Podcast Episode 33

Let’s Save Our Restaurants! Master Sommelier and Restaurateur Bobby Stuckey

Bobby Stuckey | 35 Minutes | March 8, 2022

In this episode, we’re speaking with Master Sommelier, restaurateur, and celebrated leader in the hospitality industry, Bobby Stuckey.

Bobby is the Master Sommelier and Co-Owner of Frasca Hospitality Group, a collection of four Colorado restaurants, one of which, Frasca Food and Wine, won the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Service.

Bobby began his distinguished career in restaurants in his home state of Arizona, working his way from dishwasher to management, establishing his position as one of the leaders in the hospitality industry. Bobby has received some of the restaurant and wine industry’s highest honors, such as James Beard Foundation nominations for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional and Outstanding Wine Service. In 2000, Bobby worked with world-renowned chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, California. Within his first year, Stuckey lead the acclaimed restaurant’s team to earn the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Wine Service award and San Francisco Magazine recognized him as “Wine Director of the Year.” The French Laundry also received the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant Service in 2003.

Join us today as we chat with Bobby about his journey from a busboy to restaurateur, and how he’s advocating for an industry in crisis.

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Notes & Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann, and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode we’re speaking with Master Sommelier, Restaurateur, and celebrated leader in the hospitality industry, Mr. Bobby Stuckey.

Bobby has received some of the restaurant and wine industry’s’ highest honors such as James Beard Foundation nominations for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional, and Outstanding Wine Service.

Today, Bobby is the owner and Master Sommelier of three Colorado restaurants, one of which, Frasca Food and Wine, won the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Service.

Join us today as we chat with Bobby about his journey from a busboy to restaurateur, and how he has helped shape the hospitality industry.
There he is. Good morning, Bobby. How are you?

Bobby Stuckey: Well, I’m great. It’s such an honor to be on here. Thank you so much, Kirk. It’s great to be on. Thanks for having me.

Kirk Bachmann: Absolutely. Did you get a run in this morning?

A Love of Running

Bobby Stuckey:  I just did. I actually just did a run. An eight and a half mile run with a local wine and importer, Craig Lewis, and a local restauranteur, Bryan Dayton, who owns Corrida and Oak.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s what’s so cool about watching you your escapades every day. You’re, you’re not only running, which is great for your health and your mind and all that, but you’re networking the whole time. There’s always somebody else. Do you keep up with them or do they have to keep up with you?

Bobby Stuckey: I try to keep up with them. Let’s be honest. Any time, those two, they were easy on me today.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. I love it. Hey, can you, I love, love, love the photo behind you. Is it a painting?

Bobby Stuckey It’s a photograph. I’ll give you a little more view of it. It is a photographer named Slim Aarons, and this was one of the photos he did in Palm Springs in the late sixties, seventies. I think it’s called the Newman House.

Kirk Bachmann: Okay

Bobby Stuckey:  This is one of his favorite famous pics here, stateside. He did a lot of photos of people in Europe, in leisure, at that same time period. My wife’s a big fan of this photographer. We got it for her birthday, I think five, six years ago.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. I mean, it’s 38 degrees in Boulder, so I look at that and I just get a little warmed up right away.

Bobby Stuckey:  Yeah.

Kirk Bachmann: Hey, so first and foremost, Bobby, we’re the ones that are honored. We know how busy you are and I just can’t thank you enough for spending a little time with us this morning. First and foremost, thank you again for serving as Escoffier’s recent commencement speaker.

So inspirational, so appropriate, so relevant, so timely. Your story was real, and really resonated with everyone. We’re still hearing people talk about it. So, a big, big, big, thank you for that. That was super, super cool.

Life As a Cyclist

I’m going to jump right in, you know, we both live in Boulder. I don’t know how many people know this, but I attended a super cool sort of Q and A that was super, super casual couple of years ago. It was over at Rapa across the street, kind of from the restaurant. I know that you’re an avid runner. We just talked about that. I didn’t know until that day that you’re a one-time professional cyclist – team Shaklee I think it was in the early nineties. Let’s talk about that a little bit. I love cycling. I think it’s the coolest.

