Speaker 1 00:01

Speaker 2 00:03

Speaker 1 00:04
Growing pains.

Speaker 2 00:05
Growing Pains.

Caroline Brunne:  00:05
Welcome to Growing Pains. 

Food is something that we experience from a really young age. We all remember meals that our parents and loved ones cooked for us and for most of us food forms a vital part of our culture and brings back our earliest lived memories. As you move from childhood to adulthood and are thrust into the world of managing your budget, it can be difficult to explore your passions around food whilst also sticking to your budget and paying the bills. How do you embrace good food on a budget, and maybe even create a pathway for yourself into the food industry? 

My guest today is a seasoned professional when it comes to food. It all started when a 12-year-old Johnny Di Francesco began working in a pizzeria after school so he could buy a pair of sneakers his parents couldn’t afford. Working his way up the ranks. Johnny developed an undeniable love for the food he was creating and by the age of 15, he was hooked. 

The time came for Johnny to head off to university and begin a degree in engineering. It was during a first year lecture when Johnny found himself daydreaming about the physics of pizza dough and he realized he was taking notes on the wrong subject. Johnny politely excused himself and never returned and his life as a restauranteur began when he opened his first venue at the age of 19. 

Johnny learnt a lot in that one university lecture, namely, go after what you want, and work bloody hard at it. Starting from that lecture, we fast forward through a few burnt spices and an extended trip to Italy. Thousands of tomatoes with the right amount of Basil to launch the now world renowned restaurant 400 Gradi in 2008. 

400 Gradi embodies Johnny’s passion and love of food and has resulted in the expansion of the Gradi group across Melbourne from Brunswick to Essendon Eastland, Yarra Valley, Crown Casino, and across the border to Adelaide, overseas to Kuwait, Bahrain, New Zealand, and now Texas. Johnny even has restaurants on board the Pino’s Pacific Explorer Cruise ship.

By 2014, he was crowned world pizza champion after producing the benchmark Margarita at the annual competition in Parma, Italy. The title has helped him become a pizza mogul and 400 Gradi a household name. Let’s get started as we explore Johnny and how he’s taken his passion of food all around the world and how he started it all on a really tight budget. 

Johnny, welcome to Growing Pains. 

Johnny Di Francesco:  03:13
Thanks for having me on. 

Caroline:  03:14
It’s a pleasure to have you here. [Crosstalk 00:03:15] I haven’t seen you in person for a little while. We keep doing this. I call it the COVID cha-cha of like, in my house, out of my house, in my house, out of my house. But you are currently sitting in your new restaurant which is incredibly exciting. It’s a bit cold on this cold Melbourne day that we’re recording but how are you today?

Johnny:  03:44
Yes, I’m good, just over here in mornington waiting to have this place finish. It’s been about a year and a bit now that we’ve been building. We’re getting close and it’s getting exciting. I just can’t wait to see the finished product.

Caroline:  04:05
It’s very exciting. 

Johnny:  04:06

Caroline:  04:08
I think growing and building anything is exciting. Now our listeners– I’m mindful that we have lots of different listeners that will be listening to this podcast but the ones that we are creating it for may not have ever created something as grand as a restaurant.

Johnny:  04:26

Caroline:  04:26
Before we get stuck into you and your history and your experience in that space. I want to do a little rapid fire just so we can loosen you up and get to know a little bit about you. Do you actually consider yourself to be a grown up adult? 

Johnny:  04:46
Probably not. 

Caroline:  04:52
Why [Crosstalk 00:04:53]

Johnny:  04:54
Maybe physically I do but mentally I still probably have a little bit of that kid’s side of me.

Caroline:  05:01
I’ve seen you with our good friend, Harry. When the two of you get together, it’s like being with kids. I’m often like, guys we must have to do. You can’t really cheat at all.

Johnny:  05:10
I think people take life too serious and I put myself in that category as well. I mean, we take life serious because there are serious parts of our lives that we need to make sure that we’re doing and then there’s also, not forgetting that in a kid that, like still having a little bit of fun and stuff. I run that 80-20 or 90-10 rule. 80% serious 20% you still got a have some fun and some people go to the extreme of 90-10. 90%, serious, 10% fun and I think that’s where you need that balance. I still, yes, consider myself as a kid.

