Qs. 1. Please tell us a bit about your early life. Where did you grow up, and what are some of the lessons you’ve carried on from childhood to your adulthood?
I was born in Philadelphia, and raised in South Jersey. As a child I was always creative and started painting with oil at a very young age. At 12, I had an art exhibit at the local library and started selling my paintings. I think the take away from that experience is that I could actually monetize my creativity and charge for it.
Qs. 2. How did your education impact your journey as a restaurant designer?
Honestly, I started working in restaurants at 16, and I have no formal education other than a High School education. My education was the “OTJT” kind, “One The Job Training.” I started as a busboy and worked my way up through the ranks and learned every job and filled every position there was in a restaurant until at age 19, when one could say that I received my diploma as I was promoted to Chef at The Garden, an exclusive French restaurant in Philadelphia.
Qs. 3. Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
When I transitioned from Caterer, Restaurateur, Nightclub owner to Restaurant Designer, I had to indoctrinate myself into the world of technology in several different aspects. In addition to learning web design and graphic programs, including Adobe photoshop and Sketchup, I delved into the world of SEO as internet searches would be the initial mainstay of how customers would find me. It was a year long process but proved to be a necessary and vital component of launching my new career. I enjoy having the additional skillset too as it is all second nature to me now.
Qs. 4. What was the biggest change that you had to deal with. How did you adapt to that change?
The biggest change for me was working from home. No longer did I have the camaraderie of being around familiar faces and enjoying humorous banter as I did as a business owner. It was just me and my work. Fortunately, my work requires my full uninterrupted attention, so I adjusted, but I do miss the friendly social aspect of the workplace.
Qs. 5. Can you share an experience where a project dramatically shifted direction at the last minute? What did you do?
Well, when you are building restaurants there is a significant planning stage and permits that are required from municipalities and that all takes time, so there is rarely anything that takes place last minute. I will say, however, when I designed Cuzins in Marlboro, 2 weeks after we opened, it was obvious the place was going to be a monstrous success and the owner called a meeting with me where he told me to plan the expansion. Unfortunately, an expansion meant, that we had to tear-out the new beautiful restrooms with frosted glass stalls and marble trough sinks to extend the kitchen. I thought it was crazy, but I obliged and it all came together as they are still, even with double the space, the busiest restaurant I ever designed.
Qs. 6. An idea you had at work that you were able to bring to life?
Ahhh, yes, I do have the perfect example of that. Several years ago, I had the good fortune of the seeing the digital waterfall wall in the Salesforce Lobby building in San Francisco. A spectacular combination of technology and wow-factor. I carried this with me in my mental design file for several years, waiting for an opportunity to use it as inspiration in a restaurant design. The opportunity finally presented itself and manifested in a design I created of a digital waterfall that spills out of an inverted step ceiling on the back bar wall that customers face when seated at the bar. The waterfall glides down the wall and splashes over the tops of the liquor bottles arranged on the led lit tiered liquor display. Its a mesmerizing design element and coincidentally can be found at the “new” Cuzins Seafood & Clam Bar in New Brunswick, NJ
Qs. 7. What’s the biggest career goal you’ve ever achieved?
I would have to say, parlaying all my wisdom and experience into a new field from restaurant and nightclub operation into restaurant designer later in life, would be it. The proof would be that my career as a restaurant designer has been my most successful endeavor to date.
Qs. 8. Was there ever a time when you felt stressed or overwhelmed. How did you handle it?
Yes, it happens all the time because I am extremely busy with 6-10 restaurant design jobs in development or under construction at any given moment in time. Fortunately, I have learned, over time, how to deal with it. Being overwhelmed can be paralyzing, and my solution is a simple one, I just keep going, keep going, I do something, anything, I just keep working and getting things done. This works, as the feeling passes, I continue on and getting things done releases the pressure.
Qs. 9. There is a phrase that says, “Let’s not let perfect kill good.” What does this statement mean to you? Do you have an example of when you applied this principle in the past?
Well, having suffered from the “perfectionist” affliction when I was younger, I have also learned, over a lifetime of living, how to deal with this by changing my perspective. The benefit of being older and possessing all that wisdom gained from learning from your mistakes is that you make less mistakes! I do my very best, and I do things right, so I don’t judge it as being perfect or not, if it is my best, then I am satisfied and gratified with what I am turning out, and that’s enough.
Qs. 10. How would you define “success” for someone in your chosen career and have you achieved it?
Well, for a goal-setting over achiever, like myself, success is the game of always chasing a more significant success. I feel successful, I am doing what I enjoy, and it has provided me with a comfortable lifestyle…but…I am addicted to the thrill of always bringing things to the next level. It’s just who I am.
Qs. 11 What’s next for Raymond Haldeman?
Currently, I am in the process of pitching a new TV show, “Raymond Haldeman IS the Restaurant Designer.” It follows my exploits rom behind the gates of the magical Haldeman Estate with all the activities and lavish parties there, to my meetings with contractors, restaurant owner clients and the “before and after” when I reveal the WOW-FACTOR of my restaurant designs.
Link to TV Show Trailer: https://vimeo.com/651662961