Bobby Stuckey : Well yeah, me too. It’s a great sport and you know that was in the early nineties. I was lucky enough – I had raced the 1992 season as an amateur over in the Basque Country of Spain. I came back. I was kind of for a moment without a, what they call here, domestically a trade team to be on. I was on a smaller regional team and I had a really good spring of 1993. And, um, there was a spot that came available on Shaklee. Actually, the team leader, Jamie Carney, was living in Flagstaff where I was working as a waiter and studying for my initial sommelier exam and he kept seeing me at these races and I just had a really good spring. I got picked up by them and it was really a wonderful time in my life. It’s funny though, at that time, domestically as an American pro cyclist, unless you were one of the guys go into Europe, you pretty much had a second job. And I kept staying in the restaurant business the whole time. I feel really lucky for that too, but I, I loved that I got to do that. It was great. It added a lot of discipline in my life because if you’re going to wake up and get your 20 plus hours of training in a week and still have a job at night as a server, you gotta be really focused and really organized and it really helped me.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, did that time in Europe where food and wine and drink, and coffee is super, super important, right. Culture – did it help?

Bobby Stuckey:  100%. You know, I was over there, there was in the Basque Country at that season, there were only a couple Americans racing over there. There was one gentleman named Michael Alvarado. He’s now a cancer surgeon in the bay area. He was up in a small town up near Bilbao and I was about 50 kilometers way outside of Victoria with another Boulderite who also lives here, Jeff Winkler, who coached for CU for a long time.

Kirk Bachmann: Oh wow. Okay.

Bobby Stuckey:  Jeff and I were on a team that was actually sponsored by a coffee importing company. So it was great. There was food all around all the time. So as a guy that was into food and wine, it was a great place to race, and maybe it wasn’t my strongest attributes. It’s pretty hilly there and I’m kind of a little bit of a bigger guy, but I got through the season, it was okay.

Kirk Bachmann: When did it kind of transition to running or are you still cycling whenever you can?
Bobby Stuckey I still cycle when I can. It just takes a little bit more time than running. I started off as a runner as a kid and then got into cycling and then when I got done with cycling in a competitive level, I just went right back into running just because it’s a great balancing act with working in restaurants.

Friuli Food and Wine Book

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. I love it. I love it. Can we talk about the book just real quick? I absolutely love it. It’s heavy all, 264 pages of it, right. Just gorgeous. And the foreword by Danny Meyer is so absolutely thoughtful. It’s very clear, Bobby, that you’re unbelievably respected in the industry. Can you talk a little bit about how the book came to be and, perhaps a little bit about the Friuli region? I know that the culture there is so near and dear to you, but yeah, let’s chat about the book a little bit.

Bobby Stuckey:  So the book really – kind of throw out what you think of is like a restaurant book. Yes, it’s written by the Frasca team, but Frasca as a restaurant is based on the cuisine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Northeastern Italy. And this book really, think of it as a love letter to that region.

Kirk Bachmann: Oh gosh. I love that.

Bobby Stuckey: It is kind of divided into three parts. It’s part kind of teach you how to drink wine over there, how to travel over there, and of course, how to cook the dishes. So, it really is about the cuisine, the culture, and the wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. I feel very lucky that Locket and I, and my wife Jeannette found that wonderful region 20 plus years ago and fell in love with it. It’s given us so much reward as a restaurant group.

Traveling To Italy

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. I think I told you, you know, we’re looking to go over with the family in the fall and the more I researched it, it’s a blending of a lot of cultures, right? I mean, you can fly into Munich and get a little bit of the Alps in Germany, you can go into Austria. I think you typically fly into Venice, right?

Bobby Stuckey:  Venice or Trieste. This year during COVID we couldn’t get into the, they didn’t have the connect Munich-Trieste, but that’s a really good flight. Venice is easy too, but yes, you’re 100%, right, Kirk. I always like to say it’s the Northern part of the Italian culture. It’s the Southern part of what was the Austrian empire and it is the Western border of Eastern Europe, and they all collide right there – Udine, Graecia, and Trieste. it’s really, really what excited me.

