Over 30 years ago, Robert Gladchuk walked from his job in Boston’s Financial District to his home in the Charlestown Navy Yard with the feeling he was destined for other things.
Passing bakeries and restaurants along the way, he would glance enviously at the “earthy production lines” of restauranteurs and bakers loading up supplies in readiness for a hard day’s work. And he thought of his two brothers, Steve and John, who were busy building a successful baking franchise in Washington, D.C.
“I was working for Arthur Andersen (a national Accounting firm) at the time, and my brothers had just purchased three bakeries from some Germans. My older brother John was a chef who’d apprenticed all over; he worked in Florida, New York City and Chicago before going into business with Steve,” Robert Gladchuk recalls. “The two of them worked night and day building their business, making sure they had fresh product on the shelves by 5 a.m.”
And he craved the action, the hard work, and the entrepreneurial life of his brothers. So much so that in 1988, the three brothers threw their lot in with each other and opened the doors to the Gladchuk Brothers Restaurant of Frederick, MD.
They’ve never looked back.
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Robert Gladchuk offers insights into their restaurant’s longevity.
Q: How has the Gladchuk Brothers Restaurant stayed relevant?
When I think food now, I see all the trends, and I’m open to it. But, our longevity goes back to basics. My brother John was European-trained early on, learning the fundamentals of the old-world, big-hotel business. And when it comes to food, though we’re open to anything, we always go back to the roots of Julia Child.
A lot of restaurants are riding a fad. They’re allowing a lot of what they do to be driven by their customers, but they haven’t done their homework. While we believe in being open, we believe in bridging into food trends, but always building from our fundamentals, and our base. Because that’s how you survive in this business. When your back’s against the wall, you need to have a solid foundation to fall back on.
Q: Your menu reflects your commitment to time-honored meals.
Yes! Every time I rewrite our luncheon menu there’s one item that I know I can never mess with, and that’s the baked meatloaf. I used to think a baked meatloaf was beneath us. But, we cater to older folks who eat their main meal of the day at lunch, for them, our restaurant is like a tea room. And they would kill me if I took it off the menu. Our menu is not built around buzzwords, but around what works for people. And there’s no replacing comfort items.
Q: How have you found joy in serving others?
Service is everything to us. Many restaurants might think service only affects the front of the house, but service is a mindset that permeates the entire culture. Coworkers serve coworkers, pitching in when they can, everybody pulling together. If one person on our team ‘drops out’ its effects are felt throughout the restaurant.
When I’m working with young people, I hope I show them that working around people is a joyful reality. And the time goes by like nothing. I would say I am blessed to have young people come to work for me, to learn and apprentice.
Q: What’s it like running a restaurant with your brothers?
It’s awesome. We all came from the same place, and we work well as a team. We’ve been able to foresee potential challenges and literally laugh them off.
When you’re able to come up on a challenge, financial, personal, or something else, and prepare for it, there’s a great joy in facing it head-on. We’ve built a brotherhood doing this work together and we’ve learned a lot. For example, we’ve learned to live within our means, and to do with less than we thought we needed.
And we’ve been present for so many happy occasions at our restaurant, sharing the happiness of people celebrating birthdays, graduations, proms and anniversaries. Being part of people’s lives during these momentous occasions really underscores why we’re here doing this work. It’s about more than making a bunch of money and spending it on some island vacation.
I tell people who want to work in restaurants that if they’re working so they can have fun somewhere else two days a week, then they’re selling their time short. They need to be immersed in everything they do. And that’s where they’ll find their joy. — Gladchuk Brothers Restaurant uses Boxerbrand menu covers in its table presentation. Thank you!