Jenny dorsey entrepreneur shares her greatest failure and what she learnt from it

Entrepreneurs, Their Greatest Failure & What it Taught Them


Ri Web

I’ve been intrigued by failure ever since I interviewed Pete Bailey for the Ri Web Blog. Pete runs a company called Fail Forward which helps change people and organisations perspectives on failure.

Pete suggested at the time that too many of us see failure as the end but we should actually just see it as another step on the journey to success.

He highlighted numerous cases of sportsmen and entrepreneurs who had failed numerous times only to become hugely successful through sheer perseverance.   

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan

   It was such a powerful interview that we decided to dedicate a chapter of our e-book The Real Life Startup Series to failure.

Failure and entrepreneurship are closely intertwined and most highly successful people have experienced it.

Often, they’ve experienced it a lot more than the average person. Because failure itself is irrelevant, what’s important is how you react to failure.

When the rest of us pack something in because it’s too hard or wasn’t quite right, the successful are plugging away stubbornly until they succeed.

As Thomas Edison once said:   

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas Edison

   After we finished The Real Life Startup Series we wanted to explore the relationship between entrepreneurs and failure in more depth.

So we decided to ask a few successful entrepreneurs about their biggest failure and what they learned from the experience.

The honesty with which they replied was refreshing, so each month we’ll have a different entrepreneur join us to share their greatest failure and what it taught them.

In this article, we meet Jenny Dorsey. Jenny found fame by appearing in and winning cooking shows in the USA and learnt her greatest lesson from doing so.

She now runs two highly successful businesses, including Wednesdays – a New York based restaurant – and a consultancy business.

Read her inspiring story below! [vc_empty_space height=”65px”] 

Jenny Dorsey, Co-Founder & Executive Chef of Wednesdays

   Jenny Dorsey celebrity chef shares her experience with failureOne of my biggest failures was when I performed horribly on the popular Food Network show “Chopped”.

It was my fourth time being on TV and expectations were high because I had just won “Beat Bobby Flay”. I had a bad feeling about the show for weeks – the episode I was cast in had a strangely tight turnaround and also featured chocolate despite the fact I’m not a pastry chef, the producer of my ‘biopack’ was extremely rude to me during our half-day shoot.

But I had long thought Chopped was such an ‘impressive’ show and desperately wanted to “prove” myself and my abilities. I got cut the first round. Which involved working with softshell crabs, something I had rarely encountered.

I didn’t properly clean the crabs (I forgot how to in my panic) and undercooked them as well in fear I would overcook them. I was devastated when the judges told me the crabs were prepared improperly, but hoped for the best when they told me the flavors of my dish were excellent and my combination of textures was impressive.

However, the judges quickly turned against me yet again when I told them was a Columbia MBA who had restarted my culinary career after a former life in management consulting. Ted Allen said straight to my face, “oh, consultants – they’re the ones who fire people.” I felt humiliated but I couldn’t respond without picking a fight with the judges and I was still feeling embarrassed at my lack of technique. After I was cut I went home and I sobbed wildly.

But I wasn’t going to let one TV show change my own self worth and career trajectory. After I picked myself up from my misery, I went straight to The Lobster Place and bought a dozen soft shell crabs.

I went home, cleaned every one of them, and re-made the dish I tried to create on Chopped over and over again. It morphed into something spectacular. The sauce I use for that dish – a white chocolate morel sauce – is now one of my signature sauces and was prominently featured as #foodporn in Huffington Post video feature.

The episode also piqued my interest around shellfish and I subsequently was awarded a James Beard Foundation grant to continue intense shellfish education in Portland, Maine.

My program sponsor even offered to let me bring my white chocolate sauce to Le Bernardin for Eric Rupert to taste the next time they sit down for dinner. I couldn’t believe in.

On top of this, one of my competitors on the show messaged me afterwards to cheer me on – “what you’re doing is what great chefs do” he told me. “Everyone loses sometimes, it’s how you work through it.”

He is right – this failure prompted me to reevaluate what I was really working for. I had become fixated on the “show” of winning, being on TV, getting acclaim.. I stopped working hard on my craft. So I withdrew my casting for Hell’s Kitchen despite being in the final stages and refocused my efforts on my consulting practice and restaurant, Wednesdays. Since then, both my businesses have performed very well (Wednesdays was just listed as a Top 6 by Thrillist!) and I’m feeling much, much more fulfilled chasing my own dreams instead of a phony cable network fame. [vc_empty_space height=”65px”]