From Busboy to Restauranteur

Kirk Bachmann: Beautiful people, beautiful food. So, let’s talk about you a little bit more. You’ve talked about, I’ve heard on podcasts and I’ve read, you know, school was a little challenging for you when you were growing up, but you found, ironically enough, solace in the chaos of the kitchen, particularly as a busboy or even a dishwasher and a server.

And it sort of reminds me, this is going to be funny, but it sort of reminds me of the matrix films, right? When the bullets slow down and Neo grabs one of them, and then completely has a full understanding of the power, right? That’s dramatic, but is that what it was like for you? Is that where you found peace?

Bobby Stuckey:  Yeah, I think that, look, it wasn’t that I wasn’t trying to be a student. I tried really hard. I just wasn’t great at being a student and I really worked my tail-end off to be average or below average. And then I have a brother who we’re born on the same day, two years apart, academia was very, very easy for him.

And it’s funny, we’re still very, very close. We’d run a marathon a year together. He is my best friend. I really, I just remember my first couple of weeks working in the restaurant business – just that frenetic energy really, I felt like I found my people. I was able to do it. I got positive reinforcement and I really enjoyed it.

The more I stayed in the restaurant business, you don’t know what you’re doing when you’re a teenager, but I knew I liked it. And so what do you do? You keep doing things that you like, and as I kept growing up, I was growing up in the restaurant business and I thought, wow. And look, things have changed a lot, like when I was in college at Northern Arizona university in the late eighties, early nineties, there wasn’t as direct of a path of how to be a restaurant person. Now, you know, with so many great culinary schools, universities, and also media – food media has helped people understand our industry. We didn’t have that back then. But, I just kept growing in the industry and I’m just so thankful that it found me.

The Importance of Family

Kirk Bachmann: : Let’s segway to family a little bit. You mentioned your brother and I believe your folks are in the area as well. From what I’ve seen on social media.

Bobby Stuckey: They live in Phoenix, but they have a townhome up here, and my dad retired. He’s 76. He retired six years ago. They got a place up near Wonderland Lake. So, you know, they’re both very active people. It’s great. Having them out here.

Kirk Bachmann:  That’s great. What was family important, supportive and the directions that you took in your, in your life and in your career?

Bobby Stuckey: I mean, I think one of the biggest gifts I have is a very supportive family. I mean, look, especially back then. I remember, telling people that you wanted to be in the restaurant business when you graduated from college in 1992 was not a popular sentiment. It really took having great parents that were like, ‘Yeah. do it. Go for it. You know. Be the best that you can be.’ That’s what we can all take away from. Support doesn’t always have to be monetary. support can just be a great hug and encouragement.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that.

Bobby Stuckey: One of the most powerful things ever.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. Well said, family is so, so important.

Commencement at Escoffier

Bobby Stuckey: When I got done and I got off the stage for the commencement speech for the end of the 20, 21 semester, I saw that played out all over the place. It was amazing seeing all those supportive families for the students and you have such great diversity of students between age and walks of life, where they are in the country. And you saw that universal supportiveness from all those families. I thought it was just so awesome.

Kirk Bachmann: Thanks for saying that. We know that the majority of our students can’t get through themselves. It’s their support system. It’s their spouses, their kids, their grandparents, their parents. Yeah. Really, really, really well said.

The Journey to Master Sommelier

For you then, as you ventured into this industry, I’m really curious what stimulated your love for wine and hospitality and service. That’s the theme of everything I see of anything related to you. It’s about an incredible guest experience. You really like your customers, which I believe is really important in business, right? Like your customer.

Where did that love of wine – did somebody turned you in that direction? Or is that just something that naturally occurred?

