Frasca’s Bobby Stuckey is the king of restaurant hospitality. Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson is a James Beard award winning chef. Here’s how the two created a “culture of hospitalitarianism.”
Frasca is hands-down one of the best restaurants in Colorado, but when people sing its praises, the food isn’t usually the first thing they mention. It’s the hospitality. (Although the food isn’t so shabby itself…) Clearly, we’re starving for an eatery that makes us feel welcome and cared for, and when Frasca opened its doors in 2004, it set the bar so high for hospitality that none of the slew of new restaurants that have opened in the decade-plus since has reached it.
The man behind the curtain at Frasca isn’t behind the curtain at all – he’s Bobby Stuckey, and he’s right there, front and center on the floor just about every night. He’s the reason that Frasca is so often mentioned in the same sentence as Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry and Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, two of the best for hospitality.
“Great hospitality is built on trust, and that begins with all guests feeling like they’ve entered your own home,” Stuckey says. “Service is something you do to someone; hospitality is how you make them feel. There’s been such a wonderful explosion of restaurants, but sometimes there are not enough senior members who can teach both the fundamentals of service and the empathy of hospitality to the newer staff.”
A master sommelier (in 2013 Frasca won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service and in 2015 Wine Enthusiast named Stuckey the best sommelier in the country), he works the dining room nightly, sharing his enthusiasm – and knowledge – with his diners. The food is most certainly first rate, but it’s Stuckey that many of the regulars keep coming back for.
Stuckey got his first taste of the restaurant business back in 1985 when he bussed tables at Demitra’s Kitchen in Tucson, Arizona. Eventually, he made his way west to The French Laundry, where he worked under the famed Keller and met his eventual business partner, chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. Keller is known for his strong emphasis on service and hospitality, and Stuckey says that the greatest lesson he took from his years with Keller was the mantra, ‘Treat it as your own, and one day it will be.’
He took that advice to heart and made his own with the opening of Frasca.
“I was going to spend the rest of my career with Thomas Keller or do my own project,” Stuckey says. “Each choice would have been great, but I’ve very much enjoyed having my own restaurant.”
They chose Boulder because it’s close to his wife’s father and family, not to mention it’s a pretty stellar place to live. This spring, the Frasca family will grow with the addition of Tavernetta by Frasca, which will serve Italian classics in the new Union Station development. Stuckey has already tapped a French Laundry alum to lead the front of house, so we know the hospitality will be just as outstanding.
As for Stuckey’s role at Tavernetta, it’s exactly as we’d expect: “Bussing tables and helping educate the staff on hospitality.”
“Great hospitality is built on trust, and that begins with all guests feeling like they’ve entered your own home,” Stuckey says. “Service is something you do to someone; hospitality is how you make them feel.