Eric Silverstein talks about his pivot from law to the food-truck industry, a new Peached Tortilla restaurant and an upcoming cookbook.
By Meagan Leahy, Photos courtesy of Peached Tortilla
Eric Silverstein always wanted to be a sports agent. After studying finance and marketing and attending law school, he was practicing as a litigator and living his childhood dream, but something wasn’t quite right. So he quit his job, moved to Austin and started a new career in the food-truck industry. Today, he’s the owner of one of Austin’s most beloved food-truck success stories, The Peached Tortilla.
Beginning as solely a food truck in 2010, The Peached Tortilla has grown to include multiple food trucks, an in-house catering service at Peached Social House and a brick-and-mortar location. Currently, Silverstein and his team are working to open a new space this winter called Bar Peached, a spinoff of the original concept that will include a 13-seat bar plus a large outdoor patio. Silverstein is also publishing a cookbook titled The Peached Tortilla: Modern Asian Comfort Food from Tokyo to Texas, set to be released May 2019.
ATX Man sat down with Silverstein to hear how he successfully pivoted his career and landed his real dream job.
ATX Man: How did you decide to make the change from law to the food industry?
Eric Silverstein: My two passions have always been business/entrepreneurship and food. When I would take flights and had downtime, I wasn’t reading legal books; I was reading Inc. magazine and Food & Wine. It was a natural career pursuit for me, given my passions. I can’t say I knew I always wanted to be in the restaurant business. I’ve been in and out of the business, however, since I was 16 years old, when I worked at Einstein Bagels. My dad was also a restaurant owner and my mom’s family had a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles over two decades ago.
ATXM: What did the logistics of making the change in careers look like?
ES: I gave my firm notice that I was leaving. I remember pacing around the office before I stepped into the managing partner’s office. The firm was very gracious and gave me a going-away party. I was honest with them about how law wasn’t the right career path for me and that I needed to change paths now while I was still young. Then my girlfriend (now my wife) packed up our cars and drove to Austin. We had not seen our apartment, nor did we know anything about the area we were moving into. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into and did not realize the challenges I would face in the food-truck business. You can run through the motions in your head over and over, but you really have to jump in and do it to learn.
ATXM: What would you have done differently now that you’ve come through that change?
ES: I mean, I’m happy with where I’m at today. I probably couldn’t do it over again, though, knowing what I know now. Sometimes you have to be naive when you dive into business. You can’t think too much or else you’ll never go for it. You’ll have too much anxiety. Looking back, I wish I’d been a better manager and leader when I started the business. I’m still learning how to be better at those two things while running a company. It’s not easy wearing so many hats. I read a book called TheE-Myth before I started the business where the main character struggles to run a bakery because she is literally doing every job (baking the goods, handling the marketing, managing the accounting, etc.). I remember thinking, “I won’t make those mistakes. I’m smarter than that.” But I wasn’t. When you are in the middle of running a business, it’s easy to get lost at sea. And without any markers guiding you, it can take a while for you to find your way back to shore.
ATXM: What did it feel like to start and grow a business in a completely new field?
ES: Honestly, it felt like quicksand. I felt like I was running and going 100 miles per hour day in and day out, and that I wasn’t getting anywhere. That’s the thing when you start small: You wear a ton of hats and you overwork yourself for little money. It’s certainly exciting to start a business, but the payoff is like 10 years down the road. You have to be willing to sacrifice nearly everything to be successful. And that’s why most people aren’t [entrepreneurs]. The sacrifice is too great.
ATXM: What advice do you have for people considering a career change?
ES: Life is short and you should probably go for it. The worst thing in the world is to be on your deathbed, regretting the chances you never took in life. Make mistakes and fail when you are young. Do it when you don’t have a family to support and you’re not letting anyone down. It’s OK to fail. Wear it like a badge of honor. We are too afraid to fail these days and want to operate within the comfortable confines of an office or a cubicle. I say go out and chase your dreams. This is your one and only shot.