Bobby Stuckey:  I always love listening to people say how they got into wine. And look, I’m not going to try to pretend that I had a glass of 1961 Chateau Latour and the heavens opened up and these angels flew around my head. That didn’t happen. I didn’t have that experience. I’m always curious when I hear those things, because I’m a pretty good wine taster and I just don’t understand how at the beginning of your career, you could taste something that stupendous and it just changed your career path. How I found it was kind of what you said earlier is I just love taking care of people. At that time period in the late eighties, early nineties, we did not have a linear path for, for people who wanted to become more professional. And I was working in, it was 1992. I was working. I had gone to work for a restaurant called Bricks and Flagstaff, and they had a very, for that time period in, especially in a community as small as Flagstaff, a really cool wine program and wine shop with this restaurant and the guy who kind of ran the wine program, his name was Robert Fusco. He taught really great wine class. And I just loved them. They were on Wednesdays and I just loved them. And I thought, well, if I want to be a really good waiter, this is important as a way to best take care of my guests because my guests would come in and especially the Flagstaff, we had some wines that maybe were not normal for that marketplace. So I needed to learn about them and I loved our Wednesday class. And then I saw on his, the mail. Uh, he had his mail laid out and he was doing some work at the bar and he had this envelope for the Court of Master Sommeliers. This is before this was on websites. You couldn’t go Google or anything. And he had this envelope about this calendar of classes for the next year. And I was like, wow, I want to go do this.

Kirk Bachmann: Kind of serendipitous then, you kind of, you know, you’re looking in the right place, right?

Bobby Stuckey:  Yeah. It was just, and that’s how it really happened was just going to those classes on Wednesdays. And then I would like volunteer to help him do inventory. I just was found it fascinating.

Kirk Bachmann: So for our listeners, I mean, I think it’s really important to mention that you earned your Master of Sommeliers diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers, which hopefully I get this all right – considered by many to be the ultimate professional credential in the wine and spirits service industry, right? I think there’s less than 250 people in the world that have passed that exam. And you know, then of course, boom, you’re at the Little Nell, you’re at The French Laundry.

Taking The Court of Master Sommeliers Exam

I have a couple of questions. You know, some of my team knew that we were chatting today and you know, to your point, I can’t wait to hear your response to this. You read about the difficulty of getting through that test, but also some of the quirky sort of habits that people who taste wine go through, you know, taking decongestants or not brushing their teeth before they taste wine because they don’t want to impact the taste of the wine.

Where there any quirky sort of rituals or was it pretty straight forward for you?

Bobby Stuckey:  It was pretty straightforward for me. I mean, I think it was just like anything, a lot of one step forward, one step forward, just putting one step in front of the other. I do think, you know, get in a routine, whatever that may be for your day. For me, it was waking up and going for a run before the exam. Those things really helped, but it is a difficult exam. I wish we could make it less difficult. I always think if you’re, if you’re an examining or a teaching board, our goal should be to get more people to pass because then we’re doing a good job educating.

The one thing that makes that exam tough. It isn’t the examined itself. It’s that you have one day a year to do it. And so for some of us that could be test anxiety or they’re just not used to in everyday life putting themselves out there that hard for a couple day exam. And that’s the thing that tends to be hard about the exam. And I lived through that. It took me at the last level, it took me six attempts. And I think part of it was because it’s just, it gets bigger than it needs to be – for you personally.

Working at The Little Nell and The French Laundry

Kirk Bachmann: Kind of like the Olympics a little bit. Right. It’s got to come together on that day, right?
Let’s talk a little bit about The Little Nell. The first time I’d dined at The Little Nell, I don’t even know what year it was, but, you know, chef George Mahaffey was there.

Bobby Stuckey:  Yeah. He was there when I was there.

Kirk Bachmann: That was a while ago. So our paths may have crossed, but Little Nell, still an absolutely charming, beautiful, unbelievable, you know, spot in Aspen, and then The French Laundry. So, I’m just curious, especially for our listeners, you worked your way up and then boom, like a rocket ship. Little Nell, French laundry. It does not get much better than that. Thomas Keller. How did that all come about? Was it connections? Was it, I aspire to this and that’s where I’m going?

