All in Restaurant

The Meat Guy

When a passion enters your life and, shall we say, “takes over”. You have two choices to make. The first and most obvious choice for most of us missing the enterprise gene is to let the moment pass then see what it feels like in the cold light of morning. Whether or not it was a good idea. The second choice, and the one followed by those who are truly blessed with the industry gene. Is to follow the passion wherever it leads you. For Charlie Torgerson his “passion” awakened and first led him to Alaska then into a life heavily shrouded in spice rubs, sauces and wood smoke.

The Bug Man

Here’s a dream many of us have had in the restaurant business. We’re sitting at a table in our favorite restaurant. Over the shoulder of our companion at the table, a fly buzzes lazily in the sunlight. We reach for our soda glass and absent mindedly shoo away a fruit fly swirling over the glass. You open the napkin covered breadbasket of warm rolls to find a few black specks that don’t look like poppy seeds. At the table next to you, you notice a something crawling up the leg of the empty chair. It’s a cockroach. Just then a woman screams on the other side of the room. You can clearly hear her yell…mouse! As the commotion rises you look more carefully around the room and realize… this is your dining room!

The Passion of Chili

This is not a story about a passion for Chili, it’s about the passion of the chili. A fervor that encompasses more than a desire for just a hearty bowl of meat stewed in spices. And it doesn’t matter whether there are beans involved or if there’s a specific condiment to dress the potion. Because in the world of chili created by Brian Walusis and his partner Mason Downey in the small river town of Miamisburg, Ohio chili is elevated and celebrated as a locally inspired craft no less involved or honored than any other culinary artisan craft.

There are several meccas of chili in the United States. The few that come easily to mind are Albuquerque, New Mexico for its green chile and pork version. Then there’s the red chile and beef potion sold on the plazas of San Antonio for nearly 200 years by the Chili Queens. Why there’s still a reverent following of the hand chopped beef and pork version simmered with spices, tomatoes and beans once found only at the Hollywood restaurant of Dave Chasen. These are all examples of how great food can and will pop up in the most unimaginable places. So, to find a restaurant in the small hamlet of Miamisburg, Ohio dedicating itself to chili is not a stretch at all.

The Devil in the Details

So, when you grow up in Chicago or have lived there for a while, there’s going to be a hot dog somewhere in your life’s tale of adventure. For Alan Katz, the hot dog has come to mean a path to success in an industry he loves and has been devoted to for over 40 years.

Alan’s route to success in the hot dog world is an interesting tale of an early passion for food that took him to the CIA, hotel kitchens, a small seafood chain and a first try at his own restaurant that didn’t quite make it. Working through these ups and downs prepared him for the leap of faith he took in a small (less than 400 square foot) hot dog stand called Devil Dawgs. His menu innovations and dedication to good service has helped him and his partners parlay this concept into a chain they hope will be swept up by a larger company.

Spiros Zakas, designer

Spiros was a very large influence in restaurant designs starting in the mid 70’s not only in Chicago with the work he did lettuce entertain you and others, but around the country as well. He had a sense of place and purpose in his restaurant designs that not only created a great experience for the guest, but also provided a practical approach to operations as well. Elements that all too often in a lot of restaurants I’ve seen and worked with don’t co-exist as well as they should. Too many designers today are more focused on form than function which may create a beautiful environment for the guest but presents inherent operating difficulties that get in the way of good service.

A Place Where Everyone Knows Your Name

The prospect of being your own boss and owning your own business is a dream many people from all sort of backgrounds have. It’s one that can frighten you and those close to you, or it can empower you to succeed and those around you to pitch in where they can to first show their love and second to do what they can to help that dream become a reality. When the latter exists, nothing is impossible, or so it seems.