The Half A Dozen Hospitality Podcast
Jon Smolensky: An Educated & Fresh Take On Hospitality

Jon Smolensky: An Educated & Fresh Take On Hospitality

October 23, 2019

I had the pleasure of working next door to Jon Smolensky way back in 2006-2008 when we were both working in the industry. We’ve kept in contact since and it was such a blast hosting him on the podcast for this week's episode.  Jon is one of those immediate good guys and always down to either crack you up with a comment or if you’re in need of a helping hand he’s there. 


It has been awesome watching Jon and his team build out Sovereign Canada over the past handful of years and I am not at all surprised with any of the success he has experienced. Hosting Jon on the show allowed us to catch up and chat all things industry.


Jon is truly a wealth of knowledge when it comes to spirits and really all things cocktails so having an opportunity to pick his brain was something I was looking forward to. Jon is well respected and rightfully so as he has put in his time and energy for numerous years not only into his business but the industry as a whole. 


If you don’t already know “Smols” you are about to get a crash course and you will not regret one minute of this introduction into the world of Mr Smolensky. 

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  • What supporting family producers means to Jon
  • What Jon is motivated by day in and day out
  • What Mezcal brand was built by Canadian bartenders
  • How he deals with no cough button
  • Why he loves what he does so much 



Follow Jon Smolensky. | INSTAGRAM  | FACEBOOK

Follow Sovereign Wine & Spirits. | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

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Stephanie & Emily Lee: Starting A Cookie Business Out Of Their Condo

Stephanie & Emily Lee: Starting A Cookie Business Out Of Their Condo

October 16, 2019

Thank you for watching this powerful interview with Stephanie Lee & Emily Lee of Conscious Cookie Co. 


Business partnerships have always intrigued me as I’ve been in a few myself and I know how absolutely challenging they can be. Through a partnership into the food business realm and that is a whole other ball game of potential challenges. 


Going against the odds, sisters Stephanie and Emily Lee have formed what seems to be the most natural match made in heaven with their business Conscious Cookie Co. and those of us that are looking for health cookie options are reaping the rewards.


On this week's podcast I had the pleasure of not only meeting these two dynamic entrepreneurs but digging deep into what makes them tick inside and outside of the business. Along with being Co-Founders of the business they both keep busy with a ton of other activities and jobs as well. Stephanie has been changing the lives of today's youth for the better for a number of years for example while Emily is heavily involved in the health and fitness community in Vancouver. The two inspiring women are not short on energy or ambition and I loved learning more about them both and their WHY with Conscious Cookie Co.


I truly appreciated their unwillingness to adapt what they are doing with their products just for a more attractive bottom line, staying true to making a product that is as clean and as healthy as it can be all while making it still seem like a true indulgence and one that so many of their customers deserve and enjoy. 


We dive deep on so many topics and I cannot wait to see where this duo take this business in the very near future.

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  • How to make health snacks taste great
  • Why both Emily and Stephanie now embrace challenges
  • What’s in a name
  • How they work together as sisters, best friends, and business partners
  • Why knowing who you are is important in business


Follow Conscious Cookie Co. | INSTAGRAM  | YOUTUBE | FACEBOOK



“Because of those food sensitivities, ok well if you care about taste so much why don’t we create something that tastes good that you can eat?” (3:36)


“Especially as entrepreneurs, if anyone is listening and thinking of doing a’re scared? That is normal.” (19:54)


“Motivation through that, because the reality is that it is not easy. I don’t think there is such a thing as an overnight success.” (38:32)


“When people come up to us and talk about the sugar, but you’re not putting a substance into your body that nature didn’t create.” (59:13)


“You know a lot of kids have come to me and have spoken up about things that they struggle with and I just feel so honoured.” (1:18:12)



Sauder School Of Business

Spin Society 

Plant Based Diet

Yoga Training 200hrs 

Bad Sugars

Post Workout Nutrition 

Gluten Free


Body Energy Club

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Jess Reno: Fostering Culture With Coffee

Jess Reno: Fostering Culture With Coffee

October 9, 2019

"Whose world is this?
(The world is yours, the world is yours)"

Jess Reno is one of the awesome team members behind the beast of a coffee shop in downtown Vancouver and he and his crew have created something special, something that feels as comfortable as Grandmas cooking.

This week on the podcast I sit down with Jess to discuss all thing Nemesis Coffee. We cover hip hop, food, culture, training, growth, challenges, and how to stick to your vision. I was really impressed with Jess’s ability to articulate his thoughts and share with us how Nemesis even became a thing.

One of the cooler findings for me within this episode was learning that this isn’t really his first kick at this can of owning and running his own spot. He, like so many others has come up the hard way learning from “failures” and challenges to create something that seems to be truly from the heart.

