Cooking the Books

How two CFOs are combining food with finance.
Laura Cameron and Mike ChambersJune 2, 2008

Though many people’s first exposure to the working world is as a waiter or washer-up, it’s less common for executives to reach the top of their fields and then return to where they started. However, two CFOs recently returned to the kitchen, coming full circle from their salad days.

When he’s not managing finances for the Asian arm of one of the world’s largest companies, AIG’s CFO for Asia, Steve Roder, is likely to be found tending to the finances of a smaller enterprise — Tigre Tigre, a restaurant that he co-owns. It has been offering homemade Indian food since March last year in the scenic ski town of Chamonix, at the base of Mont Blanc in the French Alps. “Most Alpine food consists of lots of melted cheese and, especially for visitors, that gets boring pretty quick,” explains Hong Kong–based Roder.

Although Roder is not involved in the day-to-day operations of Tigre Tigre, he is the restaurant’s money man and also master of the wine list. “I’m quite proud of the wine list. I’m not a connoisseur by any stretch but my selections received high praise from the distributor,” he says. “Getting a compliment about wine from the French is no easy feat.” Like any good entrepreneur, Roder says he’s already looking ahead to opening a second location.

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In the same month that Roder opened his restaurant, Richard Linfoot launched the Gosforth Cake Company in the English Lake District after leaving the CFO post at UK-based New & Renewable Energy Centre, a technology research firm. A keen baker, Linfoot decided to start his own company when he was made redundant for the fifth time in 20 years. “Within all of us,” he says, “is the desire to try your hand at running your own business.”

When he was interviewed by a local newspaper two months after he started his venture, Linfoot admitted, “The pressures are totally different from working as a finance director. I am doing something that I love and see the enjoyment people get from eating [the cakes].” But a year later, he sees things in a different light. “It can be quite tedious making cakes all day,” he says. Even though Linfoot is glad to be his own boss, it’s not as if he can make all the rules. “People call in to order a cake and I have to say yes,” he sighs.