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I Got a Master’s Degree on the Fly

A Slice on Phillip (Flip) Isard, Founder of Frites Street

Phillip (Flip) Isard brings more than just french fries to the table. He brings a strong passion for food and cooking into the culinary world. Isard recalls always struggling to follow the traditional educational route, and instead yearning to take a creative career path. After traveling the world with a local rock band, Isard went from roadie to Founder, following his heart and love for food with Frites Street. To date, Frites Street has expanded from being a small local business to being in 11 different states.

Isard always knew he would end up in culinary school, but followed a rather non-traditional path to success. In high school, he spent most of his free time at rock concerts, merchandising and selling t-shirts for local bands. He never thought he would spend so much time in the music industry until a local band he was helping got signed to a major label. Isard then spent 10 years as a roadie, traveling the world and having fun. When his time on the road came to an end, Isard started to think about his future, and what options he had. There was one thing he knew for sure, he did not want to go to college. Isard wanted to utilize the skills he already had to create a career for himself. “The only other thing that I had a passion for, and previous history on, was culinary. I fell into, ‘well, okay, I’m good at sales. I love food. So what else would I do without going to college at 27?’ I didn’t want to be 31 graduating college and getting an entry-level job trying to compete with kids that are 10 years younger than me.”

After traveling the world and tasting food from various places around the globe, Isard had a lightbulb moment: he should open up a food truck. He knew there was a huge market for food trucks in Arizona, but a food truck that only sold side dishes didn’t exist… yet. After Isard returned to Arizona, he started serving at a local restaurant, The Gladly, run by Andrew Fritz. Isard couldn’t keep his “million-dollar idea” to himself. He remembers “nerding out” and telling his coworkers about the big plans he had for Frites Street, even though at the time it was just an idea and a name.

Bernie Kantak, Chef at The Gladly, found out about Isard’s plans to start his own business. “I still remember the first day when Kantak found out that I wanted to open a food truck… I was like ‘oh s***, I’m in trouble.’” But instead of being upset with him, Kantak and Fritz both took initiative teaching him everything they learned in the last 20 years, insisting that if Isard was going to break into the food industry, he would do it right. “I remember it like it was yesterday, and it was insane because it was literally like $1 homework, I never went to college. So I literally chalked it up to ‘I got a master’s degree on the fly’, because every week, they were like ‘here’s a crash course in business, here’s accounting 101, here’s what you need to think about if you’re going to be in food and beverage, here’s how you pop out a dish.'”

“I got a Master’s degree on the fly.”

While having a tremendous amount of support from Kantak and Fritz, Isard also had the rare opportunity to gain firsthand experience when he was able to put his first dish on The Gladly menu. Of course, that came with lots of work, and it was up to the customers to decide if his hard work was paying off. Isard remembers changing out of his server clothes and going into the kitchen to prep before or after his shifts. He had a wide range of taste testers, from friends to strangers, all giving him positive feedback. Isard describes this opportunity as “once in a lifetime” which not only gave him the knowledge to get Frites Street started but the confidence to take it far.

Isard and his team scraped up all their money and went to Wells Fargo to get an equipment loan. They leased the equipment needed for the food truck and got straight to work. “Getting started fundraising wasn’t an issue, because I was just betting on myself. My partners and I at the time were like ‘hey this is what we think we can do, and if there are no VCs giving us money, I was taking the money I made from the road.’” After having the resources and money required to get started, Isard and his team debuted Frites Street at music festivals. “I took my love for the music industry and we would set [Frites Street] up outside of venues. We would get into beer festivals and three-day concert festivals as a vendor, and all of my happiness came together.”

With the unwavering support Isard has received throughout his journey, he hopes to provide the same for aspiring entrepreneurs. “I’m only here because of the opportunity I had. I would love nothing more than to keep passing that on. I have a 5,000 square foot warehouse. There are five other businesses that share my space… We all came up the same way, I’m like ‘share my space, don’t stress. I want to give you guys the ability to succeed, to create an avenue for success.’” Having confidence in himself is what has helped Isard through the tough times. “Don’t ever lose that drive because the minute you give up and say ‘you’re right, it’s just whatever, it’s never gonna happen’ then it’s never gonna happen.” Still hungry to disrupt the industry, Isard plans to continue to do what he loves, cook and find the people that care about his product as much as he does, and won’t stop until Frites Street is in all 50 states.

Founder Bio

Phillip (Flip) Isard channeled his culinary background into founding a food truck, Frites Street, in Arizona and later selling his specialty frites to restaurants across the U.S. Connect with Isard on LinkedIn.

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