A big risk in cowboy town pays off
One day while working in the media/marketing sector, Suzanne Tarbet picked her head up from her computer, looked around the charming community of Redmond, Ore., and thought, “What if?”
“I’d spent my entire career in media and marketing management helping my clients perfect their own brand. And I’d always dreamed of creating a brand for myself,” she says.
With no time like the present to strike out on a new venture, the foodie with a trained eye for color, fabric, locations, food trends, and other details, spotted a fabulous 1,441 square-foot space near the historic Redmond Hotel and dove right in, opening Red Martini.
“It was a huge risk for me but I knew I could make it work,” she says.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Tarbet shares her observations about life in the hospitality business.
Q: How did you choose your location?
Redmond was always thought of as a stepchild to Bend, Oregon, which is the better-known resort community. We were thought of as more of a cowboy town. But I knew it had something special. And when I found out that investors were going to renovate and reopen the historic Redmond Hotel, which in its heyday in the 1920s was “the place” to be, I felt like Redmond would be the perfect spot for me to open a restaurant.
Q: How did you decide on the name Red Martini?
Well, we’re in Redmond, so I wanted to incorporate that into the name. And red is my favorite color. It’s also a power color and one that denotes excitement.
Q: What was your biggest obstacle, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge we faced occurred when the chef was pulled away for a family emergency out of the country. I hired a new chef who took the menu in new direction and we lost customers. It was very difficult and I finally decided to jump in and take over the food preparation myself. I’d worked next to our first chef for a long time and I learned from him. It paid off. We went back to our original menu, our customer base returned, and now I have a new full-time chef in the kitchen and I’m back working behind the bar.
Q: What’s your niche?
We’re a French infused American cuisine with small plates and expertly crafted martinis and dynamic wines. Our wines are sourced from Oregon, which is known for its pinot noir, and the West Coast, from Napa Valley to Columbia Valley in Washington.
Our most popular menu item is our Dungeness crab cake. And, I think the heart of our menu is in our French “mother” sauces. Our beurre blanc sauce with our trout and our French pot roast are crowd pleasures all year round.
Q: What advice do you have for someone starting out in hospitality?
Oh, my goodness! Be careful what you wish for. It is by the far the hardest job I’ve always had. Be prepared for tremendous sacrifice. But when you’re thanked every single day for investing in the community, it doesn’t get any better than that. Red Martini uses Boxerbrand’s Slenders line in their table presentation. Thank you!