Bobby Stuckey:  It was interesting. There weren’t a lot of sommelier jobs in Arizona where I was living. And I was applying at the Venetian. They had like an assistant position open. I had applied. I think I applied, well, there weren’t many positions. I tried to get a job. I was just looking for an assistant position and a friend of mine, Tom Kauffman, who ran Krista Kauffman who owned Rancho Pino, I was helping them out. And I was looking at the Venetian and I had interviewed, and I got a job offer. At the same time, I heard about this position at The Little Nell as the assistant to George Mahaffey, who you mentioned was the executive chef at the time. And Tom Kaufman had worked with George at the hotel Bel-Air and he’s like, ‘Bobby, I’ve been up there. That’s where you want to go be the assistant. It’s a big program. It’s just as big as the Venetian, but it will get you out of your home town.’ Like, he just put all these great reasons. Get you out of your hometown. The team up there is great. And he kind of knew the players up there and he said, you got to apply for that. And I applied for it and I went up and interviewed and she was the food and beverage director at the moment.

The Importance of Mentorship

She’s now one of the really great hoteliers in North America. Connie Thornburg was who I interviewed with and she ended up becoming the boss that hired me and the GM at the time was Eric Calderon and both of them were just so leadership rich. And I say that – you can have managers, but there’s a difference between managers and leaders. And they were a leadership rich organization and Connie and Eric were just amazing to me and that team that they had with George at that time, it was George Mahaffey and Keith Brown is the GM of the dining room. It was really, if you want to do apply yourself, you could not have found a management team that would let you fly better. As long as you wanted to apply yourself, they were there to, to get you to the next level. And I just feel so lucky that I went there versus some other opportunities I had.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that story. So, so mentoring, mentorship very important to you as you are coming up. Is it now roles reversed? Is that still very important to you? Do you, do you love mentoring others?

Bobby Stuckey: I do. I love mentoring. I have to say. I’m not as good as Connie and Eric. And I’ll tell you why. This has not happened to me yet. I did a cookbook dinner at Ojai Valley Inn where Connie is the managing director. And she reminded me how my father used to write a Christmas card to Connie and Eric individually each year, thanking them for their mentorship of their son. Mind you, I’m the wine director of The Little Nell. I’m like an adult, and you would have thought my dad was writing their little league coach.

Kirk Bachmann: I absolutely love that.

Bobby Stuckey: And Connie brought it up in front of my whole team that came out to do the cookbook dinner at Ojai. And I was like, welp, that is a life goal. I have not achieved that yet as a mentor that I’m getting Christmas cards from my grown adult employees. So I do love mentorship, but I have not hit the gold standard that Eric and Connie gave for me yet, but I’ll keep working at it.

Kirk Bachmann: Well, there’s others that probably differ with that. You’re very, very humble. I know that you’ve impacted a lot of people, your first restaurant venture, I believe, Frasca Food and Wine, right – eighteen years in business now, is that right?

Celebrating 18 Years in Business

Bobby Stuckey:  Eighteen years this summer. Yeah.

Kirk Bachmann: Unbelievable. So congratulations on that amazing accomplishment, right. It’s not just the longevity of the restaurant, but it’s this ability to maintain, you know, a stellar menu, right. Accompanied by equally unbelievable service that makes those 18 years outstanding.

I know that it’s you, we all know that it’s you on the floor every night. I’m always telling my wife, Gretchen, it’s like, look at Bobby. He’s like, he’s bringing the trays back to the kitchen and, you know. I just love, it’s such a good message, right? That you truly, it appears that you love the work you love being on the floor.

You love interacting with the guests and there’s a message for Escoffier students graduates, for other students who are potentially considering their next moves in this industry, in this craft that we love. Are there some key points, not to, you know, take away all the secrets, but, are there some key points to keep in mind as you’re navigating the path that is this industry to keep in mind.