Caroline:  05:51
You’re not quite fully grown adult yet, but maybe never [Crosstalk 00:05:55] by the sounds of it [Sysco 00:05:55]. Can you share with us your most embarrassing adult fail moment? 

Johnny:  06:05
Most embarrassing adult fail? 

Caroline:  06:07
Not business at– Just poor adult thing. 

Johnny:  06:12
Oh, yes.  

Caroline:  06:15
Your face has been your– I’ve got it. 

Johnny:  06:18
Yes, I think it was picking up my daughter from kinder. My younger daughter and putting her in my front seat of my car immediately. It was only a two seater. I didn’t have any choice but I think the biggest embarrassment was being stopped and told that I had to walk home or get someone to pick my daughter. 

Caroline:  06:30
OK, well there you go. She would be like 4 or 5 or something at the time? 

Johnny:  06:48
It was kinder so she would’ve been 4 kinder girl [Sysco 00:06:52]

Caroline:  06:52
Yes, she wasn’t in a baby seat but she’s still small. 

Johnny:  06:55

Caroline:  06:57
Oh my goodness. That’s pretty funny and that’s like parenting fail and adult fail all rolled into one.

Johnny:  07:03
All rolled in one, yes. 

Caroline:  07:06
Who comes to mind as the more grown up adult that you rely on? 

Johnny:  07:15
Maybe my wife.

Caroline:  07:22

Johnny Di Francesco:  07:22

Caroline:  07:22
I think my husband would say the same thing about me. I think. 

Caroline:  07:26
To go to. 

Johnny:  07:26
I think so. I think that’s probably the personality. Yes. 

Caroline:  07:31
Fair enough. If you were to choose someone to play you in a movie, what actor would you choose to play you today? Johnny today and then Johnny in his 70s or 80s? 

Johnny:  07:50
Maybe Johnny Depp. 

Caroline:  07:52
Johnny Depp. Yes, I can see that. Yes, Johnny Depp today. Johnny Depp, playing Johnny today and what about Johnny in his 80s? 

Johnny:  08:08
That’s a hard one, isn’t it? 

Caroline:  08:10
Oh, it’s just older. More mature. 

Johnny:  08:14
Yes. Kevin Costner. He’s just a cool dude. 

Caroline:  08:22
Today’s listeners will be like, who? There is an 18-year-old listening going, ‘Who is Kevin Costner?’ 

Johnny:  08:29
‘Who are these people?’ Yes. 

Caroline:  08:30
‘Who are these people?’ Oh, I think most people know Johnny Depp. Probably because the Pirates of the Caribbean and stuff like that but classics like Edward Scissorhands and yes, they have no idea what we’re talking about. That’s what I know that I’m old when I refer to movies and people like, what? I’m like oh, yes, OK, I’m feeling my age. For those of you listening out there, you’ve heard Johnny’s intro and you’ve got an understanding of the work that he’s already done but you’ve had food in your life for a really long time and I’ve heard the story of the fact that you were working at the age of 12 to buy some shoes from my understanding. Was it food that was driving you at that point or was it the shoes and was food already a big part of your life and were you passionate about it beforehand?

Johnny:  09:32
Yes. Look, growing up in Italian family, foods always the part of the culture anyway so that’s pretty much where you communicate at the dinner table with everybody and maybe we took food for granted because that’s something that is never missing in a European family. Background is– That we’re always eating so food was always there but wasn’t my passion. Probably not, to be honest with you and it was, I think the drive was more about wanting to be able to get things that I wasn’t able to have as a child. That’s where the initial drive came from. My first passion really was music. I wanted to be a drummer and that was something that I was devoted to and did that for a very long time and then, not having the opportunity to continue that because of circumstances, I just had to go off and work. Yes, and then food then become one of my passions, I think probably at the age of 15 or 16. I decided, this is really what I do want to do now.

