Episode #012 – Go for broke with Rich from EnRich Bistro
We had an amazing visit with Rich Knowles from Enrich Bistro. He was kind enough to open his restaurant for us to interview not only himself but Colonial Shrubs and Beagle Bay Organics. Rich has an awesome story about growing up in Bradenton, traveling as a chef, and coming back home to create an amazing restaurant. When it comes to the food scene in Florida, EnRich is leading the way on creativity and hoping to inspire others to do the same. What a great interview for us to be a part of.
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1:10 – Rich and his family have a long history of living in Bradenton, FL. Learn about his family history.
2:32 – Interestingly Rich never went the typical culinary school route. He had a passion for cooking but was not really his goal at the time. Instead, he went to the University of Florida to major in history. This was during the Tim Tebow years so you can imagine the fun times at UF.
3:50 – Deciding to travel Montana started his culinary journey. With intentions to go back to Florida and finish school, he ended up staying out there for 4 years. Eventually, he landed at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky. This was a place with an endless budget for food and very ritzy.
5:50 – Rich started by learning French cuisine but over the years developed skills with Italian and Asian. He really loves the Asian Fusion style.
7:00 – Growing up hunting, fishing, and cooking, experimentation with unique ingredients has always been a part of him. Still a lover of hunting and fishing, it is a hobby he does not get to enjoy as much as he would like. These experiences growing up hunting and fishing really made an impact on his cooking.
10:05 – Like many, Rich worked his way up the chain by bussing tables and washing dishes. Eventually getting thrown on a hotline with little experience was a major challenge. While challenging, this hard work made the biggest impact at the time for eventually opening his own restaurant.
11:50 – After 4 years in Montana, Rich tore his knee while skiing. Because of this, he came back to Bradenton for surgery and rehab. He ended up getting a job at some local restaurants. Shortly later though, his mentor Scott was opening up a steakhouse in Texas. Rich was invited to join in and moved out to Austin where he became a Sous Chef.
The birth of EnRich Bistro
14:00 – After 2 years in Austin, Rich wanted to head home. Becoming burnt out a bit, he was not completely sure about what he wanted to do. He stumbled upon a staple of Bradenton called Ezra Cafe. They were struggling a bit and Rich landed a job right away. After a few months though, Rich could see this place was going downhill. There was a great opportunity to buy the place and open up his own restaurant.
16:20 – These were serious crossroads in Rich’s life. Leaving Austin, not knowing what to do or where to go, EnRich Bistro just fell in his lap. Rich admits he was not interested in all that responsibility at the time but this was the moment he had to take advantage of.
18:38 – This was a big leap as well. Rich had very little management experience and jumping into ownership was a challenge. Rich knew this was a weakness at the time but knowing his weakness helped him rely on the people who could be a strength in those weak areas.
21:14 – It is a funny story about how Rich got started in cooking professionally. Overselling himself a little, he got thrown into a saute position he was not ready for. This was not something you can fake your way through. After a month, Rich was on his way to losing his job but was able to keep his job by taking a demotion and working his way up.
26:10 – Learn a little about the space at EnRich Bistro and how Ezra Cafe was transformed. Although the original place was a staple it went downhill over time.
Leading in creativity
30:07 – EnRich Bistro is about pushing the limits of creativity and being the best. There is not a lot of options in Bradenton for fine dining and Rich is trying to change that. Along with changing the menu, EnRich wanted to create a top-notch mixology program as well.
33:50 – Rich loves to travel and explore new flavors. In recent years he went to Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia. On this trip, he found some of the most amazing food. While in Thailand, Rich experienced a cool cooking class that really inspired him when he returned home. Trips like this and the training he received drives the creativity behind the menu at EnRich Bistro.
36:37 – One of the challenges in Florida is finding unique ingredients that are of good quality. Plus as a top restaurant with very little other options nearby, it is hard to educate people about what they do. It has taken some time to convince people to try something like Elk.
39:10 – Rich’s dad is a beekeeper hobbyist and produces some of the local honey used here at EnRich Bistro.
40:58 – EnRich does keep a core menu but does do a lot of seasonal and daily items based on the market.
41:54 – A new thing being done at EnRich is Chef Dinners where Rich collaborates with other local chefs. On Monday nights once a month will be a chance to enjoy these dinners.
Thank you for listening
We had a great time visiting EnRich Bistro. Chef Rich Knowles is doing awesome things in Bradenton, FL and we hope you enjoyed learning his story.
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