Bobby Stuckey:  There are a few key points and, you know, first of all, you’re right, I do love being on the floor with the guests. And I also love being on the floor with my teams and working side by side with them. I’m also very lucky. You know, the GM Rose Voda, she is going to kill me for saying this, but not only has she been with us since we opened day one, she was employee one. She worked with me back at The Little Nell.

So we were talking about this with a guest last night. It was Valentines, and one of the guests who lives in Denver, but has been coming up to the restaurants since the beginning was like, ‘How long have the two of you work together?’ And it was funny. I was holding the tray and Rose was doing the sage course for the mineral. And so it was Rose and I, to, um, most senior people in the dining room will say, so I don’t get in trouble. And, uh, the guests was like, how long have you guys worked together?

And I said, well, Rose and I started working together 1996 at The Little Nell. I think she might’ve taken that tray and hit me on the way back into the. She like, ‘Hey, people can do the math.’

Kirk Bachmann: Too much info, Bobby too much info.

Bobby Stuckey: But there’s people like that, like Rose, like Jeremy Schwartz, there’s a lot of key players on the team at Frasca Hospitality that have been with us so long. That’s really where that happens. It is not a yoke that I carry. It is something that the team carries together and works together.

There Are No Hospitality Prodigies

But I do love being on the floor with those teams, but I have to give them a lot of credit. And going back to the craft, and you said it, our industry is a craft. There are no prodigies. There are no hospitality prodigies. There’s no such thing. It’s scientifically impossible. Our industry is a craft. Prodigies can only be in mathematics, music, and art. Those are the only disciplines really that people can be a prodigy, where they can either get very high success through hard work.

We don’t have that in our industry. So, everyone just has to realize, there’s never been a hospitality prodigy and there never will be. So, all of us are all equal that way. We all have to work at it as a craft. And what does a craft mean? It means you gotta, there’s a journey. It’s not a destination. You’ve got to work on it all the time.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that beautifully said, and Rose is quite lovely by the way. Always so kind to us. Um, appreciate that.
So you mentioned the restaurant industry. Let’s talk a little bit about that. You’re an advocate for our industry, the workers of the future. Can we talk a little bit, is it okay to talk a little bit about Saving the Restaurant – documentary, comes out this week, right?

Saving The Restaurant Documentary

Bobby Stuckey:  Documentary comes out this week. It’s a little bit of PTSD for me. It’s hard to watch it because it’s a documentary that represents a lot of pain in our industry. It’s been a hard two years, you know, a little bit of the back of the napkin math. The documentary kind of charts the time of the legislation or the Independent Restaurant Coalition, working on legislation on a federal level. But at the end of the day, the painful piece of that documentary is there’s still 177,000 independent restaurants that are in that queue waiting for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to be refunded because it was only a down payment.

It was not meant to only be a $28.6 billion fund. And we need to put the rest of the down payment down because we’ve got 177,000 restaurants. It happened last night. I had a restaurateur from the bay area call me asking him for advice last night. At the end of Valentine’s night, I get a call from a guy cause he had emailed me. He’s hanging on by a thread. He needs that RRF to be refunded. How it played out, it didn’t play out fair. There were really government created winners and losers. Who got it, and who didn’t. And it was because it was underfunded. And once it got cut off, if you are the next person in line, and your neighbor got it and you didn’t, you’re at a disadvantage.
So, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is something that we’ve, uh, been a sole mission of the group, the Independent Restaurant Coalition. For anybody who wants info on that, it’s www.saverestaurants.com. We started that March 18th, 2020. This has been 23 months of fighting for this industry that we care about so much.

I’ve always cared about our industry. I just didn’t know how fragile the industry truly was until COVID.

Bobby’s Advice for Great Hospitality

Kirk Bachmann: Well, we appreciate the hard work. Look forward to the documentary. I believe it comes out Thursday? Saving The Restaurant. Okay. We’re coming close on our time, but I have so many, so many themes to talk about.

If you had to share one concept or one theme when you guide your team, when you have your, your pre-game, your pre-service to ensure that the experience that your guests have in your restaurants is one that they’ll never forget. What is that key phrase, that key direction to your team?