Admittedly I am a big fan of what the Nemesis team is doing at their one location in Vancouver and I am excited to see their team and brand expand with some new projects popping up in the near future.

Tune in to this episode to hear Jess and I cover:

  • How to bring a team together and see things through

  • Why his guests aren’t just customers

  • How he fosters the unique culture

  • His favourite rap album and why

  • How many projects he swung at before Nemesis

  • Where his passion for coffee started

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Follow Nemesis Coffee  | INSTAGRAM  | FACEBOOK |



“I mean we ate a bit of this $@!& on the first one. I didn’t know what I was doing man.” (12:27)


“I think the thing that drives us is after doing all those rounds in the industry and getting to know people, and when you’re talking about coffee, I fell in love with coffee.” (19:16)

“There is more to us that I want to offer, showcase and challenge ourselves with. ” (32:56)

“I can be a little bit real. When I was growing up that was one of those pushing elements. It was that I felt like we were stuck.” (46:35)

“Just be super open minded. The way things taste or what they look like, I mean F%#@ it and try it anyways.” (1:11:56)






Scandanavian Design

Hip Hop Influence In Food 

Space For Change

SOPS in Restaurants

Tom Brady




Becoming A Father


Who Do You Want To Hear From The Hospitality Space Featured On The Half A Dozen Hospitality Podcast?

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Chelsey Iwama & Spencer Clarke: Working As A Team

Chelsey Iwama & Spencer Clarke: Working As A Team

October 2, 2019

It is not very often you get 4 varying backgrounds to come together and create a business, especially in the hospitality space. However against all odds the team at Nine Downtown Kitchen & Lounge in Abbotsford BC have seemingly done just that. They’ve created a space where 4 visions have turned into one restaurant.


With two of the 4 owners being firefighters and all 4 of the owners being parents these business partners have a lot on the go but they weren’t going to let that stop them from bringing a dream into fruition. 


In this week's episode you will hear the team break down how they’ve done it. How they built the spot of their dreams and hold space for each leader to have their say which in itself can be a very very tricky hill to navigate. Chelsey and Spencer share a short story about a disagreement between the two and how that played out as well as how they generally do handle disputes as a working team.


Chelsey and Spencer like to keep it real not only with us on this podcast but also with all their guests which is a refreshing take and one that I am intrigued to hear others opinions on. 


I really enjoyed meeting this one half of the leadership team of Nine Downtown Kitchen and Lounge and I encourage anyone that is out the Abbotsford way to look this team up and give them a shot as not only are they doing some rad things with food and drink, but also because people like Chelsey and Spencer are the type  of business owners we should all work to support.

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  • How many pizzas Spencer has burnt
  • Why Chelsey thinks the public opinion can sometimes be a bit harsh 
  • How empowering their staff has served them well
  • What the ideal future is for each of the leadership team
  • What type of music Spencer and his band play



Follow Nine Downtown Kitchen & Lounger  | INSTAGRAM  |

100th Episode: A Look Back And A Look Forward

100th Episode: A Look Back And A Look Forward

September 25, 2019

In just over 15 months I’ve sat down with some of the coolest, most influential, incredible, interesting, fun and creative people that make up our industry. Over that time, together, we’ve created a total of 100 episodes for The Half A Dozen Hospitality Podcast and I couldn’t be happier!

Today marks my 100th episode and for this monumental episode I was lucky enough to have my brother in-law fly out from Ottawa to change things up with me on the show. Scott joined me as we hit record for episode 100 but this time I was the guest and he was the host.

Not only was it really awesome to have my brother take over the show, but it was also a blast to sit on the other side of the table and have the questions posed to me.

This episode had me thinking and reflecting a ton.

I’ve said it before, but it needs to be said again, this podcast has given me way more than I have ever given it. I have met some salt of the earth people who I am now lucky to call friends. I’ve launched my restaurant consulting business off the back of this podcast and created a whole charitable aspect of my business through The Half A Dozen Dinner Series. None of my current reality would be remotely possible if it wasn’t for this podcast.

I am beyond grateful for every guest, every listen, every download, and every share. I am also very proud of the 100 episodes we’ve created as it is just proof to me that when you are really committed to something truly amazing things happen.

i hope you all enjoy episode 100 as it is really near and dear to my heart. If you dig it and you have some friends or family that you feel would dig it as well, it would mean the world to me if you would pass this on to someone who you think would enjoy it.

Thank you again for all of your support crew! We are just getting started.



A Key To Leadership In Hospitality: Pace & Leading

A Key To Leadership In Hospitality: Pace & Leading

September 18, 2019

“The idea of pacing before leading is that if you try to persuade without them (your team) feeling alignment with you, you will likely cause resistance or objection. While pacing is not necessarily enough to ensure persuasion, without it the chance of success may be reduced.”