Caroline:  10:53
Yes, but even at 15, 16, you started taking a slightly different pathway because you were meant to be an engineer, you got about halfway through. It’s not really you got a date in but it sounds like a few days [Crosstalk 00:11:08]. That’s a really different pathway and I can actually– Like my son is on that pathway. Right now. He’s in year 11. He’s doing his VCE and he’s doing all of his subjects to be an engineer. He likes food too. Maybe he’ll change his mind, let’s wait and see. Don’t do it? 

Tell him not to do it? But, you had this pathway and then you changed. What were the biggest challenges that you faced, changing from what was a pretty logical career path to something that was really passion fueled?

Johnny:  11:30

I think sometimes we want a impress or make our parents happy and then knowing that you’re going to university and you’re following a career path that’s going to have some type of education behind that etc. and I think at that time, that was more my decision why I wanted to be an engineer wasn’t because I was passionate about wanting to be an engineer, was more about this will make maybe my parents proud of me because I’ve taken a higher education and done something different. For me, to change my mind from going, wanting to be this engineer to continue on the path of food wasn’t very difficult for me, apart from what are my parents going to think. But apart from that, everything else was the stars all aligned and I didn’t need to worry too much about it after I got over that fear of how am I going to now communicate? I’m not going to do this engineering course. It was fine because I had the support. I mean, both my parents said, what you think is going to make you happy, not– It’s got nothing to do with us. We’re not engineers so it doesn’t really matter what you want to do.

Caroline:  13:20
Yes. Wow and that’s really refreshing because that’s not always the story and I even think about my children and I know you’ve got kids as well and it can be hard because you can see sometimes all the work that even gets you into the degree in the first place. You’ve got to work pretty hard at high school to get certain grades to even apply to be an engineer student. That’s fantastic that you had that support from the very beginning and that passion had already been fueled from such an early age.

Johnny:  13:54
Yes, and last of all [Sysco 00:13:55] I think it conditioned me as well. Now, in my adulthood, having my own children. I don’t have any expectations of what I want them to be I have expectations of what they want to be and what the outcome for them and it’s made a really easy for me because I had that option myself. Now, if my kids said to me, I really want to do this. I’m really easy at saying that’s what you want to do. Follow your dreams, put 100%, and that seems like there’s no, I never pushed back. I started in business so young and for me at that age, I thought that my life was over if I didn’t hurry up and what I wanted to do but now, at my ripe age of 43 years old, I look back and I think that was so young. I’ve got a 20-year-old daughter. It’s like her now, starting a business surely. If that would be a good idea, I would prefer that she would make many decisions along the way and then really find something that she’s passionate about and go on and do it. I think from the age of 20 to about 30, you should be able to change your mind at least a million times.

Caroline:  15:23
Yes, and I think we live in a world today where that is possible, the age of the internet gives us the capacity. You can actually start a business in today’s time, where you register a website, you get an ABN, you don’t need a lot these days to register and get a business now to be a successful business owner and what we believe to be those overnight unicorns that there’s no such thing, we know that there’s years and years that sit behind those businesses but to actually start one probably is a lot easier than what it used to be but I agree. There’s a lot that happens between the age of 20 and 30. 

Johnny:  16:08

Caroline:  16:09
It’s an opportunity to really try lots of different things but as you said, you started your first restaurant at a really early age. How did you manage your budget at the time? And I’m curious, as we’re talking about food, what were you eating? Were you just eating the food at the restaurant or you going home and cooking or you just sleeping there? What was going on with your budget and your food? Whilst being a 19-year-old opening your first business?

Johnny:  16:36
Yes, I’m not sure if I knew anything about budgeting at 19 years old. Survival, I think.

Caroline:  16:43

Johnny:  16:45
Every day was just, day by day or day to day survival mode, especially at 19 years old getting to business and not understanding really the fundamentals behind what it takes to actually run a business and then not understanding that you start seeing all these costs that you’ve never experienced at 19 unless you’ve moved out of home at 18 or even early and you’re paying rent and electricity and all the other utilities that come with it. That’s great but then there’s also other things on top of that you never ever are exposed to at that age, insurances, and Work Cover, and all these things. 

