‘You gotta love what you do’: FIU students get real-life advice from Miami hospitality entrepreneur David Grutman, DJ Khaled

Coolest class on campus is back in session

David Grutman and DJ Khaled share their business advice with FIU students.

Nearly 400 students arrived at Biscayne Bay Campus early for what you might have thought was a new sneaker release or the opening of a new nightclub. It was day one of FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management’s most popular course — The David Grutman Experience: The Class, taught by renowned Miami restaurateur and nightlife entrepreneur David Grutman.

The excitement started as students checked in and received a swag bag full of products and exclusive merch, including a branded class shirt made by famed streetwear designer Warren Lotas.

Every student received a “swag bag” full of exclusive merch.

Once inside, dim lights, music and a hype video set the mood, followed by a warm and very enthusiastic welcome from FIU Hospitality dean Michael Cheng.

Once on stage, Grutman shared his class goals: to “inspire” students to be in the hospitality business, “drive” their entrepreneurial spirit and help them “apply” the tools to whatever they choose to do.

Then he shared his own journey. Grutman began his career in hospitality as a bartender in a restaurant at Aventura Mall. While climbing his way up the ladder, he said one of the most important lessons he learned in business is the importance of building your network, which can happen while you’re still in school.

“How you keep your network growing and growing is you connect people, and you step back,” Grutman said.

Lots of hands up to ask questions of Professor Dave Grutman.

Grutman is the owner of Groot Hospitality, which owns restaurants Komodo, Papi Steak, Swan, The Key Club, Gekkō and Strawberry Moon. His ventures also include nightclubs LIV at Fontainebleau and Story, and The Goodtime Hotel on South Beach. LIV has been around for 14 years, which Grutman says are “dog years” in the nightlife business. His hospitality group is worth millions and growing. He shared with students his next ventures, which include a resort and out-of-this-world plans to be the first hospitality group to have a restaurant in outer space.

This is his third time teaching the course at FIU Hospitality. The last time was in March 2021, when the class had to be socially distanced due to the pandemic. Now, enrollment is triple the size.

What’s his secret to success? He credits his team, which he brought with him to class. The entire group, from the executive head chef to legendary club promoter Purple Miami, stood up to say hello.

His other secret to living the dream? “I love what I do. I wake up, go to sleep thinking of what I’m going to do tomorrow, and I wake up excited in the morning to do it. Let me say this again, I love what I do. Let me repeat myself, you gotta love what you do,” said Grutman.

For about an hour and a half, Grutman spoke to students and conducted a Q&A (question and answer) session. Then, he made a surprise announcement and welcomed on stage his friend and Grammy-award-winning artist DJ Khaled.

DJ Khaled told the students he remembers being in their shoes, when he was first starting out and offered them this advice, “I promise…you stay focused on that path and I’m going to promise…you will get everything you work hard for. I’m living proof.”

After both Grutman and DJ Khaled talked about their families and life’s ups and downs, another surprise guest took the stage, former Bad Boys 90s rapper and now prime minister candidate in Belize, Moses Barrow, aka Shyne.

Throughout the night, students cheered in excitement, while taking pictures and video. Emotions in the room spilled out onto social media with posts like, “I had to hold my tears this evening. Tonight was iconic!” said @gemarinok and “Thank you for this incredible opportunity to learn from the best!” said @komi.lya.

Three hours and hundreds of reposts later, the class consensus seems to be “Looking forward to next class” – said @moroojhamed.

David Grutman (l), Shyne (m), DJ Khaled (r) speak to FIU students.

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