In his early years he studied to be a Chef at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina. Now, Hunter Thomas is a Cincinnati restauranteur and owns both 20 Brix and Padrino in Milford. In addition to his extensive restaurant and hotel experience, Hunter is a level two Certified sommelier.
He takes a few minutes here to talk about his job and why it is he’s trying so damn hard to read your expression.
On why he became a restauranteur:
“Well the original idea was to be the Chef/Owner of a restaurant. But man, it’s hot back in that kitchen! No, I like the front and the interaction with the public. The daily accounting can get a bit difficult so I like to have my hands on that piece as well. Both of my restaurants are a direct reflection of the kind of food I like to eat. Like thin crust pizza and real Maryland crab cakes. Our Chef Paul Barraco knows how to make me smile.”
On the hardest part of running a restaurant:
“The hardest part is pleasing everyone. The Cincinnati area is full of people with many vast personalities and dispositions. I deal with a huge swath of personalities and everyone is looking for good food and service. However, their opinions of what this entails vary. So we treat everyone just a little bit differently. Some guests want a little extra personal attention while others want to be left alone to enjoy their meal. The hardest part is reading the customer to determine what it is that will make the dining experience memorable for them.”
On the restaurant scene in Cincinnati:
“I see a lot of people out of jobs who decide it would be a cool idea to open up a restaurant. Just like over-fishing a lake, I’m afraid Cincinnati is opening too many restaurants it can’t support. Especially the big chains.”
On his newest passion:
“Dark Star Hot Sauce is my new really exciting project. I began taking fresh hot peppers and making a sauce for our wings at Padrino. It caught on and now all of our flavors of wing sauce are made in-house and now bottled for retail sale. The idea is for Dark Star to become its own stand alone brand. 20 brix and Padrino are separate yet they support each other.” (Note: visit www.darkstarhotsauce.com for more information)
On what he cooks at home:
“By the time I get home I’m tired and I need of a drink. So, most of the food I end up making is just left overs. However, I did go to culinary school in Charleston, South Carolina so Shrimp and Grits have always been my special dinner for the family. And yes, Chef Paul prepares some fantastic Shrimp and Grits for 20 Brix every night.”
On his secret to getting repeat customers:
“Good service. There are a million little things that make a restaurant run: good food, cool ambiance, cold beer, a nice wine list. But good friendly service will keep them coming back time and time again. Make people feel important. We all like to feel important.“