James Iranzad

Forty Under 40 Winner 2015: Founder and president, Gooseneck Hospitality, Age 39

James Iranzad, founder and president of Gooseneck Hospitality, operates three critically acclaimed restaurants with his business partner, Josh Pape. Gooseneck comprises Wildebeest, Bufala and Supermarine, a burgeoning trio of restaurants that has more than 90 employees and boasts revenues of $57 million.

In an already uber-competitive industry, Iranzad has managed to carve out a strong share of a market dominated by chains that regularly post revenues of more than double Gooseneck’s. He does it, he said, by standing close to his values.

“We make it a point to stay independent and to try new things,” he said. His values, if his restaurants are an indication, reflect his personality. Each boasts a unique style, form and content on the plate, demonstrating passion for variety that bespeaks his studies in art history and Shakespearean literature at the University of British Columbia.

“It’s an appreciation for beautiful things,” said Iranzad, who has been described as a renaissance man and a legend in the Vancouver restaurant industry. “[Restaurants] can be an amazing measuring stick of how society is performing at large.”

He’s doing his part to prove Vancouver is performing well indeed. Wildebeest has garnered local awards for best new restaurant and best new design, and Bufala and Supermarine are already receiving critical acclaim.

He attributes much of his success to the quality of his employees, staff he’s attracted by making his company what he terms “a great place to work.” It’s not an easy task while competing with companies that, with revenues of over $100 million, have deep pockets to secure and retain talent on the payroll.

“I’m providing a stimulating environment where our staff can continue to learn and thrive,” he said. It doesn’t hurt that Gooseneck provides industry-leading employee compensation and benefits.

Yet for all his success, Iranzad understands the struggle faced by many restaurateurs in the city. He’s an active board member of the Vancouver Hospitality Foundation, a registered charity that helps people in the restaurant industry in times of need.

Birthplace: Tehran, Iran

Where you live now: Kitsilano

Highest level of education: BA from UBC in art history and Shakespearean studies

Currently reading: Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity, written by my friend Edward Slingerland

Currently listening to: Leon Bridges, Chet Baker, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: A defence attorney and striker for Manchester United

Profession you would most like to try: Writer

Toughest business or professional decision: My toughest professional decision came at the beginning of my career, fresh out of my undergrad. It was deciding which single path to dedicate all that young energy and passion to, making sure I could be creative and fulfilled, and live a happy life. While the path seemed daunting, the decision – ultimately – turned out not to be so challenging

Advice you would give the younger you: Slow your roll, kid ... and buy more real estate

Join us to celebrate the 2015 Forty under under 40 Awards January 27, 2016 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40.