Changing gender roles are key to accelerating the culture shift around changing the way we work and live. Redefining Masculinity is an editorial package that investigates what it means to be a man in 2017—and beyond. As part of it, we’re asking a wide range of men across industries, ages and background to answer 6 questions about what masculinity means to them. Read more about the project here. Here’s Adam Elzer, founder of REC Hospitality. 

Thrive Global: How would you define masculinity?
Adam Elzer: The first thing that comes to mind when trying to define masculinity is Clint Eastwood playing Blondie in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” I’m not sure Blondie would fit into today’s world, but I think he defines masculine (something that I’m not sure I viewed as an important trait to be a man).

TG: Who in your life shaped your view of masculinity?
AE: My grandfather, my dad and my mom. My mother never appreciated when men felt a need to show how masculine they could be.

TG: Was there a particular moment when you felt you’d become a man?
AE: I remember coming home from my first job as a busboy with what I thought was a lot of money…That moment I remember feeling like I was capable of surviving as an adult, and thinking that I was a man. Outside of that moment, I still view myself more as a kid than a man.

TG: How has society’s view of men changed since you were a kid?
AE: I think society has started to push out some of the old and silly views that a man needs to act tough to be a man. Today men can be emotional, listen to silly pop music songs, dance down the street and not have to act “hard” to fit in with the guys.

TG: Does masculinity influence your work? If so, how?
AE: Not much. In a kitchen there are a lot of rough and tough men who are working with knives and fire…My general rule is if you act like Blondie then you probably aren’t right for our team.

TG: What do you try to teach your son about what it means to be a man?
AE: I don’t push any agenda on my son and how to be a man. If he wants to wear an Elsa dress and sing the song from Frozen then he can. He will form his own opinions on being a man over time… There are plenty of moral values that I try to teach him, but showing him how to be masculine or be a man is not on the list. At 3 years old all I care about is him smiling and enjoying life.

Adam Elzer has been a restauranteur in the New York City hospitality industry for the last 10 years. In 2010 he was one of the founding partners of Empellon and then moved on to start REC Hospitality in 2015 (Sauce Restaurant, Coco & Cru and LES Pizza).