This interview was conducted by freelance writer Sarah Durn.
Ever wonder what it’s like to manage an award-winning Cleveland restaurant? Or what goes into creating some of our most popular recipes like our cedar plank roasted Sixty South salmon? We thought so!
Over the course of the next four newsletters, we’ll be letting you in on some of our restaurant trade secrets. We’ll be interviewing some of the people behind our restaurants’ success, like executive chef Rob Records and Director of Operations, Tim Davin. We’ll also share the stories of some of your favorite front-of-house employees, like Cedar Creek Grille hostess Alex Nimachuk, and back-of-house employees that keep your favorite restaurants running smoothly, like Lindey’s Lakehouse dishwasher Bill Harmon.
First up is executive chef Rob Records. He lets us in on what a typical day looks like and how he once served up food to pro golfers, like Arnold Palmer and Betsy King. I was able to catch Rob for a quick chat in between the lunch and dinner rush at Cedar Creek Grille.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started working in restaurants?
Well, I went to school to be an accountant. After about two years, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I lived on my own, so I had to cook a lot. So I just kind of learned things by doing them. And, in college, I thought, “I kind of like this.” So, I went to the University of Akron’s culinary program.
I think everyone’s cut out for a certain career, and this one’s mine.
Then, what was your journey to Cedar Creek Grille?
The first thing I did was get a job at a hotel while I was in school. Super busy hotel with crazy banquets. So, I was able to go to school and get hands-on experience at the same time.
Ironically, the day that I graduated they were super busy [at the hotel]. So, I literally started work at 5 a.m. that morning. And then, at 11:30 I went home, took a shower, met my parents, graduated. Then, I went back to work till 11:30 that night. So it was crazy.
And then, I did an internship at a place called the International Management Group. I worked in downtown Cleveland at their corporate conference facility. I’d do luncheons for clients. A lot of the clients were sports stars.
Like Arnold Palmer, a lot of Cleveland sports stars. Uh Mark McCormack. The tennis player Martina Navratilova. Betsy King. A lot of golfers. I didn’t always meet them. I wasn’t really into the whole “Ooo boy! Who are you?”
Then eventually I worked at Johnny’s bar. The sort of iconic Cleveland bar. You know on Fulton St? And, I was there for 15 years before coming here [to Cedar Creek Grille].
So, what does a typical day look like?
The first thing you do is kind of look around, see what’s going on. Go through the coolers. Figure out what you got. See if anything’s missing. See if there are any deliveries coming in.
Then, you go on the line [i.e. the kitchen] and you check the line. I literally have a legal pad in my hand and start [figuring out] what needs to be ordered. Then, I’ll usually cut fish. Cut a protein. Cut ribeyes. Talk to my chef about a special. A lot of times I work on the line [i.e. do some of the cooking] at lunchtime.
Then, we get ready for dinner. Your line cooks come in. You talk to them say, “this is what’s going on. This is the special.” Kind of have a little powwow with them. And, then you roll through the night. A typical Saturday or Sunday, I probably sit down 15 minutes all day.
Yeah, I cook a lot. I like working the line. I like to coach and train my employees, you know. Because I set the mood. I set the tempo of the night, you know what I mean? If I’m grumpy, they’re grumpy. So, I try not to ever be grumpy.
It’s not like all the Gordon Ramsay’s of the world. You know, it doesn’t work.
What’s your favorite thing to do after a shift?
You know, a lot of times now I have midnight barbecues. Like the other night, I made ground ribeye enchiladas with lots of cheese in them. We’ll have parties at midnight.
Like friends come over?
Yeah, full-fledged, big dinners at midnight. You know, I’m like, I don’t know, I’m kind of like a rock-n-roll, beer drinker, hellraiser. I like things like jet skis, ATVs, you know? I have a BMX bike. Like I don’t act my age.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned working in restaurants?
Treat people with respect.
Is there a piece of advice you got early on that’s stuck with you?
You know, Rick [Doody, Owner of Cedar Creek Grile] would always tell me, “get out of the silo, boss.” Don’t get stuck in your own lane. You gotta move around. You gotta look around. If front of house [the dining room] needs help, you help them. If back of house [the kitchen] needs help, you help them.
You know, that’s teamwork. It takes everyone’s help. You know, being a chef isn’t just about food. It’s about people, about being willing to help.
Ok. Last question. What are you going to have for lunch today?
Lindey’s firecracker shrimp with tabasco.