Interview with Jorane Cuppen, founder of chefs management agency Guts to Glory

During summer, we had the opportunity to interview Jorane Cuppen. Jorane is the founder of Guts to Glory; a storytelling and chefs management agency within the hospitality industry. We asked her about her experience at Hotelschool The Hague, and what she is up to nowadays. Why did she start her own business? Continue reading to find out.

So Jorane, please tell us about yourself.

Well, my name is Jorane Cuppen. I graduated in 2018 and started my own business Guts to Glory soon after my graduation. I used my thesis to work on my business case. Guts to Glory focuses on chefs management. With my company I offer services like PR, marketing, branding and career management for hospitality professionals. I manage several chefs and organise events. My work involves project management, interesting conversations and of course, it is all about food and eating!

As I am from the southern part of the Netherlands, hospitality runs through my veins; I grew up in kitchens, working with and being around chefs from a very young age. I guess this is where my interest in hospitality comes from. I noticed that I had a special connection with chefs and that I could communicate with them in a different way.

In 2018 you started Guts to Glory. What was the reason for starting your own company?

When I did my final internship at a PR agency in Amsterdam, I did PR for restaurants and spirit brands. However, I noticed that there was not that much interest in chefs. This is quite strange as all press events are so dependent on the chef, because it is all about food and drinks. If the chef wouldn’t be there, everything would collapse. Media and bloggers usually tell a story about the menu and atmosphere, but no one ever says anything about the chefs. That is what triggered me. I knew I could work and deal with chefs, and that I could help them tell their story in the right way.

How does Guts to Glory make a difference within the hospitality industry?

With Guts to Glory I support chefs in telling their stories, which are all worth being told. But, there's more to it. Usually, I observe chefs for a minimum of two days and define the goal they want to reach in the coming year(s) together. Once I know their goal and their way of working, I develop a strategy to support them in reaching that goal. I am basically working on their career management; it involves personal branding, project-, media-, and event management, but also menu optimisation. It is very diverse.

What is your favourite memory of your time at Hotelschool The Hague?

When I think of Hotelschool The Hague, I think of BMI (Business Model Innovation). I absolutely loved BMI. We did it at the culinary institute of the Tropics. My team consisted of boys and I was the only girl. At the beginning of the block I told them: “We have two options here: Option one is to just do the minimum necessary and pass the course with a six. Option two is to go for it, for real. If you choose this option, I will be the b*tch managing the team and agenda, and we’ll make sure to win this thing.” Everybody was enthusiastic about option two; they let me be in that role, making sure everyone was on track. We won that block! That is a very special memory.

Who do you remember as the most inspiring lecturer?

Mr Gallicano for sure. His classes are so inspiring. I remember sitting in his class, looking at the 200-slide presentation that he made, wondering what will today’s class be all about. He goes like crazy; he goes so fast and is always on trend. I remember one time, during the second or third lecture, he repeated something that I heard before and he noticed. In the end, I was so surprised when he said: “I am so sorry that this happened, I will do it better next time.” I found that very inspiring.

Are you still in contact with former students?

Yes, we have a dinner group; of course, it must be food related. We try to dine together once a month. We either cook or go out for dinner. And of course, you run into Hotellos all the time. The culinary world is so small. I often meet other Hotellos during culinary events.

You are doing the management for Joël Broekaert, a culinary journalist and restaurant critic for NRC and Vrij Nederland. Can you tell us more about that?

During my internship I realised that I know how chefs work. I covered PR and had my own working experience in the culinary world. But, I never had the chance to view the culinary world from a reviewer’s perspective. We had dinner and I was with a chef who knew Joel, but I didn’t know that. During dinner, I mentioned that it would be cool to accompany Joel some time and experience what he’s up to. For some reason, I had the impression that one day he could be dining at a two Michelin star restaurant and on the other, he would be pulling carrots out of the ground. Before leaving, the chef introduced me to Joel. I did not think twice and asked him for his contact details. We became very good friends and are still working together.

What have you learned from Joel?

I already had the idea of starting my own company. But I thought that if I want to advise chefs, I do need to know if I can taste well. Usually you know what you like and dislike, but I wondered how I could describe this and how I could make sure it would make sense. I really learned how to taste and - the most difficult part - how to explain it, from Joel. I eat out a lot, and I guess I am really trained in food now. It is difficult; you need to be honest, you want to value the chefs, but a review can also hurt a business. It is about how you write things down and making sure it is grounded.

What do you enjoy the most about being an entrepreneur?

For me, one of the most important things is that I can decide my own working hours. Usually, I am not very productive at 8 AM, but I am very productive at 7 PM. I like the freedom that I can decide for myself where I want to be, at what time and without the need for informing anyone.

What were the most valuable lessons you learned during your time at HTH? And can you use these in strengthening your business?

