Alumni Spotlight: International Culinary Center
Adam Lathan was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama and started cooking at a young age, being taught traditional cooking methods and technique from his family using fresh seafood, produce and game from the Gulf Coast.
After college, Adam Lathan tried out a few corporate jobs in DC and New York before deciding to pursue his passion to work in the food industry. Founding the company as a small catering/pop up food vendor in 2014, The Gumbo Bros has gone on to receive high praise from customers and press alike having been seen/featured in: Martha Stewart’s Blog, Gothamist, Eater, New York Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.
The Gumbo Bros have recently expanded, and are planning to open their first storefront in Brooklyn in the Fall of 2016.
Where did you grow up and who impacted you as a child that led you to a career in the food industry?
I was born and raised on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with my Great Grandmother who taught me the fundamentals of traditional Cajun/Southern cooking. She definitely kick-started my interest in the culinary world at a young age.
What specifically attracted you to the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at the International Culinary Center?
I had already started my business and things were starting out well, but I wanted to take things to the next level. I wanted to learn how I could turn a part time passion project into a viable and profitable business.
After researching different programs/graduate school options, I decided on ICC simply because of the proven track record of success seen with their alumni network. Attending an ICC open house also really helped to solidify my decision. I spoke with instructors about the program, told them about my business, and at the end of it all, I knew the program was a perfect fit for me.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned in the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC?
The core curriculum at ICC is broad enough to canvas all the aspects of your business so you are covered on all fronts. What I found to be most valuable were the classes/lectures on businesses and trades that are different from mine. I think learning from other industries and applying them to your business plan is essential to differentiating yourself from the masses.
Such a specialized cuisine is dependent on being able to source authentic ingredients. How do you emulate the authenticity? How can you do that and be profitable?
We take a lot of pride in making our gumbos the right way, which takes a lot of patience and time. As tempting as it can be to cut corners, at the end of the day the product will suffer and ultimately affect sales.
I learned a lot about proper profit margins at ICC, how to calculate the actual amount you need to make per customer to cover that extra time and labor that goes into our products.
How did the International Culinary Center help you succeed?
There were so many aspects of the program at ICC that helped and are still helping me with my culinary career. The classes, material, instructors, classmates etc. are so engaging throughout the program, but what I have found to be the most helpful is the continued support even after I have graduated and moved on.
I am still in touch with classmates, I am collaborating with a few instructors on my own restaurant concept, and I continue to communicate with ICC regarding the progress of The Gumbo Bros. I feel the school doesn’t want you to just take the course, ICC wants you to succeed.
Is your goal to open a brick and mortar restaurant?
Yes. In fact, we spent over a year searching the marketplace in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and just recently closed on our first location in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn!
How is the Culinary Entrepreneurship program helping you achieve your goal?
In addition to what I learned in class, I still have access to my instructors (who have become mentors) and classmates, who continue to help me along the way. I think the relationships that I established at ICC have made a significant impact on the company.
You’ve embraced social media brilliantly to ensure your success. What is the key to making social media work for the Gumbo Bros?
The key to social media for us has been staying true to the voice of our company and our roots. We believe in honesty when it comes to how we portray our brand and the social space allows us to share what we do and connect with our customers on a personal level. The social space not only provides us with a platform to drive awareness of our brand, but also provides the perfect space to share visuals of our brand, awards received, press, and most importantly the food we are proud of.
Crystal ball, what lies ahead?
Hopefully big things! We will certainly be busy for the remainder of 2016 with the construction of our first storefront, prepping for the New York Wine and Food Festival, continuing to cater events, and participating at food markets throughout the city.
We are expanding our menu at Urbanspace’s Broadway Bites Food Festival, starting in June, and will have a wide variety of gumbo, po-boys, as well as Louisiana craft beer and cocktails on hand for the summer before opening the restaurant in the Fall.