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My best mistake: not checking references

Molly Wizenberg, owner of Delancy and Essex, admits her biggest mistake.

When we were opening Delancy [in Seattle in 2009], we were hiring someone to stretch and top pizzas. We knew there was not going to be a lot of room for growth, so we needed someone who was skilled but not so ambitious that they’d be bored. We found someone who’d been cooking pizza for more than a decade. He did a trial with Brandon [Pettit, co-owner and chef at Delancy and Wizenberg’s husband], but the day before opening, he didn’t come back. We had to scramble and ended up hiring a guy we had originally passed on who we thought was dramatically overqualified. He knew how to run a restaurant, and he was a tremendous help to us in those early months, and became a great friend to us. Unfortunately there were a lot of things we didn’t know about him, things we naively didn’t notice for a long time. It wreaked havoc on our relationship and the atmosphere in the restaurant. We could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble if we had called his references. It seems really obvious, but it was a powerful lesson for us.

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