Bobby Stuckey: Probably empath. We gotta be, not sympathetic, we gotta be empathetic because if you have a hundred guests, they all have a different thing going on that day. And you might not know what’s coming down the pike. They could be just hangry. They can be in love. They could be there because someone passed away and they need a bear hug.

There’s so many different things and we just have to be ready. Not knowing what’s, you know, we, we have some information, so am I saying anniversary? They might say they’re celebrating a job. Usually the nitty gritty, if it’s something really intense, you don’t know until you’re in it. Usually someone doesn’t make a reservation and say, I just finished my last round of chemo.

I mean, sometimes they do, but most people don’t. You find that out. Well, we’re here because we were here for a Memorial service. Usually they don’t let that be known when they make a reservation. So, you have to be ready for whatever these guests are going through. And be able to see them eye-to-eye and be empathetic cause it’s different.

Kirk Bachmann: I absolutely love that empathy, something. We probably don’t think a lot about every single day when our guests come to us, really, really, really good advice.

The Restaurant Business and Self-Care

You know, I don’t want our time to slip away without again, coming back to the importance of taking care of yourself and, you know, the impact that exercise has on us. I’d love to just hear a little bit about the importance of let’s just say running. Right. What impact has that had, Bobby, on your ability to think clear, innovate, lead, and bring your best every single day. Do you attribute a lot of that to the exercise that for you as is, I believe, is daily?

Bobby Stuckey: It’s a lifeline for me. I think our industry is so beautiful, but there’s dangerous parts to it. It’s a high-stress. It’s a set of hours that are not normal. You might have a loved one or a family member or a college roommate that doesn’t love that you work these hours. So that adds another layer of stress.

So, for me, it’s running or cycling, but whatever people want to find as their release valve so you have a proper release. And look, I think, it’s a little bit tougher now than it was 25 years ago. I think with social media, with all the stressors that everyone’s under now, I do think our industry has always had a tough time with substance abuse, not being able to deal with anxiety, not to be able to deal with fatigue and stress, but now it just seems like it’s on 11 for so many people.

So, I just try to encourage everyone, look you might not want to be a runner like me, but find something for yourself that you do every day that gets the juices going, that gets your cortisol level down and kind of reset you every day. And it’ll pay dividends because you want people to be in this industry for a long time, you want to have a sustainability.

Bobby Stuckey’s Ultimate Dish

Kirk Bachmann: Love that. Great, great, great advice. So, Bobby, the name of the podcast is The Ultimate Dish, tough question, because there’s probably so many, but in your mind, what is the ultimate dish?

Bobby Stuckey: I think if you would look at my career, the ultimate dish has to be the frico caldo. The frico caldo is a dish that is very traditional and freely. It is made of montaggio cheese from the chronic apps, steam potatoes, and sweated onions. It’s a dish that’s been on the menu every night at Frasca. Whenever someone from Friuli hears that I have a restaurant called Frasca that’s based on Friuli, the first question they ask, do you make frico? So to me that’s the ultimate dish because it means so much to me and my staff.

Kirk Bachmann: I’ve had it there at the restaurant and you know, the hair what’s left, stood up on the back of my neck. I absolutely love it. What’s next? What’s next for Bobby? What are the next 18 years?

Bobby Stuckey: You know I’m very thankful about this industry all the time. I’m thankful that we’re, we’re inching closer to getting through COVID and I just, I think I want to continue to be able to be a great leader and mentor to my teams and watch my great employees do great things.

I’m very excited about. And I’m also, I think there’s a new responsibility for not just myself, but any of us that love this industry so much is finding a way for our industry to advocate collectively on the civic state and federal level. I think what I’ve taken away from COVID is we should never let our industry be this fragile again.

Kirk Bachmann: Well said, well said, Bobby, and thank you for taking time with us. You’re a great friend of Escoffier and we appreciate everything you do out there and best of luck and I’ll see at the restaurant soon.

And thank you for listening to the Ultimate Dish podcast, brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit escoffier.edu/podcast, where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links, and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.

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