13 Questions with Trish Tracey of Myriad Gastropub

Myriad Gastopub in the Mission is undeniably one of San Francisco’s best neighborhood spots to gather with friends and family and eat delicious and approachable globally inspired dishes with a Northern California sensibility. Chef Trish Tracey (Thirsty Bear, Ramblas) opened the restaurant in June 2015  and diners have been delighted by her bold flavors (as well as the tasty cocktails) ever since. We spoke with her to find out the challenges of being a chef/owner, how she got started in the business, and a few other very important issues, like her favorite drink and what’s always in her fridge at home. Read on to get a glimpse inside the life and mind of this affable and charming restaurateur.

How did you get started in the restaurant business?

I got started in the restaurant business when I was in high school. I had four older brothers and an older sister and most of them worked in restaurants in one capacity or another. I also had a single mom, so I was futzing around in the kitchen a lot at home.

But my first job was when I was 14; I was a waitress at a pizza parlor. And then when I was in high school, my brother was a waiter at a restaurant a couple of towns over and he got me my first prep cook position. So when it was time to decide what the heck I was supposed to do with my life after high school, I decided to go to culinary school.

When did you know you wanted to own and run your own restaurant?

I think I got really lucky. Sometimes it takes people a couple of career tries to figure out what they want to do. I just knew that I loved to cook. I was always futzing around at home. My mother was not the most creative cook, which I didn’t realize until I was older, but she had six kids to feed, so there was a meal on the table every night and I would help her out. And as soon as I landed in culinary school I knew this was it.

I felt right away that I wanted to have my own restaurant one day. There are a lot of paths you can take being a chef, but my mother was a big influence on me—she was not only a single mother, but she put herself though college, and then opened her own business and I thought that was the most bad ass thing ever, that she was an entrepreneur. I said, “That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to open my own restaurant.” It took me 30 years, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do as soon as I got to culinary school.

What is the hardest thing about running a restaurant?

There’s a vast difference between being the chef of a restaurant and owning and running a restaurant while being the chef. The hardest thing is maintaining balance.

As a chef, you want to stay in the kitchen and be creative and have all of the time in the world to play with food and do great stuff, but as a restaurant owner there are a lot of responsibilities. You’re now solely responsible for the bills and complying with laws and taking care of your employees. So the hardest thing about owning the restaurant is the balance: being creative and putting that creative energy out there for your guests to enjoy while making sure you’re running a tight ship.

Many restaurateurs struggle to keep customers coming back time and time again—what advice would you give them?

People have a lot of choices out there, so you certainly need to make their experience be a memorable one. For me, the best way to do that is to be authentic. People want real. They want to know that you care about their experience. People will even be forgiving if something isn’t perfect if they feel like they’re in a place that is authentic and that the people who are working there—from the owner to the server to the busser to the cook—care about their experience.

I think that’s the main gist of it. Be real, be authentic and care about the experience your customers are having.

What’s your drink of choice?

Oh boy. Well… I have a few. I would say tequila when I need a pick me up and wine when I need to wind down. My favorite drink right now is a Paloma, which is tequila with club soda and grapefruit juice and is super summer-y and refreshing.

Maybe this is redundant, but other than tequila, what’s your guilty pleasure?

Well, I don’t feel guilty about my tequila consumption at all! I would say my guilty pleasure is having a butterscotch pot de crème for breakfast. And sometimes a pot de crème for dinner at midnight.

What’s always in your fridge at home?

Eggs are my go-to whenever I need a meal and there’s nothing else in there. You can make so many delicious things if you just have a dozen eggs in your fridge. I tend to usually have some salsa verde in there as well and that goes hand-in-hand with the eggs if I need a meal, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

What keeps you up at night?

Now that I’m a restaurateur, I have all of the responsibilities of running a restaurant, and making sure I’m providing for my employees, investors, and customers—that all keeps me up but I think it’s supposed to. I look forward to the day it doesn’t, but I have a new restaurant, so when my eyes pop open in the middle of the night, there are a million different details running through my head.

Is there a food trend you’re totally over?

I think a lot of food trends are food trends for a reason. Bringing back whole animal butchery is great and the resurgence of pickling, I love pickling. I have Deviled eggs on my menu and I’ve sold thousands and thousands of them. So yeah, those are trends, but I think sometimes trends are great because they’re what people are looking for.

The only trends that I don’t really enjoy are dishes that are just over-the-top marketing and aren’t about good food, like putting an entire cheeseburger or maple glazed donut on top of a bloody Mary. That makes no sense. I don’t like things that aren’t about treating ingredients right and creating good, tasty food.

Where and what was the best meal of your life?

Who you’re with tends to make or break the best meals of your life. You can have a really great meal but if you’re with the wrong people it’s not as good and you can have a so-so meal, but it you’re with friends, it’s so much better.

One of the best meals I ever had was at Babbo in New York City not long after they opened. I can still remember some of the dishes, which is how I know it was one of the best because I’ve eaten many dishes all over the world. We had oxtail gnocchi, foie gras and beef cheek ravioli, lamb tongue salad. Everything was great about it, from the way they served the meal to the cocktails and even though it was a high-end restaurant, we felt relaxed and comfortable. And, of course, I was with some really good friends.

The other meal that pops to the top of my mind was super low-key. I don’t remember what it was called, but it was the oldest restaurant in Barcelona. It was a bar really. I was with my mother and we went into this place and they just had two pots of stuff that sat there warming all day. It was some fish cheeks and some really stewed down cream spinach and you just got a plop of it on your plate and it was so good. It was simple, delicious food cooked with love, but it was also in this really awesome historically rich environment in this fantastic city with my favorite person in the world, my mother.

If the next meal were the last meal of your life, what would it be?

God, I hope I don’t go down after having a really bad delivered pizza.

I think if I knew it was going to be my last meal, I would, of course, want tasty food, but it would really be about who I was with. Being an east coast Jersey girl and living on the west coast, I don’t get to see my family that much and I miss them all. I have a really awesome, big, fun family that I love, so it would just be a ginormous picnic or barbecue with all of my currently present and deceased aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, brothers, sisters. It would just be a big family party. The food would, of course, have to be fantastic, but it wouldn’t be fancy or high-end. Just tasty, flavorful food cooked with love.

Describe the San Francisco food scene in one word.

Frenetic. I think it just churns at a furious pace. It’s hectic and high energy and constantly changing.

Why did you choose Yelp Reservations and how has it helped you business?

I chose Yelp Reservations because it’s been around long enough, they’re grabbing some of the market share, and they’re a lot more reasonably priced than OpenTable. OpenTable being the only game in town is something that’s needed to change for a long time. It’s a scary amount of money just to get someone in the door. So cost was definitely a factor.

But another reason is that Yelp Reservations has really great customer service; every single person I’ve interacted with has been super helpful and not just because it’s their job. I feel like we have a partnership with them and they really want to see us succeed.

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