Caroline:  17:25
Yes, and their business expenses. 

Johnny:  17:27
The budgeting really wasn’t something on the high priority list is more about how I’m going to survive. But your question about food? Yes, I was just eating every day at my own restaurant. We were open breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the start and I was literally working 6 AM till 1 AM pretty much during the day. 

Caroline:  17:52

Johnny:  17:52
That was just that survival mode. 

Caroline:  17:55

Johnny:  17:56
The budgeting came in late, like really understanding. I think the first 3 or 4 years of being in business was the, my education. I was doing on the job education. I didn’t do business or anything like that. That’s where I started to understand, OK, I need to understand everything about the business and not only understanding how good, how well I need to cook or present my food or service, my food. That’s one aspect but there’s also that business side of it and I learned that on the job.

Caroline:  18:36
Yes. Wow. Well, I wouldn’t be complaining if I got to just eat at your restaurant, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was fine. Just before we started recording. My husband and I both work from home most days and he was like, I just feel pizza for some reason and I’m like that’s because I told you I was speaking to Johnny today and he’s like, oh, that’s what is. It’s in his psyche that he automatically started thinking about pizza when I mentioned your name. Yes, even embedded that in our brains, we hear you or we hear Gradi and we just think of your food which is probably not bad things. Good marketing. 

Johnny:  19:13

Caroline:  19:14
Today, obviously, not on that tight budget, not hopefully, not working 6 AM to 1 AM anymore. 

Johnny:  19:23

Caroline:  19:23
Not every day, maybe some days. What are you eating now? What are the recipes that you think are accessible and what are you fueling your body with?

Johnny:  19:37
Look, I really like different every day. I don’t have a set menu or sometimes I’ll just come home and open the fridge and see what’s in the fridge and there’s just cook something out. But I think what’s really accessible these days to anybody really, good ingredients, you go through your– To supermarket or small deli, you can pick up some really great things that don’t take too long to prep and that are really healthy. A lot of people always turn to that fast food option and I think that mindset needs to change, especially in the younger generation. I mean, it’s so easy now to just jump on an app, find the burger. 

Johnny:  20:24
Whatever, anything that’s fast food. [Crosstalk 00:20:29] 

Caroline:  20:25
Yes, it’s all accessible down the phone. Yes, jump on the app.

Johnny:  20:31
Yes, it’s at the tip of your fingertips. I think, understanding really simple fundamentals on cooking is not too hard to learn and you can make some really good wholesome meals at home that it’s so easy. I mean, you pick up a really good piece of fish or a nice steak or something and cooking, it is not that hard. People think, oh, it’s really hard to cook. No, it’s not. But cooking is so subjective that you can cook it to your liking anyway, you’re at home, you’re not having to impress anybody. 

Caroline:  21:12
No, so true. 

Johnny:  21:13
We do that at home, I mean, and hats off to my wife, she cooks pretty much most of the times that I’m at home in anyway.

Caroline:  21:21
How perfect is that both people that work in food, they don’t cook at home which makes sense because what you do all day, every day for your job, that’s the last thing you wonder when you get home.

Johnny:  21:31
Well, I actually love someone cooking a meal for me. 

Caroline:  21:34
Yes, true.

Johnny:  21:35
You’re cooking for everybody, pretty much every day of your life and then you get to a point where it’s actually nice to sit down and have something that’s been prepared by somebody else, nothing to do with anything that you do or any of your recipes or anything just from the heart. Then it’s like, this is the best food I’ve ever had in my life and that’s because [Crosstalk 00:21:58] it’s, you appreciate that you have that on the table. 

