Learn about Florida Entrepreneur Chef Gaetano Cannata:
Chef Gaetano Cannata, founder of Ortygia, a French-Sicilian fusion restaurant grew up in a Sicilian family in New Jersey. He launched his own restaurant at the age 50 after spending many years as an early childhood educator.
"When you come from a typical Sicilian family, your whole life revolves around food," he said. "At breakfast, you're talking about what to have for dinner and at dinner you're talking about dinner two days from then. My home is where I learned to love and respect food. The beginning of my journey started with my first meal. Afterwards, I worked in restaurants with some really great chefs and not so great chefs and I learned from each one.”
Cannata prides himself on providing a dining experience. "When people come here, they come as clients and leave as friends," he explained. "We build relationships. It’s a warm friendly place. I play harmonica and like to jam with the musicians who perform here. I endeavor to come out and check on every table when possible, and at times when the night is through, I may spend hours talking with clients about Sicilian food and culture. I succeeded against all odds. I opened as an unknown, in an economically challenged neighborhood. With the help of local business consultant, April Childers, Ortygia has become a 4 1/2-star culinary destination. Now in our tenth year of business, not only are we planning our sixth culinary tour through Sicily, but I also continue writing articles in various newspapers and periodicals, educating the public on Sicilian food and culture. This is because I never gave up on my dream."
Cannata's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to just do it and keep at it despite your apprehension. "Follow your dream," he said. "If you have confidence and faith that it will work then go for it. I started this when I was 50. Now I'm 60 and feel 30 because I love it. If you have a dream and don’t do it you'll regret it the rest of your life. You don't want to be old sitting in you rocking chair thinking I should have followed that dream. If you have passion and you're good at what you do, the money will follow. If you don’t give up, the money will follow. At the end of your rainbow you will find your pot of gold."
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