around me. And this was both. I wrote the thing by myself basically over the course four months, but then I got to get into the studio with the photographer and go through feedback and corrections and proofs with the editors and the designer.

It was cool because it was a collaboration, but it still felt like me. It was really good. Also, they would bring things to the project that they would fill in the gaps where I didn’t know what I should be doing. Especially with the design and the photography, it’s not what I do. I had sort of vague ideas. It was just cool to have somebody who sort of understood it — and do it quickly and make sense of my vague suggestions. It was a lot of fun. My new goal is to do another cookbook just because I enjoyed it so much.

Updates to My Definition of an Editor-In-Chief

Stefanie Flaxman: Interesting, because you are. I mean the reason why I’m having you on Editor-in-Chief is I have this definition of an Editor-in-Chief.

Tim Anderson: Oh yeah?

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, I do. This is how I regard an Editor-in-Chief:

It is a person who assumes complete responsibility for, and ownership of all of the communication he or she puts out into the world to enable a self-directed, created career.

It could be a working definition. Obviously, you’re a chef who uses a lot of media to accomplish your goals. You said you gave them some vague direction, but you have very clear visions of everything that you do. You’re not passing it off to someone else. If you’re doing something, you’re going to be in charge of it in a way.

Tim Anderson: Yes and no. Sometimes I do have really clear visions, and I’ll try to execute them as closely as I can to that. But it also comes back to limitations. I’m not a book designer, and I’m not a photographer. For stuff like that, I’ve learned to find good people and to trust them, which is hard. But if they’re really good and you really like them, it makes everything so much better. It makes the end projects so much better.

This is one of the hardest things for a chef, and probably for anybody, is having an idea of how things should be or taste or look or whatever, and finding the right people who can execute it the same way you want it to be executed. If you’re really lucky, you don’t just find the people who can do it, you find the people who can improve upon it. That’s awesome. I’ve worked with a lot of chefs, and the ones I keep around me are the people who will say, “Well why don’t we try it this way, and it turns out better.”

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, because it’s a whole production. You need people who complement your own abilities to really get it to the next level. Maybe I have to incorporate that in the Editor-in-Chief definition, too, because I also think having that awareness of that, that’s what you need to get the job done to the best that it could be is part of that Editor-in-Chief role, even if you don’t do it all yourself.

Definitely, we actually have — at Copyblogger — we have a conference coming up in May. Our audience works online. We’re all digital entrepreneurs in one way or another, and the conference is a really cool opportunity because you’re kind of isolated when you just work online, and you’re very into what you’re doing.

So people can come together, and you can meet those other people that complement what you do. It’s just kind of a rare circumstance when you’re so focused on what you’re doing and you’re online. The opportunities where you’re exposed to other chefs and other people who run in the same circles, and you’re aware that they might have something to add that you couldn’t have thought of — just really creates the best product possible I think. That’s where it’s on with that.

Tim Anderson: I think so, yeah. It’s almost like movie directing. I think that’s sort of the ultimate expression of that kind of thing. The director obviously, well they direct, and they should know ultimately what they want everything to look and sound and feel like, but they can’t do it all themselves. Nobody does it all themselves. You have a huge crew around you to make it all come to life. I think there’s a very few sort of creative types who are trying to do something — like a big project — who can really do it all themselves.

The kind of job what that is, there’s not really many of them. Writing a novel I guess might be in that category, but even then, you have an editor, at least one editor. You have an agent, and also a publicist, and all these things are sort of have behind the scenes. No Editor-in-Chief is an island I guess.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah. I definitely like that. It is a little counter-intuitive to what I was saying because I was saying that this is the person in charge, but knowing when to get assemble a team even if you do want to do everything yourself. I’m always into balance. I talk about that a lot. Just the balance of executing your vision and when to bring in different people. I couldn’t podcast without other people that help me. Then there are a million other examples that I can think of.

Why Podcasts Are Even More Popular than Matcha Green Tea

Stefanie Flaxman: What is hotter right now, Matcha green tea or podcasts? What do you think about that? Those are both pretty popular things right now. I’m reading about Matcha all the time, but podcasts are really big, too.

Tim Anderson: Definitely podcasts because everybody’s got at least one podcast that they really love, but not everybody loves Matcha.

Stefanie Flaxman: You’re right. Yeah. I love it. Do you like it? Do you like Matcha?

Tim Anderson: I love it. Yeah, I absolutely love it, but every time I serve it at a popup or something, half it comes back to the kitchen because people are like, “It’s nasty, bitter wheat grass crap.” It’s quite intense. It’s like the espresso of green tea.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah. Oh, that’s a great way to describe it.

Tim Anderson: You can have that one.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, I will use that. I will own that. I love all green tea. I’m constantly drinking green tea. When I have video calls with my co-workers, I drink it out of this clear mug, and they’re watching me drink and are always like, “What are you drinking?” We stop whatever work-related … Like, “What is in there?”

Many, many thanks to Tim for taking the time to talk to me, and don’t forget that Editor-in-Chief is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. If you’re looking to easily build a powerful sales and marketing website that drives your online business, head over to Rainmaker.FM/Platform right now. You can sign up for a free 14-day trial to see if it might be a fit for you.

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That is all for me today. If you like what you’re hearing on Editor-in-Chief — you like hanging out with me — I would love a rating or review over on iTunes. Thank you if you take the time to do that. I really appreciate it.

I’m Stefanie Flaxman. Thank you for listening to Editor-in-Chief. Now go become one.