Caroline:  22:06
Yes, your wife not only is the more senior adult but she’s the one that keeps you fueled and fed and loved which is very lovely to hear. For our listeners out there who are passionate about food, we often hear that old cliché, well, it’s not an old cliché, this current cliché of young people who spend too much money on avocado on toast and that’s why they have no money and blah. I think young people very passionate about food, they know often the things they like, but for those who may have had at hesitance to try foods or whatever else is. Is there a go to place where you explore recipes or where you’ve seen people doing really accessible stuff that people can try? Because as you said, I know I’m a vegetarian and even I know that it’s not that hard to cook a steak, it’s like I cook all the time but I’ve also grown up in an ethnic household where food is just such a part of our culture. Is there a go to? Or is it just, obviously, we have the internet so I think it’s easy to find?

Johnny:  23:18
It’s so accessible these days. I mean, you can open up Instagram pages and see people like home cooks showing what they can cook at home and you can take ideas from that or you can go on to chef’s pages, just research a shift that may inspire you and you want to replicate something that they’re doing. There’s so much information out there. I recently I recorded the full masterclass on my pizza dough and my whole class, there’s 5 modules of it and I gave that out for free. Normally people pay for that and what I did was during the lockdown, I said, no, I want to get back. We just said, take the modules for free. This is the link go on there and it’s yours and I think I’ve had so much great response from because people will jump on there and people that haven’t been able to eat ever come to a class or not seen anything other than online. For me, that was something that I wanted to give back. There’s so many chefs out there that are doing things like that which is great. It’s really accessible. There’s no limitation on it and avocado on toast. Let me tell you, that is probably one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard in my life that people are actually going out and getting avocado on toast. It doesn’t take much to peel a freaking avocado. OK, because I’m going to chip out of me now and start swearing and I don’t want to do that. But anyone that doesn’t know how to cut an avocado, it’s really simple. Just cut it in half and just pull it apart the bone will come out.

Caroline:  25:00
I’m actually on the floor. [Sysco 00:25:00]

Johnny:  25:00
Just take a knife heads in the center and the bone comes out, OK. Grab yourself a spoon, scoop it all out, cut it with a knife, poach yourself or fry some eggs or poach or scramble whatever the hell you like and put the avocado on the toast. The toast you can just put in a toaster. Yes. It’s true, it drives me crazy and I’ve done it too. I’ve gone out with the kids and the family and we’re sitting at a cafe and you’re paying $89 or $20, $5 sometimes for avocado on toast and some poached eggs and some mushrooms. I know people say, oh, that’s crazy why people do that but a restaurant or a cafe have so many expenses so it’s understood. But if you really love that you can’t afford to do that every day because people do spend so much money on dumb things. If going out– I love going out for lunch. I love going out for dinner but there’s also moderation for everybody and I’m saying this not against the restaurant, again. If you love something that much, you can learn or teach yourself how to cook it at home. I mean, especially when it comes to eggs and stuff. Anyway.

Caroline:  26:17
If you’re not sure how to make good avocado on toast with egg, if that’s your preference. Just check it out on YouTube. There’s a YouTube video for everything but I agree I always I find that stuff quite funny. I think it goes back to your point though. How nice is it when you can sit down even at a restaurant? 

Johnny:  26:39

Caroline:  26:40
Just have fun, put something beautiful on a plate in front of you and you don’t have to wash up and you know that even if it’s at a restaurant, you know that it comes from a place of passion and love and the people that are making the food. [Crosstalk 00:26:53]

Johnny:  26:55
That is something you pay for. I mean, and I hear and I talk to a lot of mates, I’ve got cafes and stuff and their biggest gripe is that people come in, example and this is a bit crazy, but someone coming and saying, ‘Can I get hot water and lemon?’ And then they sit there and they’re on the internet the whole day. They’re using Wi-Fi and then I don’t want to pay for the water and lemon because it’s only water and lemon.

Caroline:  27:23
Yes, don’t be that person. [Crosstalk 00:27:25] Either order some food or go to the library and use the internet.

Johnny:  27:30
Yes, and people sometimes they think that it’s actually their right to do that but it’s not. I mean, people are running a business and I talked about the avocado on toast but let me tell you avocados can get up. [Crosstalk 00:27:45]

Caroline:  27:46
Oh, they can be really expensive sometimes. 

