2018 Best MBAs: Felipe Branco, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Felipe Branco

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

“Businessman by training, chef by passion. Believer that food can be a vehicle for change.”

Age: 25

Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil

Fun fact about yourself: I am a passionate cook and have represented UofT in the 2017 Intercollegiate Iron Chef Competition (UofT team placed second) and will represent UofT again this year as we travel to Montreal to bring home the #1 spot

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Business Administration, School of Economics, Business and Accounting, University of Sao Paulo

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • Management Consultant – Business Integration Partners
  • M&A Analyst – EP Capital
  • Founder/Business Partner – DGB Investimentos

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Founded an independent consulting company focused in the restaurant and beverage industry – FF Consulting, Toronto, Canada

Where will you be working after graduation? Zebu Steak + Bar – Managing Partner – Supply and Inventory Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: (Include school awards and honors)

  • Rotman School of Management Entrance Award
  • Founder and President of the Rotman Culinary Club (RCC) – Student led initiative to bring people together through hands-on cooking workshops, visits to farmers markets, etc. RCC uses food as a vehicle to celebrate culture with the Rotman Community. RCC currently has 110 members and is proud to share with the Rotman Community sustainable food practices, regional recipes and events in the restaurant industry focused in underdeveloped communities in Toronto, like the Recipe for Change.
  • President of the Rotman Wine Society (RWS) – Student led association with 360+ members focused on creating events that encourage the Rotman Community to learn more about wine and other libations while networking with like-minded people.
  • Member of the University of Toronto’s Iron Chef team, placed 2nd in the 2017 Intercollegiate Iron Chef Competition. Currently competing in the 2018 championship hosted by McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
  • Led the Section Dinner Experience as part of the Rotman Orientation Week. Organized 4 events where a total of 350 students and staff cooked dinner at a local Community Center (Scadding Court). It was a great team building exercise and humbling experience, where students learned about food, community and the amazing work conducted by Scadding Court in helping young underprivileged teenagers and small-business to succeed.
  • Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award – University of Toronto

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of founding the Rotman Culinary Club (RCC). It is very rewarding to see that business students appreciate cooking and are interested in learning new recipes and discovering new cultures through food. Rotman has 30+ student run clubs and it was not easy to get RCC approved. Our passionate executive team had to convince and show the relevance of founding RCC to Rotman administration, Graduate Business Council (GBC), the Director of Student Life, etc. Our initial goal was for 60 members, however when the club was officially founded, RCC gathered 110 members, which shows the interest of the Rotman students.

The Rotman Culinary Club will continue to benefit the Rotman Community long after I graduate and that is something I am very proud of.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Just before coming to Rotman I quit my consulting job and decided to spend four months working in different restaurants in Italy. I am proud of that decision because I believe it takes courage to pursue your dreams. It’s easy to just follow the herd. In Italy, I worked under the famous butcher/chef, Dario Cecchini, soon to be featured on Netflix Chef’s Table. This experience opened many doors for me in the culinary world and confirmed that I want to be involved in the food industry post-graduation.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Brian S. Silverman – Professor of Strategic Management – In 2016, Brian taught one of the ‘core’ courses of the 1st year of MBA, Statistics for Management. Brian is a brilliant professor and a true outstanding presenter, managing to keep his audience engaged even when talking about Stats, which is a topic that most people don’t love. The course was structured very effectively and in a practical way, as Brian constantly gave real-life examples of how to apply what we were learning to data analysis for better decision making, always with a unique sense of humor.

Why did you choose this business school? My decision-making process was a bit different than most students. I was set on Canada from day one. Once that was decided, choosing Rotman was easy. Rotman is the number one business school in Canada and a truly diverse school (with more 40 countries represented), located in the heart of the most important international hub in Canada, Toronto. Toronto is a growing city, full of opportunities to explore. Additionally, Rotman is part of the University of Toronto, a true global player and among the world’s most prestigious universities.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? The Rotman MBA Class is very diverse, with students coming from all over the world and from very different background in terms of industry, work experience, etc. Therefore, there is not a “right” candidate profile for Rotman.

My best advice is: be yourself in the interview. Try to show the admissions team why you think Rotman will help you in your career plans, what makes you unique, and what value you bring to the school. Being different is seen as a quality by Rotman, a school known to embrace diversity as no other does.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I believe that Rotman’s biggest myth is that many people believe that you only succeed at Rotman if you target career in finance or consulting. Although a large percentage of the class does pursue careers in those industries, I can think of many students who ventured into “outside the box” industries and are very successful and happy with their decision. Rotman has more to offer than only finance and consulting.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was not to have followed my plan from day one. When I decided to come to Rotman I had a clear plan in my head, that I would use my MBA to pursue a career that would merge my passion (cooking) with my professional career (finance/consulting).

