Employee Highlight – Tony Capra, El Gaucho Bellevue General Manager

Posted in Behind the Scenes on January 22, 2015 by The Gaucho Gridiron
Tony Capra, El Gaucho Bellevue General Manager

Tony Capra, El Gaucho Bellevue General Manager

“The older I get, the less I think of accomplishments or steps in the ladder. Rather, I try to be a good person on a day-to-day basis, do right by people, and become a more fair and just person,” Tony explains. “I’m a Libra – I thrive on balance,” he says with a smile.

Hailing from Minneapolis, Anthony James Capra fell in love with the hospitality industry when he was hired as a bellman at the Phoenician Resort his freshman year at Arizona State University. He returned home to finish his degree in German at University of Minnesota and worked at the Whitney Hotel, a small, high-end boutique hotel. In seven years, he worked his way from bellman to his first management job, all the while meeting many visiting celebrities, including Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon while filming “Grumpy Old Men.”

UGM Chad, James, Tony, Cooper

Tony serving lunch at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission with fellow El Gaucho General Managers James Capangpangan, Cooper Mills, and President Chad Mackay

Even though he loved his job, he didn’t necessarily like the Minnesota weather. He decided to take a road trip west to visit two former colleagues – one in San Francisco, another in Seattle. First stop was Sausalito, where he spent three days sight-seeing with his friend Monica. As much as he loved the Bay area, the cost of living was too high, so Tony headed north to Seattle and, as he explains, “as I was driving on 99 North through Seattle, I just knew this is where I wanted to be.” While in Seattle he took in the sights with an old friend Ellen, who had moved from Minneapolis to Seattle the previous year and who would later convince Tony to move to the restaurant side of the hospitality business.

He drove home, gave his notice, and packed up his car to head west for good. He didn’t have much luck with hotel jobs, so he followed his friend Ellen’s advice and gave restaurants a go, starting at Salty’s on Alki as the maitre d’. He found success redesigning the dining room and books, and after stints in banquet management and purchasing, he wound up as General Manager (GM). It was there he also met his best friend, Cooper Mills, now the GM at El Gaucho Seattle. After nine years at Salty’s, he moved on to Ivar’s as Asst GM, spent time at Acres of Clams, and became GM of Ivar’s Salmon House.

In October of 2008, he joined his friend Cooper to become Asst. GM at El Gaucho Seattle. He quickly became known as the “go-to” guy and fix-it man, and filled in for vacant GM positions in Tacoma and Portland, but he never wanted to move outside of Seattle. In October 2012, he was offered the General Manager position at El Gaucho Bellevue.

Tony with some of his El Gaucho Bellevue family at the annual POUR event: Whitney, Ryan, Tivoli, and Apple

Tony with some of his El Gaucho Bellevue family at the annual POUR event: Whitney, Ryan, Tivoli, and Apple

Since becoming GM, Tony says his greatest accomplishment as a professional is building a team that works so well together. “We’ve built a great environment for our guests and team,” he says.

In his free time, Tony loves to travel, play golf, and cheer on local sports teams. He is also a fan of English Soccer team Chelsea. Last year he bought a 24’ RV, affectionately known as “Minnie Winnie” and has so far explored Eastern Washington and the Oregon Coast. That said, his favorite place is Maui. As you might have guessed from his name, Tony is Italian, and when going out, he loves home-style Italian cooking, with a warm atmosphere and good food. His favorite haunts are Bizarro in Fremont, Palace Kitchen, and Branzino for cigars and scotch for an after work treat.

Tony with work teammates Cooper, Jimmy and Larry cheering on the Seahawks to victory!

Tony with work teammates Cooper, Jimmy and Larry cheering on the Seahawks to victory!

When asked about his family, he mentions he’s the youngest of four, and has five nieces and four nephews all in the Minneapolis area, which he visits once a year. His parents are now “full time RVers,” splitting their time between Minnesota and Texas. “My West Coast family has really become the people I work with at El Gaucho Bellevue,” he says. “I have people ask me if I’m interested in being set up on dates, but honestly I’m content being single. I like my life, and my work, and my family here.”

His favorite part of working for El Gaucho is that at the end of the day, it’s still a “mom and pop restaurant.” He explains, “There are no layers of corporate; the owners trust the General Managers to get the right people and let them do their job. If we’re doing our job right, we’re attracting the right people, who are professionals and are not only great people, but great people to work with.”