Johnny:  27:48
Yes. Right. We need to balance that out. A lot of people criticize a lot of people that are in the hospitality industry on why is a dish or why they charge so much for a dish? We also could understand that wages are so expensive. 

Caroline:  28:06

Johnny:  28:08
All the expenses that come with it. 

Caroline:  28:11

Johnny:  28:11
Bit of a joke about the avocado on toast but that’s just more about teach yourself if you can’t afford to go out because you’re young and you’re starting off and you’ve got something else on mind that you want to put your money aside for or you want to start a business or a side hustle or whatever it may be, you need to be mindful of all these little things that you are doing as well, [Crosstalk 00:28:40] you got to give up on those little luxuries that, you see a lot of everything [Crosstalk 00:28:45] 

Caroline:  28:45
There is a lot of luxuries out in public because you can actually as you said, normally when you run the numbers, you can have those luxuries at home and for a quarter of the costs. 

Johnny:  28:54
Yes, that’s right.

Caroline:  28:55
The feeling of making something yourself or just sharing that load with people you live with or whatever else is really rewarding and when you start to really explore your own skills as a home chef, home cook. You can really stretch yourself and try different things and as you said, make food that you like. You might want to do something in like you might look at a recipe and go actually I don’t like that ingredient or that’s got too much chili in it or whatever and you just constantly adapt that passion of trying different recipes, just exploring with produce and flavors and things that work for you can make the world of difference and that’s how you can really explore those passions and make things your own. 

Now, you’ve talked about the restaurant game and the challenges and all the things that you don’t really know but for someone who might be listening and thinking, I love food, it’s my passion. I’d really love to enter that space. Is there a clear pathway, not necessarily become an owner of a restaurant here, but into the food space, is it? You know that apprenticeship style or is it starting by just putting your applications into cafes and restaurants, what’s the best pathway that you’ve seen works for most people? 

Johnny:  30:18
Look, I think it depends on what you want to do. If you want to be, let’s say, a Chef. If I was starting all over again, I will be going through the trade school and I’m talking about proper trade school, not just the 6 month courses and then they give you a certificate. I’m talking about really doing an apprenticeship. I think that’s the best way and working with really good chefs and again, depending on what level you want to get to and I’m not talking about being an owner but as a professional, if it’s a chef. Try and work with some of the best that you can find and also look overseas. Look at places in the UK or Europe and find places where you can go into a stage so you can just go there and offer yourself, just to learn, we’re talking 1 month, 2 months, and I think that’s the best way to do. I mean, that’s what I was doing when I was a kid. I would go into places and say, look, I’ll work and don’t pay me. I just want to learn and stuff like that and I know today people frown upon that but I think it’s the best way to learn. I find that if I’m going into a place where I’m giving my time and I’m not getting anything back apart from what I’m learning, I’m going to concentrate much more but if I go into person, they say, oh, we’re going to pay you X amount and we’re going to teach you. You still want to learn but at the end, you still got that at the end of week, I’m still going to get paid anyway. 

Caroline:  32:07
Yes, motivation is different. 

Johnny:  32:09
The motivation is different. Whereas if you’re doing and there’s no payment for what you’re going to learn, you’re really going to put 100% concentration in that and I get that immediately. I went and I worked in a few places and I never got paid for it, wasn’t worried about any of that stuff and that for me was more about gaining knowledge that you couldn’t even buy. 

Caroline:  32:40

Johnny:  32:40
[Inaudible 00:32:41] And I think today that’s what’s lacking in professionals or people that want to get to a professional level. If you’ve got that attitude, I think you’re going to be above the pack. 

Johnny:  32:57
It’s all about the 1 percenters. I think it’s all about doing what others will find impossible to ever think about doing or want to do, is what is going to make you get on top of the ranks. I mean that as for Chef, I think people that want to get into hospitality and learn more about hospitality, tourism, and maybe work in hotels and stuff. That’s the path you want to go to. I think you still need to do some type of course, just fundamentals, at least when you go and apply for a job, you have some credentials and also, people take you serious because you have put your time into learning something about the industry before you even go on and said, I need a job because a lot of people see resumes. I need a job is more about I just want to be paid. No.

