One of the first things Josh Miles will tell you about his five-year-old restaurant in downtown Rochester, N.Y. is that the food is “honest.”
And by honest, he means nothing is harvested from a bag or a freezer. The seven varieties of oysters and other seafood on The Revelry’s menu is locally sourced and freshly harvested. And the food itself is inspired by Miles’ childhood connection to home-cooking in South Carolina’s ‘Lowcountry.’
But while happy memories of red peas and corn, grits and ham, and an idealistic commitment to good ingredients may have inspired Josh and his wife Jenna Miles when they opened The Revelry in 2013, make no mistake, the husband-wife duo, who now own four thriving restaurants, has been described by a USA Today newspaper as their own best secret ingredient.
In this week’s Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Miles shares his insights into food, location, and even labor costs as he and his wife blaze a trail in the restaurant industry.
Q: What is honest food?
Basically, it’s cooking from scratch — nothing we serve comes frozen in bags. Whether it’s the French fries or a fried oyster, everything is made from scratch that day.
Q: Please tell me more about the inspiration of the South Carolina Lowcountry?
I’m from Greenville, which is upstate, but I grew up enjoying Lowcountry food. The Lowcountry is this invisible line between South Carolina and Georgia, where we eat things like sea-island red peas, grits and ham, and where we have a heavy influence of seafood. We’re incorporating that into the Revelry and source a number of our menu items from the region.
Q: How did you choose Rochester, N.Y. for your venue?
We found this old saw-blade manufacturing building come up for lease. One of the best things about the space was that it had great visibility because 30,000 cars pass by it every day. It’s a 5,000-square foot building, which is very beautiful and rustic, with brick and glass. It was built in the 1890s and we thought it was a perfect pairing for our southern cuisine and the wide variety of historic cocktails we offer.
Q: Was it a tough sell to the community?
When we came to Rochester in 2013, the dining landscape was changing. It was a great time to come in because there wasn’t a level of restaurant saturation in the area, and people were getting more interested in going out to have good food and drink.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge?
The biggest thing is finding the right people. There’s a pretty big void in culinary workers out there across the US, so finding and retaining great culinary talent is our biggest challenge. Also, labor policies that raised up tip minimums from $5 to $7.50 drove up our labor costs and forced us to work harder to recoup that cost. This forced us to look at every aspect of running our restaurant to find savings, and to raise our prices.
Q: You’re also creatively managing spoilage costs.
Yes! We manage that as much as we can. One example is with the red snapper. We’ll take the trimmings from the fish, and rather than throw them away, we’ll make a red ceviche.
Q: What advice do you have for someone hoping to start their own restaurant?
People often get into the restaurant business without taking enough time to talk to other people who are already doing it. My advice would be to talk to restauranteurs before they get into it. Because people need to take the time to do their due diligence if they want to have a solvent restaurant. — The Revelry uses Boxerbrand’s stitched café line for its menu cover presentation. Thank you!