Tony with El Gaucho Bellevue Captains Larry and Lonnie with the Vince Lombardi trophy

Tony with El Gaucho Bellevue Captains Larry and Lonnie with the Vince Lombardi trophy

Visit Tony and his family of employees at El Gaucho Bellevue for lunch, happy hour and dinner. Hours: Monday-Friday starting at 11:30am, Saturday & Sunday starting at 5:00pm.

Supplier Highlight – Eydfinn Tausen with Olympic Seafoods

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Supplier Highlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron
Fishing fleet in Neah Bay

Fishing fleet in Neah Bay

Sourcing the very best ingredients is one of the hallmarks of our company and one of the most important aspects of our business. We place a priority on finding the best, and are always thrilled when we find exceptional natural sources in our own backyard. Here in the Pacific Northwest that means access to some of the best seafood in the world.

One way we ensure that our guests are served the best is to build relationships with our key suppliers and track the source and quality of the products they provide. We are grateful to Corfini Gourmet, a local food distribution company, for introducing us to an individual we now source from, who is taking product sourcing and transparency to the next level.

Eydfinn Tausen of Olympic Seafoods

Eydfinn Tausen of Olympic Seafoods

Eydfinn Tausen of Olympic Seafoods has created a fish tagging system with information so detailed you know where the fish came from, to the boat who caught it, even the name of the fisherman.

Eydfinn has been a leader in the fishing industry since the early ‘80s, working with Select Fish and later Whole Foods. He always felt there were many under-utilized opportunities in the fishing industry, particularly in Neah Bay. “There’s so much fresh fish!” he kept telling himself, knowing that most of the fresh fish consumed in Seattle is from Alaska and BC. While Neah Bay is a shorter distance at 150 miles, logistics still present a challenge: a windy road and mountain range separates the two and deliveries were not dependable. And with fishing, timing is everything.

This brand new building, dock and ice house is an open work area where the fish is sorted and weighed for the Makah fisherman in Neah Bay.

This brand new building, dock and ice house is an open work area where the fish is sorted and weighed for the Makah fisherman in Neah Bay.

He decided to take matters into his own hands and bought a refrigerated truck, and started introducing himself to mostly Makah fisherman in Neah Bay. The people he met had great fishing expertise but didn’t have experience marketing and distributing their product. Eydfinn knew how to do both.

“Most people don’t have any idea where their fish come from,” he explains. “I want to help tell that story. I’m the facilitator. I want the customer to see where their food is coming from.”

To help tell that story, Eydfinn created tags for each of the fish when they’re caught, containing a QR code that displays the species, name of the boat, and a bio on the fisherman. The QR code can simply be read through a smart phone, and even guests can take the tag home with them. The tagging process takes time: Eydfinn is hopeful that in 2015 all black cod, halibut and salmon caught in Neah Bay will be tagged.

Fish are tagged by the Makah fisherman, and the QR code, read through a smart phone, gives information, including the fisherman's bio.

Fish are tagged by the Makah fisherman, and the QR code, read through a smart phone, gives information, including the fisherman’s bio.

Eydfinn blog - fish tag QR code back side Eydfinn blog - fish tag QR code

I tell the fisherman, “If you are proud of your fish – tell your story,” Eydfinn explains. These stories are told through each fish tag sold through Olympic Seafoods.

Eydfinn’s model is working. He knows most of the Neah Bay fisherman, who deliver to a co-op, from where Eydfinn purchases his fish. He currently works with about 30 boats belonging to the co-op, and in most cases, the fish caught are delivered within 24-36 hours. He’s also proud that he’s helping to reduce the carbon footprint to provide fresh fish to consumers.

“We love that we are so close to the source,” says El Gaucho Seattle Executive Chef Matt Brandsey. “The black cod currently on our menu comes directly to us from Neah Bay. By the time we get it, it has only been out if the water for less than 24 hours. Eydfinn works directly with specific fishing families to ensure consistency every time.”

Eydfinn Tausen blog fish

Beautiful fish caught in Neah Bay.

Fishing is a complicated and delicate system, managed by governing bodies from the international level down to local tribunal communities. The quotas and fishing seasons are an intricate balance that’s different every year. ForNeah Bay, a typical year starts primarily with “bottom fish,” such asPetrole and Dover sole, cod and other flat fish varieties. Halibut season typically starts mid-March, and is a very short season inNeah Bay due to quotas – it runs much longer in Alaska and British Columbia, Eydfinn notes.

