Chef Daniel Serfer, a Miami native, opened two restaurants in his home town- Blue Collar in 2012 and Mignonette in 2014. Serfer didn't always aspire to be a chef, let alone a restaurateur with a flagship at a hooker motel. His goal was to be a criminal defense attorney but while studying for the LSAT he realized his inspiration came from cooking and not the law. Danny’s cooking is from-scratch, straightforward and delicious. Serfer is able to oscillate between casual American comfort food and elegance with ease, and his restaurants reflect his no frills, full flavor attitude. He was a pioneer in Miami as one of the first restaurateurs to set up shop in the resurgent MiMo district when he opened Blue Collar and follows suit with Mignonette in the up-and-coming Edgewater neighborhood.
How did you get into the industry?
I went to college at Florida State; at that time there was not many good places to eat in Tallahassee so in order to eat well I had to cook for myself. I ended up liking that very much and decided to give cooking a chance instead of becoming an attorney. I also liked the fact that working in a kitchen allowed to me to sleep in (assuming I was only working a dinner shift somewhere).
Any emerging industry trends?
New industry competitors where at one time only one company held a monopoly, an example is resy to opentable, uber eats to grubhub, etc.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
There are so many great new places opening up, that is has become increasingly more difficult to keep talented people on board for a long time. It is understandable though as talented cooks want to move around to get a variety of exposure to different techniques and cuisines.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
When I moved back from New York no one would hire me so I had to open up Blue Collar in order to have a job. Also, I wanted to create the kind of place I would like to eat at once a week, that lead to Blue Collar.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
We have been so fortunate thus far in terms of support from the community. I just hope that it continues with whatever else we may do in the future.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Simple; work hard, then work more, then a lot more and don’t expect anyone to do you any favors. Also don’t expect to make any money. Do what you love, and do it well, and money will be a side benefit, it cannot be the goal.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Opening up Blue Collar was very challenging. I had never been part of an opening team for any restaurant. With no experience I had to figure everything out on my own as I went along, much of the time flying by the seat of my pants. I under-staffed terribly and as a result had very little support even once we had a rhythm going. I learned how to open a place and the importance of staffing.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
I am just happy when a guest dines with us, receives excellent service and enjoys their meal. Ideally, enough that they tell their friends and come back to become one of our regulars.
How do you motivate others?
I have a variety of techniques I like to use. The least effective in my experience is actually dollar- motivated. I try and set a good example and tell all who work with us as much of my story as they wish to hear. I hope that it may motivate them to do the same so they can be where I’m at one day. We also try and do fun stuff together like picnics, dinners, and games and always allow for plenty of jokes and laughter inside the restaurant. Additionally I let people have input at the restaurant whether that means beverage selection we offer, food selection on the menu, or even what music is playing on the stereo.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Start working at the best place you can and stay there for as long as you have to learn everything about it, even if it takes 5 years or more. Allow the people in charge of you and underneath you to mentor you and absorb every possible piece of advice you can.