Zillow Speaker Series: Restaurateur Tom Douglas

Tom Douglas stopped by Zillow headquarters in Seattle to share a little bit of his success story.

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The mastermind behind 13 successful Seattle restaurants, three cookbooks and two James Beard awards stopped by Zillow headquarters in Seattle to share a little bit of his success story.

Unlike most chefs, Tom Douglas didn’t have any formal culinary training. In the 1970s, he loaded everything he owned into a station wagon and drove cross-country.

“I kinda ran out of money here, and here I am that many years later,” Douglas said.

It was here that he worked on the line alongside chefs, explaining that you “learn so much just being next to people who have been cooking for years.”

After working as a head chef and general manager, he took a leap of faith, opening his first restaurant, Dahlia Lounge.

“My uncle had a long-standing offer and was a big restaurant person, and he always said you can do whatever you want and he put up 50 grand and we started the Dahlia Lounge,” Douglas said.

What has kept Douglas successful are a variety of things, including his ability to change along with the culinary environment.

“Our success has been changing with it, and that’s the acumen of any successful business: You have to be aware of what’s going on in the world.”

He also strives to inspire those working for him.

“Every person needs to understand their value from the host to the guy who sweeps the cigarette butts off the sidewalk,” Douglas said. “Because the margins are very small, I just believe in running our business in the best way possible, because without them (the employees), there is no me.”

To hear more from Douglas, including what he thinks the next food boom in Seattle will be, check out the full video.

Want the chance to hear from more inspiring people in person? Check out Zillow’s job page; we’re hiring.

Previous Zillow Speaker Series guests include: