You could call Jimmy Gherardi an unlucky guy. Or the luckiest guy in Cincinnati. At times, he's been both.

As the chef and owner of J's Restaurant in Hyde Park "” an establishment that's been around a quarter century "” the ever-ebullient Gherardi has seen terrific times and troubled moments. But he's still around and so is J's. Gherardi consults for Walt Disney World in Orlando, has served fare backstage for such rock luminaries as the Rolling Stones (on the band's Voodoo tour), and is the winner of a James Beard award.

First off, will you admit to ever making a mistake? "I've been Disney trained. I've sat in on sessions about Imagineering. One of the things you learn is you do make mistakes. Have I made mistakes? You bet I have. Have I had failures? Yes. Remember, the bankers thought Walt Disney was nuts at first, so they wouldn't finance him. He took incredible risks. The Disney philosophy is take a risk, and if it doesn't work, shut it down or recreate it."

So what's your biggest mistake? "Trying to open a restaurant across the country. We opened J's in Great Neck, Long Island, [and] opened it to great reviews in The New York Times and other papers. But I couldn't do both. I run my restaurants very personally, so people in New York expected me there. All that travel wasn't good for J's in Cincinnati. It wasn't good for J's in New York. ... I still do consulting, but I do it here. I don't travel much."

What's your biggest challenge? "We've survived 23 years. During all that time, there would be rumors that J's is going out of business. It's a volatile market. Look how many restaurants have gone out of business just this year. I've been offered some of these empty spaces at very reasonable rates. But I won't jump. The biggest challenge is to stay focused on what you do best."

Your most valuable business lessons? "While you definitely need good lawyers and CPAs, what every business really needs is a good negotiator. That's one lesson. And, get totally hands-on, keep a seven-day week even when things are working best. We've just opened a cooking school here in the restaurant. ... My philosophy is to evolve, to revamp. I try not to look back. But you do have to remember what you aren't looking back on, so as not to make the same mistake again."

Any final comment? "When you acquire wisdom, you don't make as many mistakes. But it takes a tremendous amount of mistakes to gain the wisdom."