In this weeks podcast I quickly break down the importance of meeting your staff and team where they are each at individually for the most impactful results. The idea of pacing is that we aren’t waiting for them to catch up to us, we are joining them with the intention of bringing them up to our speed.

You can find a very high arching overview of what Pace & Lead is here. I encourage you give it a try with your team members as soon as possible as the concept makes so much sense when looking to impact your team in a positive way. All of this work creates a much greater bond and theoretically a greater culture within your business.

This is one of those techniques where I can already hear most members of the hospitality industry saying “Ah man we don’t have time for that.” Whereas my opinion on this technique and others like it, you cannot not afford to implement this immediately with your working team as the cost of leaving things as they are is immeasurable.


What Is Your Restaurants Culture?

What Is Your Restaurants Culture?

September 11, 2019

I was literally grinning cheek to cheek on a Monday morning at a cafe in downtown Vancouver because of the level of service that I was witnessing paired with what seemed like the coolest and most natural culture I had experienced in a long time.

Nemesis Coffee in Vancouver, B.C, Canada crushed it.

While this weeks podcast isn’t just about Nemesis and how seemingly every aspect of what they are doing is very naturally supporting the other left me inspired and motivated to ask the question to everyone else out in our industry, What is your culture? How do you nurture it? and How often are you checking in to make sure it is how you’d like it to be?

I mention in this weeks podcast how I likely look at businesses in the hospitality industry through a much different lens then most. Perhaps the “average Joe” off of the street won’t notice the attention that a given staff member is giving to those pieces of cutlery, or the sheer excitement amongst the staff to receive some new samples of a product they’ve been waiting to see, or just how actually attentive each and every staff member is towards the guests needs as well as each of their own team members as well.

While these are all things that I personally picked up at Nemesis Coffee the other day, it may not be, for example, what my Dad sees. However I would be willing to bet that even though my Dad might not be looking for those things, he feels them whether they exist or they don’t and that ultimately will be impacting his experience in that space.

Consciously or Unconsciously the culture you create in your business is not only impacting your team, but it is having a lasting impact on each and every guest that walks through your doors.

Are Egos Holding Back The Restaurant Industry?

Are Egos Holding Back The Restaurant Industry?

September 4, 2019

On this podcast tune in to hear how I feel not asking for help, or being aware of the gaps in your game can truly be holding you back.



Alex Black: Driving Positive Change In The Hospitality Industry

Alex Black: Driving Positive Change In The Hospitality Industry

August 28, 2019

Conversations are happening all over our industry at the moment and that is a very good thing. For far too long some members of our community have been suffering in silence and far too often turning to drugs and alcohol to cope. Mind The Bar is an incredible resource, started up by today's guest Alex Black, and the board of directors Shoel Davidson (President), Christina Cottel (Vice President), Janna Da Silva, Joey Donnelly, Kristi Leigh, Mackenzie Chilton and Brandi England, that has become more of the change that we need to see in our community.


While Alex isn’t defined by his work at Mind The Bar, nor his work behind the bar (currently holding it down at Vancouver's Wildebeest Restaurant in Gastown) define him. However the time, effort and energy he is putting into this awesome platform should be recognized.


Alex’s skill as a bartender is undeniable as he was voted his cities Best Bar Personality 2018 (Golden Owl Awards) as well as being named the Altos Tequila Tahona Society Collective Spirit recipient of 2018. Alex however is doing the admirable thing, and seemingly using his success to create a better path for those that follow.


Alex and I chatted about everything from breaking up bar fights to tending bar at some of the cities most rewarded establishments, but we really held the most space for the topic of Mind The Bar and what they are set out to do.


I am excited about this podcast episode because, as I stated, it is conversations like this that are needed and are happening a lot more thanks to Mind The Bar and all of its founders.


Please check out Mind The Bar and reach out to engage with any one of their resources!


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  • How Alex came to be part of MIND THE BAR
  • What the intentions of MIND THE BAR is
  • How to engage with the community if you need help
  • Who MIND THE BAR is for
  • What is next for this platform



Follow Alex Black  TWITTER | INSTAGRAM  | Linkedin | Facebook



“It is amazing how much it has changed already, just from necessity” (8:14)


“I remember coming home to my girlfriend at the time and being like ‘I have no clue’ all of these pieces of paper in front of me, I don’t know where to start.” (17:34)


“Link up with other mental health services that are aimed at hospitality, and be able to lend them some of our intelligence.” (29:43)


“But now you know, especially with my own personal mental health journey over the past two years, really paying attention to how I feel at certain times.” (47:17)

Who Do You Want To Hear From The Hospitality Space Featured On The Half A Dozen Hospitality Podcast?


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But Would You Choose Your Own Restaurant?

But Would You Choose Your Own Restaurant?

August 27, 2019

Simple question with a massive impact. 

Tune in to hear how and why I think this is a very healthy question to ask yourself about ANY business.