In this LITE episode, host Abigail Wright talks with Craig Blum, Owner, Founder, and Chief Enthusiast of Johnny Doughnuts about working with The Hard Rock Cafe, overcoming addiction, intuition, authenticity in parenthood, yes - doughnuts, and so much more.
In the full version, hear Craig talk about waking up Gilbert Gottfried, overcoming addiction after being in LA county prison, intuition, authenticity in parenting, travel, and more. That's at http://www.patreon.com/peaceofpersistence.
Born in Los Angeles, Craig Blum says he's the product of a crazy childhood environment. At the age of 16, with the help of a friend's father, he became emancipated, and lived in the maids' quarters of a friend's empty mansion with their Chauffer. After High School, Craig worked a quick stint in the entertainment world before finding his passion as part of the opening team of the first US Hard Rock Café. While he really loved the food industry, with late nights and crazy living, he quickly found his personal life spinning out of control and hit bottom with drugs and alcohol at the age of 22.
After getting sober, he decided to take his passion for food and run with it. He was part of the opening team for Chopstix restaurant Group in Los Angeles, opened multiple restaurants for them, managed the popular Authentic Café, and worked with the Border Grill. After taking some time off to travel to Israel and Europe, Craig had a moment of clarity, realizing that anything is possible and that he never had to live anywhere that he didn’t love. He fulfilled a lifelong dream and moved to Maui, opening Café Fresh on the Northwest Shore of the island. He ran Café Fresh for a few years before selling it and going to the mainland for 9 months to begin a new business.
Inspired by reading the Celestine Prophecy, he began to notice his surroundings to see where they would take him. Craig drove into Marin county, California, saw a sign that told him it was where he needed to be, and has have been there for 20 years. He started a pizza crust manufacturing company out of the back of his car and grew it to a nationally distributed product. With a lifelong interest in food trucks, he then became a student of that industry and began a quest to learn how to build the perfect truck with the perfect product… And he is today.
In early 2012, Johnny Doughnuts was born with the question, "why do doughnuts typically taste so bad and make us feel so bad when we eat them?" After 2 years pf product development and design, as their truck was delivered, they were approached by someone at Apple to do an event for ITunes. Since then, Johnny Doughnuts has done numerous events for Apple, Facebook, Google, and YouTube, to name a few. Named one of the top 3 doughnuts in the country by Food Network and honored as small business of the year for the state of California, they're even in a newly released major motion picture with Denzel Washington. Craig's mission with Johnny Doughnuts is to be of service and share the love, while working to bring back the sense of community and legacy that was once shared culturally with doughnuts. He has a loving and growing relationship with his wife and 2 amazing children, a 16 year old girl (from a previous relationship) and a 7 year old boy. He works hard to be great father, not trying to right the wrongs gifted to him, but because he wants to share with them his authentic self.
Johnny Doughnuts: http://johnnydoughnuts.com/
You've led such a fascinating life. It seems you've been chasing freedom for a long time - what was it like, being emancipated at 16, and how has it affected you throughout your adult life?
He felt older than that when it happened at the time, and it was incredibly liberating because he realized he had the ability to make choices for himself. While it felt exciting to have his own space, he also experienced loneliness, but he needed that experience. It taught him that he can always make a change when times feel desperate.
You opened a lot of restaurants in your early career. What are some of your favorite take-aways or lessons from that time?
Craig feels grateful to have witnessed Peter Morton's early inspiration to make the Hard Rock Cafe the worldwide brand that it is today. It was holistically about branding. It wasn't just about the food, the environment, or the perception of the community - it was all of the above. From the lines outside, to the quality of the food, to the music and experience, it was a journey where people could leave their struggles behind for a moment. He basically created the whole "eatertainment" industry.
What fascinates you about food trucks?
Craig has always loved food trucks as a vehicle to get amazing food to anywhere in the world. They used to be unclean and sold bad food, but when he saw them starting to improve and carry great products, he got excited and started brainstorming how he could use one to make a profitable food business. With his current CFO, he created a business model for a pizza truck. He felt like he was swimming upstream with that concept and decided if he couldn't get past this one more hurdle, he would make a doughnut truck, because he was more excited about the doughnut holes on his pizza truck's menu than the rest of it. Within two weeks of making the mental shift, he had the whole project completely funded and ready to go.
It sounds like your strongest skill is networking. Although it probably comes naturally to you, do you have any advice about networking or meeting people?
As we get more interested in others, others become more interested in us. Get curious and interested.
I love your particular interest in the cultural sense of community that used to be a part of the doughnut culture. Do you have any favorite stories you've heard from your customers, or from your past?
Originally, community was not a part of the plan, but when he opened the first shop, Craig realized that people wanted a place to be able to hang and tell their story. There are so many stories people have surrounding doughnuts, and he didn't realize this whole part of American culture even existed. Now, they're here to share the love and be of service. He wants to help people find their favorite doughnut, even if they don't know what it is yet, so they can leave and feel satisfied.
If there were one thing you'd like the world to see differently, what would it be?
He would love all of us to spend less time racing around and more time enjoying the moment.
Thanks, Craig. And thanks to all of you who listen. Again, if you want to hear about waking up Gilbert Gottfried, overcoming addiction after being in LA county prison, intuition, authenticity in parenting, travel, and more, visit us at http://www.patreon.com/peaceofpersistence.
Now, go have a doughnut!