Month: March 2017

Restaurant Harmony & Kitchen Therapy with Jeffrey & Troy

When you think of a stressful working environment, a busy kitchen in a successful restaurant is right up there with the White House Situation Room. Unless, of course, you work in the kitchen at The Sum Of Us or Tom & Serg with world-class chefs Jeffrey Cruz and Troy Payne. Their secret of keeping the kitchen relaxed, safe, and therapeutic sounds simple at first, but as we chatted with the cooking duo we discovered it comes from multiple sources.

'It’s not about keeping inspired - it’s about inspiring the people around you.' Click To Tweet

The Sum of the People

The kitchen is so much more than a place where delicious meals are created. Jeffrey and Troy see it as part teaching opportunity, part family gathering place, and part sanctuary. But for both world-class chefs, it’s not the ingredients or even the recipes that makes these kitchens special, it’s the people. “It’s not about keeping inspired – it’s about inspiring the people around you. And if you inspire the people around you, that inspires me,” says Troy Payne. “Never hire a cook, you hire personalities,” Troy continues. “You hire individuals that bring character. It’s like building the Power Rangers.”

Lessons Learned

As veteran chefs, both Jeffrey and Troy understand that kitchens can become volatile environments if expectations aren’t set or the right people aren’t in place. One way they’ve managed to avoid the typical high-pressure kitchen environment is to use it as a place to teach. “You shouldn’t leave the kitchen until you’ve learned something,” preaches Jeffrey, a consummate culinary student and master chef. “I never went to culinary school. I learned everything I know from being in a kitchen and I want to share this with the next generation of chefs,” he continues.


Finding Harmony

Beyond the people and how they operate is one final pillar of mindfulness that Jeffrey and Troy hold dear to their hearts, and that’s the passion. “We cook, that’s all we do. But we get the opportunity to do something with it to make someone happy,” says Troy. “If you like doing that, it’s not stressful, it’s therapeutic,” he continues. The harmony in the kitchen is infectious and spreads throughout the entire space. We are about creating an environment of escapism in busy Dubai and for Jeffrey and Troy that always starts in the kitchen.

'Being able to talk about things, and the freedom of open speech, we’re able to help build confidence' Click To Tweet

Reflect, Respect and be Yourself

When speaking about reflection and mindfulness, Jeffrey and Troy shared a simple, but extremely effective exercise. “At the beginning and end of every day, you shake hands and you hug,” says Troy. Then they gather the entire kitchen staff and have an open forum-style conversation. It gives everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts, and strengthens the feeling of family; and if a family member isn’t happy, you find a solution as a group. “By being able to talk about things, and the freedom of open speech, we’re able to help build confidence,” says Troy.

As successful world-class chefs at The Sum Of Us and Tom & Serg, both Jeffrey and Troy are very appreciative of what they have in their life. But when asked specifically about what they are grateful for, it’s not the industry fame or restaurant write-ups, “I’m most grateful for my family. And not just my home family, but my kitchen family,” explains Troy. And for Jeffrey, it’s “being given the opportunity to be in the kitchen and be myself.”


Based on how they’ve built their teams and created a family-oriented culinary experience, The Sum of Us and Tom & Serg feels like the perfect place to find an incredible culinary experience.

Jeffrey & Troy’s questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • How can you be yourself today?

Focus & Simplicity with Jeff Sheldon

Jeff Sheldon is a self-proclaimed “designer by trade and entrepreneur/businessman by accident.” He is the man behind UGMONK, a minimalistic and simplistic apparel brand. He isn’t your typical company founder, though, because Jeff wears the hat of graphic designer, product photographer, copywriter, and manages a slew of other roles. This way, there’s a real distinct consistency throughout the entire brand.

He admits that his reasons for starting the brand were mostly selfish, stating, “The desire to start it was really just to make stuff I really like; really simple and clean stuff. I’ve always tried to make products in a selfish way because I want it to exist.” It turns out a lot of people like Jeff’s minimalistic style as well. While brands tend to focus on following trends, Jeff continues to break those rules and creates an un-categorized new sense of fashion.

“The design has always been my drive ever since I was a kid, whether it was drawing or sketching or building things with Lego,” he explains. What he’s doing now is really just a manifestation of his skills and his passions. And he isn’t doing it alone; Jeff likes to keep the business in the family. His business partner is his brother, who handles more of the web development. His mom does all of the shipping, his sister-in-law does customer service, and his wife helps out in various ways as well.




It’s hard for Jeff to describe in much detail what a typical day is like, because no two days are alike. Especially since the birth of his son, his schedule has been tough to pin down. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is how he starts each day; “I’ll sit down and write out my things I want to do that day.” He has three index cards, each with 10 slots. One says “Today”, one says “Someday” and the last says “Next”. He elaborates, saying “I’m constantly referencing this [Today] card as I work throughout the day and cross things off with a pen. It’s so satisfying.”

Since the birth of his son, however, Jeff’s been getting used to the balance between work and home. “I used to be able to work as many hours as I want,” he states, claiming that he often times doesn’t have that ability anymore. Not having that ability isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, and it’s sort of forced Jeff to find that balance. “There’s time’s where I just really want to work and not change another diaper,” he admits, “but it brings some perspective to my day.”

'Setting aside time to be fully all-in with family gives such a refreshing perspective when you get back' Click To Tweet


“I’d say I’m actually really bad at separating work and life, because what I do is what I love and my work blends in so much,” Jeff confesses. One thing that has proven useful is taking small trips. He recalls, “recently we [his family] went to Up-State New York for four days just to disconnect and go hiking and be with family.” He proudly states that he didn’t even take his laptop out of the bag once, which is not the kind of discipline that typically comes easy to him. It pays off in the long run, though, because setting aside time to be “fully all-in with family gives such a refreshing perspective when you get back to work.” Jeff plans on taking more of these short trips, where he can shut down the work stuff for a couple of days.

'Realizing what went wrong and identifying those issues is the first step in improving it' Click To Tweet

When prompted for the most important questions that Jeff asks himself on a consistent basis, he delivers three superb responses. Firstly, “What are the most important things I need to work on today?” This lends itself to his whole index card system and how he manages to stay productive and organized. Secondly, “What things went right today?” Listing things to be grateful for, even if they’re as small as a good lunch with a friend, can go a long way. It forces you to really look back and appreciate what you have. Finally, he asks himself “What things went wrong today?” This isn’t as negative as it may sound. In fact, realizing what went wrong and identifying those issues is the first step in improving it, delegating it, cutting it completely, or fixing it.

Jeff’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What are the most important things I need to work on today?
  • What things went right today?
  • What things went wrong today?