One of the boats in the Neah Bay fishing fleet.

One of the boats in the Neah Bay fishing fleet.

About a week later, black cod season opens and usually lasts until the beginning of May, which is when King salmon season opens; normally the season can last until mid-September, depending again on set, and met, quotas.. In July,Coho salmon season begins, and in September, black cod reopens and can last until December (like this year). Year round, boats inNeah Bay catch many species of Rock fish, ling cod, and other species of bottom fish.

Our mission is simply to find the best for our patrons and guests to enjoy. No excuses and no compromise. Our family of restaurants constantly works to bring you the best the world has to offer, and thanks to Eydfinn and his team, some of that is from the local waters of Neah Bay.

At El Gaucho Seattle, black cod is marinated in white miso and orange juice. The skin is seared on a plancha grill to get it super crispy, then finished it in the oven. It is served with roasted Brussels sprouts and winter squash with coconut milk molasses.

At El Gaucho Seattle, black cod is marinated in white miso and orange juice. The skin is seared on a plancha grill to get it super crispy, then finished it in the oven. It is served with roasted Brussels sprouts and winter squash with coconut milk molasses.

Giving Back is Always in Season for El Gaucho Hospitality

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Community with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

AQ@UGMThe holidays are always a time of giving, a special time of year we focus on giving to others who are less fortunate. “Building Community” is one of the pillars our company was founded upon and is a year-round focus for our family of restaurants. Not only do we provide a place of celebration, but we are also generous in our fundraising for local charities, by giving of our time, resources, and energy to help build better communities.

This foundation was laid by our owner and founder, Paul Mackay, when he reopened El Gaucho in 1996. We estimate that through financial giving, time, and resources, we have proudly donated over $3.5 million to local organizations since our inception, and that number steadily climbs every year.

In 2014 alone, the donations to local organizations have totaled over $250,000 – a combination of in-kind giving, through our Gridiron Society and charitable match programs, and our ongoing work with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM).

Since 1932, the Mission has dedicated its efforts to compassionately helping those in need with services in education, spiritual development, and basic life essentials. We strongly believe in their mission to “serve, rescue, and transform those in greatest need,” and are proud to partner with them to help restore hope in our community.

Our AQUA and El Gaucho Seattle restaurant teams sign up to donate their time preparing and serving lunch twice a month at UGM, feeding 250 homeless each time, with more than 11,000 lunches served to date. Once an employee experiences serving at the shelter, a transformation invariably occurs, and most agree that they receive so much by serving and giving.

El Gaucho President Chad Mackay with General Managers James Capangpangan, Tony Capra and Cooper Mills serving lunch at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission

El Gaucho President Chad Mackay with General Managers James Capangpangan, Tony Capra and Cooper Mills serving lunch at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission

“What we’ve received through working with UGM far outweighs what we have given. The opportunity to interact with those we feed is both humbling and enlightening,” said Sivi Mennen, AQUA by El Gaucho General Manager. “Hearing the stories of both struggles and triumphs, has altered the lives of our staff. Each month, I notice a difference in my team after we have visited; they are a bit gentler, kinder toward each other, thankful, and genuinely moved by their time at the shelter.”

El Gaucho and AQUA are the only restaurants that volunteer at this level at the Mission. We would love to see other restaurants serve in this capacity and are happy to assist other businesses achieve this level of donation. As noted in the 5/23/14 Puget Sound Business article about our work with UGM,  “While many companies contribute real dollars to charitable causes, it is the in-kind giving that can bring givers and beneficiaries face to face. Sometimes the best gift a company can give is the goods or services that are the core of their expertise.”

El Gaucho Hospitality gifted the $5,000 they won through the National Restaurant Association's Good Neighbor Award to Seattle's Union Gospel Mission.

El Gaucho Hospitality gifted the $5,000 they won through the National Restaurant Association’s Good Neighbor Award to Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.

In addition to serving lunch, El Gaucho Hospitality also assists with UGM fundraising efforts throughout the year, and donates items for auction. El Gaucho Hospitality was awarded the National Restaurant Association’s “Good Neighbor” award for our ongoing commitment to serving at UGM. Paul Mackay received the award on behalf of our company at their annual event in Washington, D.C. in 2012. This short video shows more about our work.

