By Shawn Chitnis
ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4)– Business partners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson spent part of the weekend speaking at their industry’s premiere event as successful restaurant owners in Boulder, offering tips to their peers after giving up comfortable and prestigious roles at one of the top dining destinations in the country.
“Bobby had the best wine job in America,” Mackinnon-Patterson says about his co-owner. “Why would you want to leave?”
“We opened and people thought we were certifiably insane,” Stuckey remembered.
Both were speaking on a panel hosted by American Express for members of the culinary industry at the 2017 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. They were joined by leaders from some of the top restaurants in New York. They shared their experiences about running multiple dining options around Colorado after starting their business with humble beginnings.
“Lachlan and I together looked at lifestyle,” Stuckey said. “We looked at a lot of different cities, it was really naïve to pick Boulder because of lifestyle but it has worked out.”
They met while working at The French Laundry in Yountville, California. A renowned restaurant in Napa Valley considered one of the ultimate achievements for anyone working in the business. But they both wanted a restaurant of their own. Stuckey also wanted to be close to family in Golden and Mackinnon-Patterson agreed to move as well.
Frasca Food & Wine launched in 2004 with the two business partners struggling to get the restaurant running. They shared during the panel that they didn’t have enough money for light switch covers when they opened the business. But they were already dreaming big. They made plans to take their entire staff on a vacation and tried to save money for that fund.
“Treat it like your own and someday it will be,” Mackinnon-Patterson says this is an important teaching he wants his employees to follow.
Taking his employees on a group trip is one way to help them see that. The focus on generosity toward guests and cuisine inspired by Northern Italy caught on. The two business partners have been told that needing a reservation for a restaurant in Boulder was a new concept they helped to introduce.
“That’s not what we set out to do,” Stuckey said about that comment. “We were just doing our thing and I think other restauranteurs said hey, we should do something like that too.”
These two men are not eager to take credit for reshaping the restaurant scene in their new home but they do feel like they are a part of change that has benefitted Boulder as a whole.
“There were lots of great restaurants there,” Mackinnon-Patterson added. “Doing their own thing in an interesting way, we brought another idea to town.”
The success of Frasca allowed them to open another restaurant, Pizzeria Locale.
They sent an employee to Naples for six to seven months so they could offer another experience to diners in town. Their second restaurant would focus on food from the southern end of Italy and provide a full service option that was less expensive.
“It makes the fine dining stronger and brings opportunity and optimism to the fast food side,” Mackinnon-Patterson said.
The second restaurant gave their employees a chance to take on leadership roles and grow as members of this industry. Pizzeria Locale did well and investors from Chipotle helped to bring an even quicker pizza service to seven locations across the U.S. The two businessmen now run all three restaurant concepts and enjoy the chance to share what they’ve learned with others.
“There is nothing like Aspen,” said Stuckey. “for [The] Food &Wine Classic to have the two of us here from little Boulder is a real honor, it’s great for Colorado.”
More than 15 years after meeting each other in California, they say the bond they have brought with them to their new home is one of the most important lessons anyone can take away from their story.
“Our partnership is the most incredible thing and I would give that advice to everyone,” said Stuckey. “Find a partner.”