Caroline:  32:57
Yes, I just want the money, yes. 

Johnny:  33:47
Learn about the industry and there’s a lot of books and a lot of stuff online that you can go to as well. You can self-teach yourself. It doesn’t mean because you go to school, it’s going to make you above everyone else. You don’t have to go to school to learn cooking or anything like that. It’s all about how much you want to learn. There’s 1000s and 1000s probably millions of different ways over the Internet that you can find them today so much easier because you can reach all these amazing Chefs overseas, whereas [Crosstalk 00:34:22] you couldn’t you had to get on a plane. 

Caroline:  34:28
Yes, or by a cookbook that was particularly out of date. 

Johnny:  34:32
That’s the possibility as well because you had to go and buy the book. For as today, as long as you got an internet connection, I’m sure everyone with an iPhone or an Android or whatever. They’ve got internet now. Everything. Yes.

Caroline:  34:46
Yes, that’s so true. Well, that totally makes sense to me and I am sure to the listeners out there who do have this passion and drive. There is that balance between doing What is more traditional learning and pathways to all the extra hours, it’s the mastery pace of let’s use as many hours as I can to master these skills because anything, the more that you invest in something, the more time that you invest, the better that you’ll be and the more that you’ll be able to give to your craft. Very amazing. 

Johnny:  35:27
[Crosstalk 00:35:26] Will I say.

Caroline:  35:29
Yes, they’re the stats. I have so many thoughts on the whole mastery thing. I find it really fascinating. You were already nearly a business owner at 18 but how if you went back and gave your 18-year-old self some advice, what would it be?

Johnny:  35:51
I would probably say explore a little bit more. I would have probably wanted to spend a little bit more time with other people in the industry. Probably get a little bit more knowledge and not only understand the cooking side but also understand what it takes to run a business. I always knew that I was going to get into business. It wasn’t something that I woke up one day to and said, I think I might open a business. That was something from a young age that I always knew that I didn’t know what type of business but I always knew, that’s what I wanted to do. There was no negotiation for in my own mind for that but I would probably have waited, maybe another 5 or 8 years and gained a little bit more experience and then, jumped into a business. Now, in hindsight, I can say that but also the way I did it. My first 10 years was my education and it’s probably made me resilient and strong in business and today, because of that, because of all the challenges that I went through, there wasn’t– It’s never been smooth sailing. Even today, we find challenges. I mean, look at the current climate that we’re facing, we have all these things that are happening but I think those first 10 years really helped me get through what we’re going through now. 

Caroline:  37:35

Johnny:  37:36
Really been through so much hardship. It’s not something that I wasn’t used to now. OK, I know what it means to go through hard times but now I also know what it means to get out of hard times and what I need and that helped me. In hindsight, I would have probably taken an extra 8 years if I’m talking to myself at 18 but would that have prepared me for what’s happening today? I’m not sure.

Caroline:  38:05
Who knows, mind you. Johnny at 12, 15, 18 sounded a bit of a go getter. I don’t anticipate that comes from nowhere and I think when you look at the determination, even for a pair of Nikes it’s there. If you can survive your way or drive your way to a goal, even at such a young age, I think that is normally a sign of someone that can do that, no matter what the circumstance. Yes, I think. I always find that interesting when I think back to what would I’ve done and what would I change and often the answer is nothing but some advice at 18 would have been nice.

Johnny:  38:56
Mentors, that’s something that. 

Caroline:  38:58

Johnny:  38:58
Never had and that’s– It’s something that maybe I wish I maybe did have because they could have helped me avoid all the errors that I did were just amateur things that were happening along the way but if I had somebody that guided me, I would have jumped that hurdle before I got there and rather than smashing in.

Caroline:  39:29
Yes, because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 

Johnny:  39:31
No, exactly. 

Caroline:  39:31
Some mistakes have already been made. 

Johnny:  39:33
That’s right. 

Caroline:  39:34
If you can avoid them. Yes, so true.