 However, after a couple weeks from the beginning of my MBA experience, I saw myself attending investment banking and consulting info sessions, taking part of several finance case competitions, and networking in those industries – a classic example of “following the herd” behavior.

Only after 6 months and a lot of time invested, I came to realize that I should pursue my dream and my goals, even if they were different than those of the majority of my classmates. It took a while for me to make the decision and finally I started to focus in my original plan. So again, believe in yourself and follow your dreams, don’t “follow the herd.”

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? That is a hard one, I admire many classmates, especially those who take the risk to follow their dreams and give-up the “security/stability” of a traditional career.

I also deeply admire my classmates who have kids, and especially a really good friend of mine who has TWO under the age of 7. I honestly don’t know how they manage to accomplish all the demanding tasks and extracurricular activities of their MBA program while giving their kids all the time, love, and energy they require. They have mastered time-management for sure!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I think in my case it was a combination of factors. I have family who did pursue business in college and they did influence my decision. But I also had always wanted to open my own business, so a business school seemed like a logical choice for me.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a chef, working in a Michelin star restaurant in Italy.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? That is another hard question, as there are many things I would like to do…but what can you really do in one day?! However, I think that one very impactful decision that would positively contribute to the Rotman MBA students experience would be to stop disclosing the students’ GPA to companies. I know of many fellow classmates (myself included) that stressed so much about grades, fearing that we would never get hired. I believe that the pressure imposed (self-imposed) to students is so strong that some of us focus so much on grades and forget to explore all the interesting and one-time opportunities that the MBA experience offers. Of course, grades are important, but so are other extracurricular activities, networking events, etc. A non-disclosure GPA system would, in my opinion, would make the Rotman experience less stressful and more enjoyable.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Spend a week skiing in Val Gardena, Italy

Visit British Columbia, including Vancouver and Whistler, and Banff National Park in Alberta.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would be happy already if my peers remember me. In a program with 350 students, it is not easy to remember everyone. I would be especially happy if my peers remember me as someone who helped enhance their Rotman experience through the Rotman Culinary Club and the Wine Society.

What is your favorite movie about business? The China Hustle – A documentary featured at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, which I had the opportunity to attend last year.

The documentary portrays a very unsettling Wall Street reality that many people might not know, the vulnerability and sometimes sketchiness of some Chinese Companies traded at the American Stock Market.

The biggest lesson that I gained from the documentary was the notion that greed makes investment bankers, lawyers, and investors overlook important risks and signs of fraud that can lead to another financial crisis. As business students, we need to keep this in mind as we work

What would your theme song be? Antonio Vivaldi – “Allegro non molto’ from “Winter,” from “The Four Seasons” (Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297) (Which also happens to be the theme song of my favorite TV Show – Chefs Table)

Favorite vacation spot: Tuscany, Italy – More specifically the Chianti region, between Siena and Florence

Hobbies? Too many hobbies, just to name a few: Cooking, Traveling, Photography and Skiing

What made Felipe such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Very few things in this world can connect people and build community more than sharing a meal. Recognizing the importance of this Felipe Branco worked tirelessly to launch the Culinary Club at Rotman. Felipe took his passion and expertise as a professionally trained chef to help his classmates learn to cook and more importantly come together as a community.

This year Felipe did something quite remarkable, he spent more than 2 months (and many 15 hour days) building a unique project for MBA orientation where each section of 70 students had the opportunity to learn to cook a meal at a local community centre. This centre, which supports many newcomers and marginalized communities, is often forgotten or not even on the radar of most MBA students. Felipe worked with the Student Life Office and Executive Director of the Community Centre to animate an experience that involved all 350 incoming students. Not only did they source local ingredients and learn to cook a delicious meal together. The funds raised from this experience funded employment opportunities for youth from the criminal justice system. He took a simple idea like creating a meal as classmates and used it as a learning opportunity for the incoming class while creating a win for the community centre. This small but important gesture helped shape the tone and culture for the school year and reminded the entire class of their responsibility as future business leaders. Felipe continued his selfless service when he was back home in Sao Paulo this past January where he invited 17 Rotman students (who were on a study tour), along with Dean Tiff Macklem, to his grandmother’s home for a meal where he shared his culture, hospitality and love for local cuisine. In the future, I have no doubt that Felipe will continue to shine and eventually open up a restaurant of his own that will not only serve world class cuisine, he’ll do it in a way that benefits the people around him.”

Neel Joshi

Director of Student Life & International Experience


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