Episode 14 : Leaving the Door Open to Success




Alan Serour took the Montreal kosher catering community by storm by buying out his boss and finally managing to merge with a long-time rival. Both who at first said no, but Alan doesn’t believe in closing doors. Get inspired by the amazing journey of this young chef who never gave up on his goals, but simply waited for the right moment.

Alan’s Growth Story Book Title: 

“The Amazing Journey”

I’m so honoured and privileged to be able to live this life every single day. I get to see the backend of all these amazing moments and places… This journey really is amazing. 

What you’ll learn:

  • Alan’s grandmother had a catering business in Montreal, and back in Morocco and France. It’s one of the main sources of Alan’s passion and love for food.
  • Alan studied to become a chef at the internationally renowned culinary school ITHQ. He eventually decided to transfer to a much smaller institute because he didn’t like the competitive approach of the prestigious school. The switch was a risky and tough decision but it definitely was the right one because he then was able to learn what he really wanted.
  • Alan found himself preferring the catering business to the restaurant industry because the workflow is very structured and, even though they are a lot of nights and weekends, the schedule is more stable.
  • During his twenties, Alan opened a restaurant but had to close it within the first year. It was hard for the ego but a priceless learning experience. They had actually bought the building, so it turned out to be a good investment because selling the building generated profits.
  • The name “Beso” stands for Alan’s kids: Benjamin and Sophie.

Notable quotes:

  • “The kosher diet has many culinary restrictions and incorporating them into the recipes was a really fun challenge.” – Alan about specializing in Kosher gastronomy.
  • “It was a full-learning curve. I felt like I had gone to school for four years to learn about business!” – Alan on how having his own restaurant taught him to deal not only with the food but also managing the hiring, the building itself.
  • “We’re fighting for the same clients, let’s stop fighting, let’s come together.” – Alan didn’t mind a little competition, but eventually, both parties were losing money. If you can’t beat them, join them.
  • “I don’t believe in closing doors – Alan on how he never gave up on anything, simply waited for the right moment while maintaining healthy relationships with his network.

Show notes: 

04:20 – Alan Serour owns a catering company called Beso. They specialize in large events, weddings, bar-mitzvah, corporate functions, but they also do smaller take-out catering.

04:40 – Beso has a retail division called the Beso Boutiques and an institutional division which serves the Jewish General Hospital where they have five concessions restaurants.

07:20 – Moving to Dollard des Ormeaux at 5 years old was challenging for Alan as his mother tongue is French and DDO is primarily English.

13:35 – Alan started culinary school at ITHQ in Montreal but didn’t feel it was a good fit for him as they taught a very competitive approach and he really wanted to perfect his skills, not learn how to compete on the international level.

14:30 – Alan switched to the Laval Culinary Institute which had much smaller classes and where he could really get the teachers’ full attention.

16:30 – Alan finished his studies with a stage at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel which was a Canadian Pacific Hotel at the time.

16:50 – Through the chef at the Queen Elizabeth, Alan found a job at the Canadian Pacific Hotel at Lake Louise.

19:25 – One restaurant where Alan worked back in Montreal that led him to the kosher world was a French restaurant located in Les Cours Mont-Royal.

20:10 – Alan learned a lot and quickly moved to work Harvey Lewitt who had a kosher catering and take-out business called ETMO.

27:30 – During his twenties, Alan took a break from the culinary world and worked for Bell Canada in customer service. He very much enjoyed the customer relationship and the 9 to 5 schedule, but he knew it was temporary.

28:36 – Alan opened a restaurant at the corner of Bélanger and Delorimier called the Kebab Shop.

34:20 – Alan got a job at the Federation CJA as a chef.

38:20 – While working at CJA, Alan was asked to run the kitchens of the Jewish center for seniors as executive chef.

41:05 – Alan was still in contact with Harvey who had mentioned a few times he wanted to sell his catering business and retire. Alan wanted to buy it, but they didn’t agree on a price. They met twice before finally sealing the deal.

47:30 – Harvey’s major competitor was Mr. Giorgi who owned a caterer called Tradition and a storefront called Exception.

01:14:15 – Dave invites you to visit the website at besomontreal.ca. You can reach Alan personally at alan@besomontreal.ca