The El Gaucho Community
Incorporating our guests in our giving strategy has provided a huge impact on local charities and in the connections we have with our best customers. The charitable match program was created when the recession hit in 2010: funds were tight, and the donation requests outstripped our capacity to give. We have a hard time saying no, so we created a way to continue our generous giving program, and the charitable match program was born. We match every El Gaucho Hospitality gift card purchased at full value to benefit any non-profit organization’s fundraising need. We don’t set a on the amount we will match, and the only limit is the organization’s creativity on how to package or market the gift cards. The program has been extremely successful, with other high-profile, fine dining establishments following suit.

Around that same time, our guest loyalty programs launched, and we wanted to include a charitable component, as well as aspiring for our guests to direct where our donations should go. Today, our Gridiron Society members are able to annually donate a Chef’s Wine Dinner for four, valued at $600, to any charity of their choice. The Gridiron Society is an invitation only group exclusive to El Gaucho Hospitality restaurants, and while member’s names are not published, we will help organizations tap into this resource.

El Gaucho Hospitality serving at Catalyst, UGM's major fundraising event.

El Gaucho Hospitality serving at Catalyst, UGM’s major fundraising event.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
We strongly feel that each of us has a certain obligation to help make our world a better place, and we are privileged to serve and give back to the communities we deeply care about.

For more information on our charitable giving, or to request a donation, please visit our website.

Employee Highlight – Meet David Shapland, Inn at El Gaucho Manager

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Employee Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

David Shapland has always felt a calling to serving others. “After studying for the ministry, I worked as a front desk agent at the Courtyard Marriott Boston and was instantly hooked on hospitality,” says David Shapland, Manager at the Inn at El Gaucho. His years of training and church work fit right into the hospitality field: both rely on a foundation of service and a deep love of people.

Born in Yorba Linda, California, David was raised in Hartlepool, England, until he moved to California at five years old. After studying theology at LIFE Bible College in California, David’s path took a different direction into hospitality. He “worked his way up the ladder” becoming the Assistant General Manager at Marriott Dulles in Virginia, when he met his soon-to-be husband, James, and found himself moving across the country to Seattle. In 2009, he was hired as the Inn at El Gaucho’s manager.

David with his partner, James.

David with his partner, James.

“I love what El Gaucho stands for and its values,” he says. “In my experience, the only thing El Gaucho values more than its employees are our guests.”

The Inn at El Gaucho opened in 2005 as a 17-room, boutique inn right above El Gaucho Seattle in Belltown. When Paul Mackay reopened El Gaucho Seattle in 1996, he moved from the original location to where it is today, at First and Wall. The building was originally the Sailor’s Union of the Pacific Hall, which included apartments for retired sailors on the second floor. When the restaurant was up and running, Paul decided it was time to offer dining guests the “ultimate nightcap,” and he remodeled the 2nd level into a luxury inn.

The Inn at El Gaucho lobby, which sits right above El Gaucho Seattle.

The Inn at El Gaucho lobby, which sits right above El Gaucho Seattle.

“Our staff thrives on service,” explains David. “We want all of our guests to feel at home when they stay with us. Because of our size, we can make every guest experience an intimate and personal one,” he exclaims.

David recently decided to take his knowledge and experience and give back to others, and earlier this year became a Technical Advisory board member for the South Sound College.

“I think that business and the community should have a symbiotic relationship, and I am fortunate to work for El Gaucho Hospitality, who shares the same philosophy,” he explains. “It’s important to me to give back to the community. I believe that I can help guide and mold the future leaders of our industry, by sharing my time, knowledge and experiences with them. That being said, I have also learned a lot from the current students already.”

Traveling is one of David's hobbies. Pictured here in Hong Kong.

Traveling is one of David’s hobbies. Pictured here in Hong Kong.

Some of that knowledge and experience also comes from his love of travel. In addition to exploring the Pacific Northwest, David has been all over the world, including England, France, Iceland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Argentina, Mexico, and Canada. He intentionally stays in boutique hotels and Bed & Breakfasts for ideas and amenities, and loves the personal connections he makes. “I find I learn the most about a place staying in smaller hotels or B&B’s,” he explains.

David's two dogs - Jacob and Ianto.

David’s two dogs – Jacob and Ianto.

