When your heroes disappoint you…

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Kimbal & Wolfgang after lunch in 2012 at Spago

For the past decade I’ve watched my good friend Kimbal tirelessly build his brand of “farm to table” restaurants, simply called “The Kitchen,” into a movement.

Like his slightly more famous brother, he focuses on the details relentlessly and the results are just stunning. The Kitchen has seven locations, and is one of the most recognizable brands in the food industry. People are literally begging Kimbal to bring his brand to their hotels and residential buildings around the world — it’s that special.

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Kimbal has moved slowly and methodically, which is exactly the advice that was given to him by one of his all-time culinary heroes, Wolfgang Puck, when they dined three years ago at Spago.

(Side note: Spago is one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, the schnitzel is better than any I’ve had — including in Munich, Bavaria, and Berlin).

The WSJ today outlines Kimbal’s meeting with Wolfgang, who sadly has decided to steal not only Kimbal’s locally-sourced concepts, but also, this is where it gets just bizarre, the brand.

“The Kitchen… by Wolfgang Puck” is launching soon with recipes that use “only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients.”

In the technology industry we have a long tradition of people mentoring each other, and sure, people riff off each other’s ideas, but the wholesale stealing of a brand and concept like this is just disappointing and strange.

Wolfgang is such a creative force I’m certain he could come up with a dozen viable names that don’t confuse the public and impede Kimbal’s ability to build his business.

I would love to say there is some grand lesson here about entrepreneurship, but I can’t find it. Sometimes your heroes just disappoint you, I guess.

A simple change like calling your efforts “Wolfgang Puck’s Kitchen” would do wonders Wolfgang — and it would trade on your legendary career, not Kimbal’s budding one.

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