Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and when did you first realize you wanted to work in the restaurant industry?
I grew up in South Africa. I always dreamed about hospitality, every since I was a young kid I wanted to own my own restaurant and bar. My first restaurant job was at Boston Market where I started working as a sophomore in high school, in Boston. My first bar job was at The Karma Club on Lansdowne Street in the heart of downtown Boston. And my first job on a farm was during my College years in Santa Barbara - though I had grown up working on farms every summer in Israel.
Can you talk about your journey that led you toward opening your barbecue restaurants Smokeyard Barbecue in Mammoth, CA and San Diego? What were some of the hardships you faced and what kept you going?
After graduating from UCSD I spent 10 years in Los Angeles honing my craft, cooking and creating in a wide array of concepts. Along with two other South African guys we went on to open two Asian Fusion (sushi) restaurants, a Mexican restaurant on the boardwalk in Venice Beach, a Cuban restaurant in Hollywood, an upscale Steakhouse in Santa Monica, as well as opening two unique concepts at the W-Hotel. We also opened up two nightclubs in Hollywood.
After a decade in LA, I decided to take my passion to the mountains, and continue to do what I love, in a place I love, surrounded by people I love.
Learning to operate in a seasonal environment in Mammoth was definitely a challenge.
After a few years of absolute joy and fulfillment in Mammoth, my ambition to open more locations took me back to LA. After a couple years of exploration I landed at the new Westfield UTC Mall.
What’s been your proudest moment so far as a business owner?
Every night when I finish a busy shift, and the whole team feels like we just completed a Broadway Show performance, I feel great! That’s what it has always felt like for me; my job is to make it look like all I had to do was turn on the lights, the music, and unlock the doors. If it looks that easy and fun to the outside world, then I feel great.
What advice would you have for someone who is looking to own their own restaurant or business someday?
Get ready for long hours and firm commitment to quality and consistency. Without that, you have nothing.
Growing up in South Africa we always had a lot of meat on the table. Having a barbecue, or BRAAI as we called it, was a regular thing. A good chop, or a big beef rib is like heaven for me! Well seasoned, a touch of sauce, some grilled vegetables, and some real cornbread… perfection!!
What’s your favorite dish on the menu at your restaurant Smokeyard BBQ?
That’s obviously a tough one to answer, since I spend so much time cooking and eating all of it. It just depends on the day. But if I had to be honest, the things I go for most often are the Beef Ribs, Sliced Brisket, and definitely the Charred Cauliflower. But the item I make the most - by far - is the Tri-Tip Sandwich. This outsells everything else in both locations; although the Brisket Sandwich and Hot Chicken Sandwich are close seconds in San Diego.