David and his partner James recently bought their first house and share it with their two dogs, Jacob and Ianto. In his spare time, David loves to cook, garden, and hike. “I grew up in a family where my mother cooked every night and I have mostly carried on that tradition,” he says. “I love experimenting and just purchased a sous vide cooker which has been a lot of fun!”

David's chicken coop

David raises his own chickens.

The love of cooking and gardening has also expanded into raising chickens – six in fact, all with names: Mavis, Lucy, Ethel, Pauline, Doris and Gertrude. They supply enough eggs for James and David, and some lucky friends and coworkers.

Whether Seattle is a travel destination, or you’re booking a staycation, David and his team would love to make your stay a special experience at the Inn at El Gaucho. Visit www.elgaucho.com for more information and reservations, or call 206-728-1133.

Culinary Feature – Meet El Gaucho Events Chef Steve Cain

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Employee Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

We are excited to feature the talented people behind the scenes – those who create and prepare the tasty treats that we all get to enjoy in our restaurants. Each month we will be introducing you to the gifted and passionate individuals who make up to our culinary team. Bon Appétit!

Steve Cain, El Gaucho Event's Executive Chef

Steve Cain, El Gaucho Event’s Executive Chef

When you think of the quintessential chef, what image comes to mind? Beyond the white uniform with chef’s toque, if you picture a-larger-than-life person with a gregarious nature, a man in love with life and the food he creates, then you have met Steve Cain, El Gaucho Events Executive Chef.

Affectionately known simply as “Chef” or “Big Poppa,” Steve came to the El Gaucho team in 2002 as a broiler cook, and quickly worked his way to Head Chef of AQUA (then known as the Waterfront). Transferred in 2008 to open El Gaucho Bellevue as Chef de Cuisine, he came “home” to AQUA in January 2012 as Executive Chef before being promoted to El Gaucho Events Executive Chef in August 2013.

“I love going to different venues and guest’s houses,” he shares about his new gig. “They all present a different challenge, which I love.”

Chef Steve shucking oysters with Corporate Chef Ken Sharp at Taste Washington.

Chef Steve shucking oysters with Corporate Chef Ken Sharp at Taste Washington.

Born in Tacoma, and living in many places across the state, he graduated from Walla Walla High School. Soon after graduating, he came to Seattle and immediately started working in restaurants. After four attempts, he was hired on as a dishwasher and to prep the chef, Bruce Bonholzer, who had graduated from Le Cordon Blue in France. Cain’s culinary journey since then includes 13 years at Schwartz Brothers (he opened Daniel’s Broiler and Chandler’s Crab House for them), Arnold Shain consulting (working with the talented chefs Leslie Dillon and Ted Furst), and a short stint at Entros on South Lake Union, before joining El Gaucho.

Chef Steve with his culinary peers, serving lunch at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission.

Chef Steve with his culinary teammates, serving lunch at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. L to R: Corp. Exec Chef Ken Sharp, El Gaucho Tacoma Exec Chef Jesus DeBoites, Steve, El Gaucho Seattle Exec Chef Matt Brandsey, El Gaucho Bellevue Chef John Broulette, El Gaucho Portland Exec Chef Alex Parsons

Out of all the culinary accomplishments Chef has obtained, his favorite is being able to give back by involving himself in the charity events El Gaucho Hospitality has participated in over the years. One moment in particular stands out: “We were at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission’s Catalyst (their major fundraising event), and Tony, a former FareStart student I hired at AQUA, came up and shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you.’” He explains, “He had become a leader at Seattle’s UGM, helping men recover and change their lives. It had such an impact on me, because he had succeeded, and I saw first hand the difference that El Gaucho Hospitality’s involvement makes. It affects positive and powerful change, and strengthens the fabric of the community.”

Cain is referring to the commitment that El Gaucho Seattle and AQUA by El Gaucho made each month to prepare and serve at Seattle’s UGM since 2009.

Chef Steve with Tony and El Gaucho Tacoma Exec Chef Jesus DeBoites

Chef Steve with Tony and El Gaucho Tacoma Exec Chef Jesus DeBoites prepping for the 2014 Catalyst fundraising event, benefiting Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission

Cooking during the holidays is one of Chef’s favorites. He credits his mother with instilling a love of cooking from an early age. Always experimenting with different foods, from curries to French to German to Asian cuisine, she amassed a heap of cookbooks along the way, including Pierre Franey, Craig Claiborne, and Julia Child. A voracious reader, Chef Cain read the cookbooks and, subconsciously, they directed him on his career path.