In the hospitality world, social and networking skills are very important. Networking is something I use daily. The hospitality industry is a small world and you only get one chance to make a good first impression (cliché, I know). It is very important to be open, to be involved and really understand the industry. I use these insights to engage with people and see where I can contribute. As I am working with chefs, the skills I learned during TMS (Training Management Skills) are very important as well. Usually, chefs feel most comfortable with a knife in one hand, standing in front of their cutting board and doing the thing they love the most. But, they don’t always feel comfortable giving an interview. However, sometimes it is necessary for them to take their moment of fame in order to get their message across and get one step closer to their goal (e.g. inspiring guests, making a difference). A diplomatic approach is needed sometimes to get the desired result or reaction from a chef to reach something which is in their best interest.

What important lessons did you learn in the process of starting your own business?

Of course, I faced different issues that I never thought about beforehand. For example, I didn’t know what to do when someone was late in paying an invoice. I learned a lot about all the administrative things that play a role in running your own business: paying taxes, hiring employees, organising your back office. There is no handbook to success, no handbook on how to operate your business the right way. You will learn along the way. Just be proactive and willing to learn.

What does a day at work look like for you?

Every day is different for me. Usually I wake up between 07:30 and 08:00, I will check emails and start my day. Most days are filled with either strategy meetings, interviews with a chef, events, menu studies or trips to producers. It is very important for me to know what is going on in the city from a food perspective. In the evening, I am a regular in the local culinary scene. Having a drink or dinner with chefs or friends.

What are you working on now?

So many different things! I’ll give you two examples. Together with Schilo van Coevorden and the PR & Marketing team of the Conservatorium Hotel, I am working on a concept for celebrating the fifth anniversary of restaurant Taiko. We will organise a special dinner concept, but that is still a surprise. Furthermore, I am working with Dennis Kuipers from The Dylan Hotel. I’m managing an event in Mexico for him at the moment.

What are your plans?

A new project is coming up: Felix Meritis, a cultural place that is being renovated. A new restaurant will be opened, and I am involved in the strategic concept planning and opening period. Also, I hope that at some point I will be able to create a team with like-minded people and expand Guts to Glory.

What is your signature? What is typical for Jorane?

Always hungry, haha! Seriously! But besides that, my product knowledge is on point; I know how products develop and grow, due to my upbringing. We had a large garden and grew everything ourselves. Next to that, I am a family person and I know I can be very persuasive. I am also very protective when it comes to the chefs I represent.

What inspires you?

Working with inspiring people every day. Chefs can be so focused and passionate. As a chef, it is not only about creating a certain experience, but you are feeding someone, which means that you get very close to people. Cooking can be become an art, it is delicate and personal. I truly get inspired by that. Furthermore, I always look around and ask a lot of questions. E.g. why is someone so passionate about using a certain product?

What does it take to become a successful entrepreneur in today’s hospitality industry?

I would not consider myself successful yet, because I believe that people can always develop themselves further. I do believe that you have to be convinced of yourself and your own idea first, before you can make others enthusiastic about it. And of course, you must be extremely motivated.

On Instagram you mention: “Inherited with a taste for good food.” What is the best food experience you've ever had?

After a trip to Vietnam, I met my family in Bangkok for a family get-together. We managed to get a table at Gaggan in Bangkok and enjoyed a lovely 25-course dinner. I was so inspired by the story of Gaggan Anand in the Netflix series Chef’s Table. He is such a passionate and enthusiastic chef and I felt that I could experience that by trying out his menu. The combination of being there with my family, the ambiance and the amazing food made it one of my best food experiences. Sometimes, a chef is guiding you into a certain direction with food. It is all about being surprised on this journey. Recently, I visited Chambre Separee as well. Totally different, but mindblowing. You have to save up for it, but if you have the chance to go, please do. The experience reminded me of Peaky Blinders (see review in NRC).

You also mention that you are a walking restaurant guide. Which restaurants are currently on your shortlist and why?

So hard to choose! I love Kaagman & Kortekaas, De Klepel, Taiko, restaurant Watergang, Vinkeles, and Café Caron. Salmuera and Rijsel are also all time favourites. Pick your darlings haha! For me, the vibe is very important as well as the feeling that people are taking care of you. And yes, I still enjoy the FEBO.

What can we find in your glass on Friday evening?

A lovely glass of wine, preferably Chablis or Sancerre. And of course, a good cocktail is also more than welcome!

What is your dream?

I really knew what I wanted to do and I am very happy with the choices I have made so far. But now, I honestly don’t know. I would like to have the freedom to be open to new perspectives. You need dreams and fresh perspectives to push yourself forward.

What advice would you like to give to today’s students?

When you graduate, be open to learning new things afterwards. Look at things as if you don’t know anything about them. And always think of how your ideas can and will support someone else.