You are currently viewing Word of Mouth: Nashville Conversations — Jesse Goldstein, Food Sheriff

“Restaurants are so unbelievably inconsistent, yet somehow you’re supposed to crank out an identical sausage everyday. That’s where I come in.”

Just like my role model Anthony Bourdain, I tell everyone, “ten years in the service industry taught me all that I know.” Getting screamed at by customers will help you realize some people will never be satisfied. In the bar life, I learned to read others like a book, thrive on chaos and spin plates in the air with a smile slapped on my face.

Jesse Goldstein is a godsend in the food and beverage world. To make the craziest industry in the world more streamlined, he shelves his ego and stays in the background. As the founder of ‘consumable branding’ agency Food Sheriff, Goldstein can see the landscape as well as the little bits and pieces. After working front and back-of-the-house for many years, he took his experience and expertise to the marketing side of the industry —cured from ever wanting to work on the line again. For a decade he cut his teeth as brand manager of the iconic, family-friendly Loveless Cafe before transitioning into his own game of making menus, recipes and products for some of the coolest brands Middle Tennessee has to offer.

However, Goldstein won’t blow smoke up your butt. Clients pay for his honesty along with content to keep customers engaged long after the receipts are signed. Admittedly, he blew my own brain when he talked about creating a successful brand through purposeful discrimination. Isolating audiences seems insane, this people pleaser thought. However, as I looked around his beautiful space routinely booked for photography, video and cookbook shoots I thought, this guy knows something you don’t know, idiot.

Break down what you do here exactly. 

JG: I call it the fluff and stuff. I’ve worked in restaurants since age 14, and grew up in a family that loved to cook. Working as a movie set chef from 1998 to 2000 cured me of wanting to cook food. We were the original food truck. In a restaurant, you cook food for nameless, faceless people but on a movie set we served the same diners twice a day, five days a week. This was pre-smart phone era so we’d drive to different locations each day with the directions scribbled onto a piece of paper. On top of that there was limited amounts of gas, no running water and calls the night before asking your team to accommodate 150 extra people. It was an unbelievable experience that showed me what I was capable of and also what I didn’t want to do.

Sounds like an era of constant, creative reinvention. 

Yes! And scratching my head going, “What can I do to chicken that these people haven’t seen before?” Can you imagine switching up a menu every single day and accommodating everyone’s ridiculous allergies and fad diets?

Yes! I’ve worked for catering companies, and they also scarred me for life. 

Exactly. I knew that on-the-road lifestyle wasn’t sustainable and I was eventually gonna lose my mind. So I got out and moved back to Charleston, SC where I had gone to school and got into the marketing side of the industry. While Charleston is a great place to visit, I missed Nashville and decided to give it another shot. I moved back here on New Years Day of 2003 and took on a job as GM of Food & Beverage for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Later that year, I became the manager of the Loveless Cafe.

What was the turning point where you started building their now internationally-recognized brand?

In 2004, we hired a graphic designer to create a newspaper ad and it wasn’t at all what I had envisioned. I had heard of Adobe Illustrator and the mentality, if you can think it you can create it. I taught myself how to use the program and over the next ten years, did Loveless’ graphic design, merchandise development, and brand management. When the digital era came around, I realized there was a whole conversation happening on social media about us essentially without us. In 2011, we started emailing recipes to our email database because they were what people reacted most positively to. Almost immediately, the web traffic increased tenfold. 

When did the concept for Food Sheriff pop into your head?

While working with Loveless, I realized every restaurant should have an authentic story with which their brands can engage. It shouldn’t be forced, spit-shined or polished but rather true to who you are. That’s how businesses become cherished community assets and touchstones. So to answer your question from 20 minutes ago, we identify what each restaurant needs because when you’re in the thick of it, you oftentimes have no idea. We create bait that builds positive synapses in customer’s brains.

Did working in the digital sphere versus a brick and mortar come innately to you?

Having a brick-and-mortar like Loveless made managing social media a lot easier. We had a huge fan-base, a lot of history and an endless stream of content to share. I always tell clients if there is any doubt of public catastrophe just don’t post a thing. A business should check their geo tags at least once a day. Are images getting a lot of likes or comments? See if anyone of influence is engaging with your brand and thank them. What it really comes down to is being thoughtful about what you post. Three images a day max. Morning, noon, evening. Spread them out. Talk about things that matter instead of filling up space.

Do most people have a hard time hovering above and seeing what makes their brand unique to others?

The biggest mistake is thinking you are the customer. Or conversely, feeling like you need to speak to everyone. The goal is to attract a ravenous group of fans who are simpatico with what you’re saying.

The companies that are most successful usually have…..? 

A spokesperson that isn’t shy about making themselves a part of the brand. A great example is the Peach Truck—they present themselves as incredibly personal and diverse.

How do you keep your shit together?

{Laughs} It’s almost like I have to keep a lot of things going on otherwise I don’t feel like I have anything going on.

Ditto. What’s one of the smartest social media strategies that a company can implement?

A lot of the companies that I create recipes or photos for hold a percentage back. So if a publication contacts them, they have unique, fresh content to share.

What is your solution to feeling creatively uninspired?

Putting the project down momentarily. And if it’s really not jiving, walking away. I try really hard to take on the projects that inspire me because how else are you going to produce inspired work?

A lot of people think they have to take everything that is handed to them.

While I did that when I was first starting out over time, I stopped taking on everything that walked in the door. If you’re a startup business it’s imperative to ask yourself, am I doing the right thing? Am I in the right field? Did I develop a business plan that is scalable? Do I need to invest more time networking with my dream clients?

What made you want to jump out of bed this morning and do your job?

The variety, whether it’s creating recipes or designing labels, really keeps me going. More than anything I love producing an idea from a mockup to a tangible product that sits on a shelf. That full picture is really fun.

Read more about Food Sheriff here 

Photo by Jason Myers

Hire the author to write your bio here. 

Lily Clayton Hansen

Need a professional bio or press release? Hire the successful writer behind "Word Of Mouth: Nashville Conversations". Click here to schedule an appointment today.

Leave a Reply