“It would not be Christmas without my mother’s steamed pudding and French vanilla sauce,” he explains. “We are mostly Danish and Scottish, but a long time ago this English-style steamed pudding found its way into the family holiday recipe book. It’s interesting because you combine finely grated potatoes, carrots, raisins, currants, flour and a custard mix that’s poured into a pudding mold and steamed in a water bath for several hours.  The end result is a tender and almost savory pudding, finished with the French vanilla sauce. It’s something you rarely see anymore, but oh so delicious!” he exclaims.

Chef Cain and his Smoked Turkey with Pomegranate Glaze and Pear and Herb Stuffing dish

Chef Cain and his Smoked Turkey with Pomegranate Glaze
and Pear and Herb Stuffing dish

Another holiday favorite is making sausage with his extended family. “In the 50s our family of 40-50 strong would gather at Lake St. Claire by Olympia and spend 2-3 days making the sausage and partying,” he recalls. “We only spend one day making it now, but it’s always special because our entire extended family spends the day hanging out.  We make about 140 pounds of a white pork sausage with onion and allspice, and split it all up to take home. We traditionally serve it on Christmas morning,” he explains.

In the spirit of the season, Chef Cain has graciously shared four of his favorite holiday recipes, which you can view on our website:
Smoked Ham and Gruyere Strata or watch video
Yorkshire Pudding or watch video
Smoked Turkey with Pomegranate Glaze, and Pear and Herb Stuffing
Fruit Shrub or watch video

Would you like Chef Steve at your next event? Contact Robbie for information, questions, or to reserve with El Gaucho Events. Call 206-596-8385 or email rberger@elgaucho.com

Employee Highlight – Robbie Berger, El Gaucho Events Director

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Employee Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron
After spending 7 years as AQUA's private dining manager, Robbie now directs El Gaucho Events.

After spending 7 years as AQUA’s private dining manager, Robbie now directs El Gaucho Events.

“The devil is in the details,” is something Robbie Berger, El Gaucho Events Director, knows a few things about. It’s no surprise that Robbie actually enjoys putting all of the pieces together, which is important for a role like hers.

After spending seven years as the Private Dining Director at AQUA by El GauchoRobbie, who is also lovingly referred to as “Berger,” was promoted and tasked with helping grow the off-site events business for El Gaucho Hospitality.

It’s a big undertaking: El Gaucho Events coordinates and plans everything from an intimate party of eight in a guest’s home, to gala dinners for 600 people.

Robbie loves her new role, which provides a lot of opportunities and challenges. “I get to work with all of the restaurants (El Gaucho Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Portland and AQUA by El Gaucho), which is something I enjoy immensely,” she says. “Everyone works together well – we all work for each other. We all enjoy what we’re doing, and it shows. It’s really a great family feeling.”

That family feeling is an important accomplishment for Robbie, which she enjoys both at home and at work. She and her husband Tymon, have two daughters: Ella James, 2-year-old, and Avi Marie, now 7 months.

Robbie with her family, husband Tymon, and daughters Ella and Avi. Robbie notes her first child was her pooch, Josie Mae.

Robbie with her family, husband Tymon, and daughters Ella and Avi. Robbie notes her first child was her pooch, Josie Mae.

“The dynamics of such a young family is incredibly exciting and always changing. It keeps us on our toes!” she exclaims. “I feel incredibly blessed to be their mom, and that I’m able to experience their worlds with them and help them grow on a daily basis. It’s a huge accomplishment.”

While her best personal accomplishment is certainly raising her young family, Robbie‘s most important professional one is taking on the role she has now. “It’s an ongoing achievement,” she explains. “Knowing that what we do has a direct impact on the success of this exciting and innovative way of delivering the El Gaucho experience.”

She goes on, “I can’t say enough about our team. It’s such a talented group that’s fun to be around.”

Robbie‘s biggest claim to fame with her teammates is the fact she’s a vegan – in a steak-driven culture. That, alone, probably helps her most in working with guest’s special requests.

Robbie at work - with her team at a recent UW event.

Robbie at work – with her team at a recent UW event.

“We are here for anything our guests need, and we deliver on that commitment,” she says. “Everyone here is committed to execution, and I think our guests sense that. New business is great, but repeat business is personally satisfying because it’s a huge complement to the entire team’s commitment. We gain a lot of trust in our guests.”

