Category Archives: success

A Conversation with Mike Bagale / Alinea / Executive Chef / Chicago, IL

GoodTrue&Beautiful (8)

Mike Bagale combines a unique mix of a broadly artistic mind with a calm, pragmatic, and practical approach to running a complex kitchen.

Mike’s artistic interests began in film school, attending Ryerson University in Toronto and the New York Film Academy. In 2002 his interest in cooking began when he enrolled at Florida Culinary in Palm Beach.

In 2004 he began working at the Four Seasons hotels and spent 4 years in their programs from Palm Beach, Washington D.C., and Miami, ending up as the Chef de Cuisine of the 5 Diamond Resort at the Palm Beach property. In 2009, after a successful 2-day tryout, he joined the team at Alinea as chef de partie.

His relentless drive and work ethic moved him quickly up the ladder at Alinea. He was a constant creative collaborator in the kitchen and was promoted to sous chef quickly in 2010. It was that year that he cracked the code to ‘floating food’ with the famous Balloon course. Mike was named Executive Chef of Alinea in 2012.

Follow Mike on Instagram and learn more about Alinea here.

You stream or download this conversation at AshtonGustafson.comiTunes, and Stitcher.

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Meaningful Work with Shawn Askinosie

GoodTrue&Beautiful (7)

In 2005, Shawn Askinosie left a successful career as a criminal defense lawyer to start a bean to bar chocolate factory and never looked back.

Askinosie Chocolate is a small batch, award winning chocolate factory located in Springfield, Missouri, sourcing 100% of their beans directly from farmers. The only chocolate maker working directly with cocoa farmers on four continents, Shawn travels to regions of Ecuador, the Philippines and Tanzania to source cocoa beans for his chocolate. This allows the chocolate to be traced to the source and labeled authentic single origin. It also enables Askinosie Chocolate to profit share with the farmers, giving them a “Stake In the Outcome,” a principle he learned from author/entrepreneur Jack Stack.

Recently named by Forbes “One of the 25 Best Small Companies in America”, Askinosie Chocolate has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, on Bloomberg, MSNBC, and numerous other national and international media outlets.

The Askinosie Chocolate mission is to serve their farmers, their neighborhood, their customers and each other, sharing the Askinosie Chocolate experience by leaving the world a better place than they found it. The company is currently sustainably feeding over 1,600 students per day in Tanzania and the Philippines, without any donations. Founded at the forefront of the American craft chocolate revolution and regarded by many as a vanguard in the industry, Askinosie Chocolate sets the standard: they are one of the few chocolate makers in the world who press their own cocoa butter (to make their chocolate truly single origin) and the only American craft chocolate maker to produce a natural cocoa powder; they were the first American craft chocolate makers to create white chocolate, as well as a chocolate hazelnut spread (says The New York Times: “one spoonful of Askinosie’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread and all memory of Nutella is gone”).

Shawn was named by O, The Oprah Magazine “One of 15 Guys Who Are Saving the World.” They said, “Why we’re fans: The philanthropically-minded chocolate entrepreneur aims to get students thinking about business ethics in a way that could have ripple effects for generations.” For his efforts in “Advancing food standards… by creating social, economic, and environmental impact”, Shawn was awarded Top Business Leader of the Year in 2013 by the Specialty Food Association. Shawn has been awarded honorary doctorates from University of Missouri-Columbia and Missouri State University. In 2015, Askinosie Chocolate was awarded a complimentary membership to the Clinton Global Initiative for the company’s social efforts around the world. Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author, recently praised the company’s model: “[Shawn] has built a practice of creating a worthwhile luxury good that directly benefits people. Not sort of. Not a little. But directly.”

Askinosie Chocolate has received 3 Good Food Awards, considered to be the Oscars of food; 6 silver awards from the Specialty Food Association; and 7 International Chocolate Awards, including the Gold World Award for the Dark Chocolate + Licorice bar. The small team at Askinosie works directly with all of their retailers and sells their chocolate into specialty food stores, luxury boutiques, and high-end grocery chains throughout the US in nearly all fifty states and across the globe.

Shawn’s book, recently released, co-written with his daughter Lawren, published by Penguin titled “Meaningful Work: The Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul” is an Amazon #1 New Release. Read Seth Godin’s review of the book here.


He is a Family Brother at Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery near Ava, Missouri and the co-founder of Lost & Found, a grief center serving children and families in Southwest Missouri.

You stream or download this conversation at, iTunes, and Stitcher.

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The Good, The True, & The Beautiful Vol. 1

What we look for we find.

If you want bad news, there’s plenty of it.

And if you want to experience some good news, you can find that too…if you’ll just look around.

I look and listen a lot and now I plan to start sharing what I’m finding, seeing, and hearing for you to enjoy and share in.

Yes! There is music amidst the noise and it’s good, it’s true, and it’s beautiful.

Here we go! (click the links!)

The Good

Logic Says Be Happy to Be You on CBS Sunday Morning // Loved this story!

USC’s long snapper, who is blind talks about his inspiration story to field – ESPN// This is such a good story!

The True

Reading Information Aloud to Yourself Improves Memory – // You know your talk to yourself…now it’s ok (and good) to read to yourself.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs raised their kids tech-free — and it should have been a red flag –  // Interesting data.

The Beautiful

Moses Sumney performs on NPR’s Tiny Desk Conert Series // Hold onto your soul…Moses is going to make it fly!

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The Chef Sessions with Hugo Ortega – Caracol – Houston, TX

hugo ortega

Hugo Ortega is executive chef/co-owner of four of Houston’s top restaurants – Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, Caracol and Xochi, and winner of Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards.  (He was a finalist for the award for six consecutive years, 2012- 2017.)  Ortega has been recognized locally, nationally and globally for his inspirational story and his passion for sharing traditional Mexican cooking and culture.

Ortega’s American Dream story started at Backstreet Cafe, a neighborhood bistro started by Tracy Vaught in 1983. He began his career in the restaurant business first as dishwasher and busboy and later as a line cook before graduating from culinary school and later becoming Backstreet’s executive chef. He and Vaught married, and together, they have created an award-winning Houston restaurant family that also includes Hugo’s and Caracol.

Chef joins us in this episode of Let The Music Play Podcast as we discuss his journey to where he is today, how he cultivates his creativity, and his simplistic wisdom on life, relationships, and great food.

You can stream this episode and all other episodes of Let The Music Play Podcast at, iTunes, and Stitcher.



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The Chef Sessions No. 4 with Adana’s Shota Nakajima – Seattle, WA


Chef Shota Nakajima began his culinary journey at the age of sixteen, working for a well-acclaimed sushi restaurant in his hometown of Seattle, WA. At the age of eighteen, Nakajima moved to Osaka, Japan to learn about the art of Japanese cuisine. In Japan, Nakajima had the opportunity to work for Michelin Star rated Chef Yasuhiko Sakamoto. As one would expect, this experience changed Chef Shota’s perspective on cooking.

Since returning to Seattle, it has been Nakajima’s dream to convey Chef Sakamoto’s approach to hospitality and Japanese cuisine in the United States.

Learn more about Chef Shota and Adana below.

You stream this episode and all other episodes of Let The Music Play Podcast in iTunes and Stitcher.





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