By Ezinne Mgbeahuruike, Contributor
As I walked into Gabriella Mann’s Brooklyn cafe, I noticed four men expanding the 315 square foot Baba Cool cafe into the sidewalk. Gabriella tells me she has been trying to add more space to her Fort Greene cafe for the last two years and it’s finally happening.
Gabby, who started Baba Cool when she was 26-years-old, wanted to add a cool, new energy to Fort Greene – and that she did. Baba Cool, which is the French phrase for ‘hippie’, encompasses the carefree vibe Gabrielle envisioned. Baba Cool was recently featured in Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” and has appeared in numerous publications including Vogue, Zagat, Elle, and Brooklyn Magazine. We caught up with the 29-year-old to learn about her experience as an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I shadowed a friend who owned a coffee shop in Chelsea and I knew I wanted to open my cafe right after. I’ve never really had experience owning anything but I thought it would be fun to open up a cafe and a chill place for people to come hang out. When I first opened Baba Cool, I definitely didn’t know what I was doing. It was all a learning curve for me but it’s all fun.
What has the been the most challenging thing about running Baba Cool?
Honestly, staffing. I can’t seem to nail down the front of the house. But, I’m learning how to incorporate my nice chill attitude into a more assertive one. I like to let people work how fits their personality best but I’m learning that some people can’t work with others and that’s part of being a boss.
Your menu is very tasty and has variety. How did you come up food options or recipes?
Most of the food on the menu is clean and simple food seasoned with essentials. The white puree for the White Bean Toast is just cannellini beans pureed with olive oil, salt, garlic and fresh parsley. The brisket, on the other hand, is a bit more complex, though it’s my mom’s recipe, is tomato cilantro, and garlic. Just good rations and a good lineage of plates.
As a woman in the food industry, how do you handle competition or other people trying to strong arm you into decisions?
I like to go at my own pace, that’s for sure. I get opportunities presented to me all the time but I like to take my time and analyze what my business needs are and I move from there. I don’t make any rash movements.
What advice would you give your 26-year-old self that would be beneficial to other young entrepreneurs?
It’s helpful to learn how to delegate. Just because a person has worked at other companies does not mean they will work well with you. Be open to other people’s ideas and opinions but never stop listening to yourself.
Is there going to be a possible expansion of the cafe in a different location?
I’ve always wanted a bigger space for this place but we’ll have to see. The stars must align and the price for the space has to be right.