How this chef went from cooking risotto to cooking up a business

At Keyword, we’re always looking for cool, small companies that are doing something to make people’s lives better. The great news is that you can find these businesses everywhere you go. So, our latest installment of Badass Businesses comes from celebrating a friend (and client’s) birthday at The Social Table a couple of months ago. 

The Social Table hosts dinner-party style cooking classes in Chicago and the owner, Rebecca, is this petite gal with a larger-than-life personality that you just can’t help but gravitate towards. When I think of how The Social Table is different than other cooking-type classes offered, I immediately think of her. She’s friendly, she’s funny, and frankly, she is just so much fun to be around. Within a few minutes of meeting everyone, she knew all our names, was giving people sh!t for slacking off on cooking, bringing bad beer, or in my case, for trying to use my MBA skills to advise her on her business. Needless to say, I liked her immediately and I’m pretty sure the rest of our group felt the same way. 

I was fascinated to learn more about Rebecca’s amazing journey - how she got into cooking, started her business in her basement kitchen in NYC, and how she up and moved her business to Chicago. So, after a few drinks, I worked up the courage to throw her my business card and ask if I could feature her on the Keyword blog.  If you’ve ever asked anyone out or tried to exchange numbers with a mom on the playground, you know how awkward this exchange was.

But, she graciously accepted and I knew she would have such great nuggets of wisdom to share with our Keyworders - like how to measure success (it’s not always about the dollars and cents), NOT listening to everything everyone tells you about how to run your business, and her biggest marketing secret. And, between all of that, I still got in the most pressing question of all: Which city has the best pizza? 

Meet Rebecca, The Big Cheese of

The Social Table

Where did you get the idea for The Social Table?

In short, it stemmed from my desire to reconnect with people and cooking. But, the reality is that it happened naturally over time. My ethnicity is Jewish and Chinese - two cultures where cooking and eating together as a family is an integral part of family life that extends into the community. Growing up, my house was always the center of everything because we were always hosting friends and family. It didn’t hurt that my mom was an amazing cook too! 

But, as an adult living in NYC by myself, I really missed that aspect of my life. Coming from a background with such a strong emphasis on using cooking and eating to bring people together, it was really challenging to find that in New York where the lifestyle is so fast-paced (and where most people use their ovens for extra storage)!

I was determined to find a way to recreate my childhood experiences and bring that back into my life. And, that’s how The Social Table was born.

What was the most surprising thing about starting your own business? And, what was the most challenging thing about moving it to Chicago?

I think the most surprising part of starting my own business was actually myself. I really didn’t have a background in entrepreneurship or business. It was very gratifying to learn that I could take on the responsibility of growing and creating a business by using all of my skills and by being open to learning from those around me. 

The most challenging component of the move to Chicago was to figure out what the business was and who it would appeal to most, in this new city. I had found my groove and my demographic in NYC and here I was, making a massive move, increasing the size of the business 4 fold and not really knowing what the Chicago market looked like or held for The Social Table as a brand. 

How long have you been doing this and what would you do differently? What’s your biggest lesson learned?

I founded the company in 2008 in NYC, so it’s been a lot of years of learning from my mistakes! I don’t know that I would do anything differently in the larger picture of how the business has come to define itself, and how it connects with the people in its community. I am proud that I have had the opportunity to let the business, and myself and my staff, figure out how we want to be perceived and that we’ve allowed ourselves to grow as we learn from our clients. 

My biggest lesson learned is that I do not know everything. In fact, I know very little. I can only do the best I can every day to try and make sure I am creating a business that people want to work for and that people within my city want to patron. Everything is about opportunity, not necessarily making money. If I can give my staff opportunity to grow, learn more about themselves, this industry, and what they ultimately want to do, all while servicing the needs of a community that is excited and enjoys what we have to offer, then I have succeeded. 

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Stay open minded about your product or your business idea. You might think you know what is best, but you have to be able to listen and adapt as you see how people respond and interact with what you are presenting to them. It is also important to not listen to EVERYTHING people tell you.

What marketing tricks do you have up your sleeve? 

If you have a good product and you understand your value in the market you will find people who will become champions for you and your brand. Marketing is often mostly about patience. Hey Rebecca - we couldn't agree more!

Describe your business in 3 words? 

Fun, Communal, Unique

Complete this sentence. In 5 years, I'll be . . .

Hopefully balancing work and personal life. I’d like to have a family but still be able to contribute to my business in a meaningful way. I think this is important for me to be able to show my children.

Ok, the most important question. Who's got better pizza? 

NYC has better slices – the kind that just fill that craving when you need it or it’s late at night. Chicago has very good pizza for eating with a group of friends…generally while intoxicated…

Hungry? Head over to The Social Table right this second.

The Social Table is located at 819 Armitage Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614.


Keyword Marketing inspires creators, builders, and self-starters to bring their company to life. We help businesses develop their identity, share their personality with the world, and connect with their customers through education, coaching and workshops, and personalized consulting.

Thanks to The Social Table for the interview and for the yummy photos.