Raising the Bar

Did Bethenny Frankel invent making big bucks in reality TV?

Betsy Alexander, CNBC
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Each week CNBC's "Raising the Bar" series will provide insight into the minds of business leaders as they talk candidly in some of Manhattan's most interesting watering holes about everything from making mistakes to making it big.

Maybe yes, maybe no, but she's certainly done it on a grander scale than anyone else.

Multi-hyphenate, Bethenny Frankel—founder & CEO of SkinnyGirl, reality TV star, best-selling author, natural foods chef and mom—sat down with Marc Murphy, owner of Benchmarc Restaurants, chef/judge on "Chopped," and now author of "Season With Authority," at the beautiful Brandy Library in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood. And the talk got real really quickly: TV vs. real life personas (and how that helps, or hurts, in business). Real vs, professional "focus testing," and the really hard work of building a brand.

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"I just don't think that people now—especially in this generation—work that hard," said Frankel. "They don't get how hard it is…."

Bethenny Frankel hosts Arizona Beverages SkinnyGirl Sparklers' new flavor launch party on Jan. 20, 2015, in New York City.
Getty Images

Both agree that being on television, while risky, has helped their businesses, even though it can be a double-edged sword. Frankel said: "Sometimes it's like making a deal with the devil … this is the life we chose … you can't start complaining when it's not good, when you've ridden this amazing ride." Murphy, who's also benefited businesswise from being a judge on a popular Food Network series, reveals that sometimes an unhappy restaurant patron will recommend that he get "Chopped."

So how do you stay relevant in a trend-filled business where the "next big thing" is speeding up behind you? Frankel doesn't think about it. "I just think I am relevant. And if I'm irrelevant, it's time, I'll call the fight." For Murphy, he said, it's a little different: "I hope to God I'm always relevant. I mean, I hope everyone's going to still eat."

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Brandy Library

If you're looking for an education in whiskey and brandy, or just a sampling of some of the world's finest, Brandy Library boasts one of the most comprehensive collections in the world of both. Owner and COO Flavien Desoblin, who conducts classes in all things spirituous, has some advice on how to approach a tasting:

  • Pay attention to the color but be aware of manufacturing tricks, such as darkening Scotch with spirit-grade caramel.
  • Learn to pay attention to the wood type specified on the label and remember the main differences between U.S. oak and EU oak: vanilla, butterscotch and coconut for the first, nutty, fruity and spicy together for the second.
  • Use a tulip-shaped glass or something as close as possible to a snifter shape. Wine glasses work just fine. You want to be able to swirl the whisky in the glass and concentrate the aromas to the rim level.

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  • Water in between drinks rather than in the drink. The ones you try neat and seem harsh to you either need a bit of water or will just shine in a highball with soda. Force yourself to gargle it: exposing your taste buds for longer than usual will make you feel it, instead of just gulping it down like a cowboy!
  • Repeat: Go back to these whiskeys you've had a few months ago and notice your different understanding of them. Be aware of the people, mood, design/walls and color tones, the noise surrounding you, as all these can affect your judgment.