In her free time (which is hard to imagine she has!), Robbie enjoys shopping and photography. “I love to take pictures of things close up. There is something beautiful about the small pieces that fit together to make life possible.”

Do you need help with the details in planning your next event? Contact Robbie for information, questions, or to reserve with El Gaucho Events. Call 206-596-8385 or email rberger@elgaucho.com

Partner Profile: Niman Ranch

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Supplier Highlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

By Kathleen Finn

Our mission is simply to find the best for our patrons and guests to enjoy – no excuses and no compromise. The relationships we have built with our suppliers enable us to bring you the best products in the world. We are proud to highlight our valued partners, and to share their passion and commitment in producing the highest quality products available.

There’s a science to producing a high-quality steak. Start with a strong genetic Angus cattle profile, and add stringent record-keeping, specific nutritional inputs, exacting cleanliness standards, and many more detailed protocols. There’s also an art to producing a high quality steak. That’s what sets a great steak apart from the sublime.

John Tarpoff Niman Ranch beefAt Niman Ranch, John Tarpoff, Director of Beef Operations, employs both art and science to create all-natural, impeccably pedigreed beef that El Gaucho proudly serves its customers. It’s this attention to detail and unstinting search for perfection that makes Niman Ranch a trusted El Gaucho partner.

“There is no other program like this,” says Chad Mackay, President and COO at El Gaucho. They have a laser focus on quality.”

Tarpoff has labored to fine-tune the operations at Niman Ranch, where he oversees 115 family ranches that produce feeder and finish cattle. He and his staff watch, advise and work closely with ranchers who adhere to an 18-page animal care protocol that helps yield the country’s tastiest steaks.

Before we add a new product to our menu, it needs to align with our sourcing philosophy and our stringent quality requirements. Basically, it has to be the best.

From its inception, Niman Ranch has been committed to raising cattle using traditional humane husbandry methods and feeding them wholesome, all-natural feeds.

Niman Ranch began in the early 70s on a humble 11-acre tract of land north of San Francisco. Ranch owners Bill and Nicolette Niman committed to raising cattle using traditional humane husbandry methods and feeding them wholesome, all-natural feeds. More than 40 years later, Niman Ranch [under new ownership] is a leader in sustainable farming practices. Their 11-acre spread now encompasses a network of 700 family farms that produce an array of all-natural, high quality beef, lamb, and pork products.

When Tarpoff arrived at Niman Ranch nearly a decade ago, he was given carte blanche to make changes to the beef program in order to perfect the end product. “I had the genetics and nutrition down,” he says. “But there was still something missing.” A closer look at animal husbandry was called for, and this is where the art entered the equation. Tarpoff was convinced that a peaceful and low-stress lifestyle for cattle was the key to better beef.

Temple Grandin Weighs In

As Tarpoff began digging deeper into husbandry practices and teasing out what would best serve the animals, the world-renowned Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science, approached him and offered her expertise. Together, they refined his already high-quality care by working to create a healthy, low-stress and clean environment for the cattle.

John Tarpoff, Director of Beef Operations for Niman Ranch, center, visits with family farmers, the Jaccas.

John Tarpoff, Director of Beef Operations for Niman Ranch, center, visits with family farmers, the Jaccas.

It turns out that making the animals comfortable and their daily life relatively peaceful, translates to more tender meat. His collaboration with Grandin inspired Tarpoff to rewrite the Niman Ranch protocols, which now consist of 18-pages of detailed instructions on how to feed, house, and care for their cattle.

Broad care requirements for Niman Ranch cattle include open space for roaming outdoors, dining on seasonal grasses and all-vegetarian feed, and having access to fresh, clean water. No antibiotics, steroids or hormones are used on the animals. Protocols drill down further to encompass providing safe haven from bad weather, monitoring the amount of ‘mud’ caked on a cow’s leg and closely accounting for nutritional requirements for a calving cow.

Tarpoff’s years of hard work and his uncanny ability to pick the right cattle and care for them in a way that yields the best meat in the country has earned him the moniker ‘the cattle whisperer.’ The holistic approach of addressing qualitative and quantitative properties means that each steak that El Gaucho serves up to its loyal customers, is as superlative as the steak before it.

For Mackay, this means his number one goal is met: source and serve the best products in the world. “We source local products as much as possible,” he says, “and search out natural and organic suppliers. Yet these are secondary to quality. They have to be the best products available.”

 

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