We interview the the head of culinary for the RPM division of restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You.
“When I was a kid, we’d go out for dinner when we got good grades or it was a holiday or birthday.”
You might not think it, but you can draw a straight line between a little boy sitting at Olive Garden in Pittsburgh and leading chef Bob Broskey, the Chicago-based head of culinary for the RPM division of restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You. Broskey fell in love with restaurants at an early age and it’s that passion that’s driven him ever since. “When I was a kid, we’d go out for dinner when we got good grades or it was a holiday or birthday,” he says. “It always felt special. We went to chain restaurants, nowhere really nice, but it was definitely a big deal.
It wasn’t so much about the food: it was about the sense of community, family, fun and being together. That still resonates with me. That’s what I’m still all about.” Broskey never considered another career. “All I've ever wanted to do is be a chef and be in restaurants,” he says. He was just 14 when he started working as a dishwasher and as soon as he left high school, he found his way into restaurants full time. “I moved to Chicago for the bustling restaurant scene and I chose to work in the most difficult restaurants possible, very fancy Michelin star tasting menu restaurants, because I wanted my trajectory of learning to be as steep as humanly possible,” he says. “I wanted to learn as much as I could as fast as I could.”
“All I've ever wanted to do is be a chef and be in restaurants.”
Key career steps include two-star Ria, seafood focused L2O, French restaurant Henri and gastropub Beacon Tavern. In 2019, Broskey joined the team at RPM, and he now oversees four restaurants in Chicago, plus RPM Italian locations in Las Vegas and Washington DC. “I try to think about every store every day as much as I can,” he says. “We have weekly calls with all the executive chefs, talk about what's going on in the restaurants, who's found great products, share ideas, knowledge and that intellectual wealth that we gather as chefs.” RPM’s mission statement is to source great ingredients. “Whether it’s high volume restaurants or tasting menu restaurants, I love the fine detail of all of that,” says Broskey. “I’ve always been most attracted to finding the best products on earth.”
“Westholme is an incredible product, incredibly consistent, incredibly high quality.”
RPM prioritises quality in a high volume setting. “I'm happy that I found a place where we can not only source and serve the best but we can do it for a lot of people,” he says. “I've spent a lot of time in restaurants where 80 covers is a very busy night. For us now, we want to do 400 or 500 people. I love being able to touch more people with the food we do.” Westholme Wagyu is a big part of the picture. “Westholme is an incredible product, incredibly consistent, incredibly high quality,” he says. “That tracks all the way from when we receive it to the feedback we get from diners in our stores.” With so many customers across RPM restaurants, there are varying priorities. “It’s there for someone who's incredibly knowledgeable and wants to try the best Australian Wagyu and it’s also approachable for someone who just wants to have a great steak,” says Broskey. “Every single person that gets it is blown away.”
Versatility is a bonus when working with premium ingredients. “We trim the fat, melt it down, cut it with 50% butter, season it with black pepper and we call that beef butter,” says Broskey. “We use it to season all of our steaks within the restaurant.” Meat trim is turned into sauces, such as peppercorn, bordelaise or beef jus. “We also serve an Australian Wagyu tataki which we marinate in sake, kiss over Japanese charcoal and then marinate again in black garlic soy. It’s sliced very thinly and served with crispy potatoes and a little bit of black truffle. it's the perfect way to start your meal.” What about Bob Broskey’s favourite way with Westholme? “My bread and butter is the 12-ounce 8-9-score perfectly clean New York strip,” he says. “You can't beat the marbling. I cook it over charcoal so when the fat drips you get that incredible touch of smoke. I take it to medium rare and serve it with beautiful pickled cherry peppers to help cut that richness. It's the perfect steak eating experience for me.”