Johnny:  39:36
The other thing that I do want to and I say this also to my kids. I mean, my kids are 20, 17, and 14 and I say this all the time, guys, when an adult is giving you advice on something, it’s not because they don’t want you to do or they don’t want you to achieve something. It’s that they trying to open your mind to what could happen. Now, most times, if you’re talking to somebody that has already done or achieved where you want to get to, I would listen to their advice and if you’re talking to somebody that has never achieved or has never led to achieve to where you want to get to and they give you advice, I wouldn’t even listen, to be honest with you. 

Caroline:  40:26
Just smile and then politely excuse yourself from the conversation. 

Johnny:  40:29
Just smile and say thanks for the advice. Yes. Maybe something that guys that are listening to this right now. I’ll give you a really easy example. If you want to be a property investor, don’t ask people for advice that have never owned a property. Go and ask advice from somebody that has bought multiple properties or even double what you would even imagine ever wanting to develop or whatever it is. 

Caroline:  41:01

Johnny:  41:02
They are the best source of advice. Anyone else. This is buzzer-mel.

Caroline:  41:08
So true. Brene brown actually says this and she takes a quote, I think, from Theodore Roosevelt and she talks about the arena and she’s like, I don’t have time to listen to the critics that are throwing tomatoes and yelling stuff from the cheap seats who have never done anything, who have never been in the arena, who have never grazed their knees. I want to be looking at listening to the people there with me or the people that have done, they’ve got the scars to prove that they’ve done it. She says it far better. He says it far better than how I probably butchered that entire quote but I live by that, there’s people out there in the arena doing their thing. You can see them and they’re the ones that get back up and they dodge all the tomatoes and the bad advice and all the internet trolls or whatever it is to just keep doing what they’ve got to do and they’ve got their eye on the prize and they know what they’re working towards and even if it is just picking up the skill of poaching an egg and putting on some smashed Avo. If you’ve got your eye on the prize.

Johnny:  42:23
[Inaudible 00:42:24] Find the best which is the best thing in the world. Learn from them. 

Caroline:  42:28
Yes, go watch the YouTube video and learn how to do it. 

Johnny:  42:31

Caroline:  42:32
Well, it has been such a pleasure to chat to you and to hear all about food. I’m really hungry now. 

Johnny Di Francesco:  42:40
Me too, actually.

Caroline:  42:41
Not even joking. I’m going to go eat. For those of you who are listening who one have never had Johnny’s food, oh, my goodness, where have you been? We will have all the links in the show notes of all the places you can check out the incredible food that the team at Gradi create, cookbooks, masterclasses, all of the things you can explore by just making sure that you connect with Johnny and his team. You can learn about his world records and all of that you’ve just done so many cool things but thank you for sharing with us today and it’s just been a pleasure. 

Johnny:  43:04
Thanks for having me on. It’s always a pleasure. 

Caroline:  43:26
To our listeners, we will chat to you again on the next episode of Growing Pains.

Wow. That was a fun chat. We even talked about smash avocado. I really love the fact that Johnny, he just talks from the heart. He’s a guy that has well and truly pushed his way and worked his way to his success and has not spared a single moment where he hasn’t had that grit and determination but this passion for food and good food has just been one of the key drivers from the very beginning. He didn’t set out to be a world champion, he didn’t set out to necessarily even be a restauranteur like he made it really clear to us that he knew that he was going to be in business but didn’t really know what that was going to be when he was a lot younger and I think that it’s beautiful that food has become the thing that he’s known for and the passion that he shares with the world. As Johnny has shared with us, it is actually a lot easier than what we realize to access good produce and skills and knowledge and the fact that we can do this, we can talk through things on a podcast and we can watch things on YouTube. It’s a great way of really grabbing some amazing recipes and some fantastic produce we’re so lucky here in Australia to have access to some really good food, and to just create some beautiful things, even on a budget. I hope that you have enjoyed today’s episode. I’ve learned a lot. I’m really hungry, I’m going to go and make something yummy. Food is definitely something I’m passionate about and I don’t necessarily spend a lot on it. Go make something beautiful. Share it with a loved one and we will talk to you again on the next episode of Growing Pains