My Interview With the Culinary Expert at Silver Grill Cafe
Cinnamon rolls. If you live in Fort Collins then I hope you’re imagining the biggest and best cinnamon rolls from the legendary Silver Grill Cafe. This restaurant is known for more than just their cinnamon rolls, they are also the oldest restaurant in Northern Colorado. Heather Beckman, 40, Managing Partner at the Silver Grill Cafe, agreed to an email interview even though she was extremely busy during the weekend rush. Any day of the week you can find Beckman running around at the Silver Grill Cafe. Being a part of the Silver Grill staff for the past 10 years and having extensive previous experience in the food industry, this interview not only reveals the inner workings of the restaurant but also Beckman’s unique history in the culinary world and how this has carried on to Silver Grill’s menu. This interview also encompasses her take on brunch and the secret behind this restaurant’s success.
First I have a few intro questions:
Q: Where are you from?
A: Appleton, Wisconsin.
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself, any hobbies?
A: Cooking, volleyball, exercise, golfing, hiking, swimming, playing with my kiddos and family.
Q: How long have you been working at Silver Grill and why did you choose to work there?
A: 10 years. They were hiring a manager when we moved to town. I am now part owner.
Q: How long have you been part owner?
A: I have been at the grill 10 years, and started as an assistant manager working my way up. I have been an owner, with my husband Ian, and owner John Arnolfo. John has had the grill since 1979.
Q: Being a part time owner must mean you really like this place. What’s your favorite thing about Silver Grill?
A: The old fashion feel and all the customers and my crew.
Q: Do you like brunch?
A: I love brunch. I love all egg dishes and experimenting with new breakfast dishes.
Q: Are there a lot of return customers?
A: Thousands and thousands in various levels, daily, weekly, annually, every few years.
Q: What do you think it is about this place that makes people keep coming back after all these years?
A: Great food, warm environment, warm staff and creative dishes, plus, keeping fresh and new menu items.
Q: What are the most popular items on the menu?
A: Cinnamon rolls, eggs benedict and country fried breakfast.
Q: What’s the most common age group you see here?
A: No particular age group, in one room there can be a young couple, a family of 4 with little ones, a group of college kids and an elderly couple.
Q: Has that changed over the years?
A: It was a local hang out but not too much for younger people and younger families. Yes, we have tried to introduce college students and young families to come check us out.
Q: Why do you think it’s a popular place for families?
A: Lots of choices and great fun environment.
Q: How would you describe the atmosphere here?
A: Warm, homey, great vibe with lots of smiling faces.
Q: In your opinion what’s the secret to staying in business after all these years?
A: Killer crew and killer food.
Q: Why do you think this place is so popular with the young/college crowd?
A: Fun drink menu, fun waiting area and we provide coupons all year round.
Q: Have you heard about brunch as a trend?
A: Yes, it’s a social event with just one or two fun cocktails and a good way to recover from a night out with a *hair of the dog and some good, hearty stick-to-your-tummy food. Makes sense to us.
*hair of the dog: drinking an alcoholic beverage to cure a hangover; it’s a popular remedy.
Q: Do you think it’s just a passing trend or do you think it’s permanent?
A: Hopefully permanent but we keep things fresh and interesting. Plus food is trendy and we have always loved to experiment with lots of fun fresh foods. I have a culinary arts degree from a school in Wisconsin.
Q: Some people say that breakfast/brunch is more than a meal, it’s also the experience that comes with the meal. Do you agree why/why not?
A: I do agree as I mentioned above. It’s about a cocktail or coffee while you wait with your peers or the local town, plus a big hearty meal of comfort food. It’s also about remembering fun events from the previous night.
Q: Have you created any items on the menu yourself?
A: Yes, many: stacked veggie huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos, Mexican hash and eggs, beer braised hash, breakfast quesadilla, hominy scrambler, chicken fried chicken and eggs, all seasonal and specialty pancakes and French toasts, Monti Cristo sandwich, turkey panini, spicy pecan chicken sandwich, turkey croissant panini, Kentucky hot brown, Reuben, pickled egg burger, Brie burger, fat burger, Greek burger, veggie sunshine burger, pecan chicken salad, strawberry spinach salad, and salmon Caeser salad.
Wow. Did not realize how many. All board specials are dishes I have created: burgers, eggs Benny specials, quick bread french toasts and hundreds of seasonal and interesting dishes. Many are totally my own creations and some are twists on traditional dishes. All are my own.
Q: How do new menu items get created?
A: Many of the dishes were ran as specials and sold so well we put them on the permanent menu. We consider the coolers and kitchen crew when adding dishes, we want all fresh ingredients, and we don’t want to overload the kitchen.
We did not want to bring in too many new ingredients, we just add it to the menu when we reprinted. We serve about 1000 customers on any Saturday so we can accommodate many different customers but we also don’t want to overload the kitchen. We pride ourselves in that everyone can find something on the menu and also we serve so many guests that nothing is in our fridge for more than a few days. We get 5 trucks a week.
Some dishes like the huevos and corn beef were out dated recipes we got complaints on that I felt needed help. Our lunch menu was very lacking so many sandwiches I ran as specials were added when we reprinted. Same goes for the burgers. We like funky but not too strange combos. The Monte Cristo is my personal favorite sandwich, made out of our famous cinnamon roll. I do try to tie in the cinnamon roll into many dishes. We have a beer cheese soup with Zwei brewing that is topped with cinnamon roll croutons. We also make a cinnamon roll beer with Odells each year, CinnsationAle.
Q: How has your culinary degree influenced your career?
A: I used it to become a pastry chef in Green Bay Wisconsin. Food service has given me work around the world. My husband suggested that we move to Europe after we got married. 15 years ago in April we married and a few years later we moved to Greece. We worked in the hospitality industry all of our work lives while going to school and after. I eventually quit taking every intro class you could think of and finally finished a degree in culinary arts that I used to work my way up in many restaurants. In Greece we managed a hotel bar and also eventually took on a bar to run ourselves. We lived and worked in Kos, Greece for 3 years.
Q: Where did you go after Greece?
A: We wanted to be closer to home but liked the island life style, so we moved to St. John in the US Virgin Islands. We did that for over a year and we again ran a restaurant where we managed, bartended, and waited tables. I also made desserts for the restaurant during the day and Ian did office manager work while I baked. Morgan’s Mango, the restaurant, is being rebuilt due to the recent hurricane. It’s a staple of the town and while we worked there the owners left it in our hands for over a month to go to their home of origin in Argentina.
Q: How have you helped Silver Grill to become a staple in the community?
A: We have annual events like a roll back menu of $.30 for breakfast for the first 80+ customers every anniversary in October. Also, the world’s largest bloody Mary bar. I personally pickle dozens of veggies and fruits for the July event.
Ian and I cook and create new dishes at home on a daily basis and many end up on the menu at the grill and maybe someday a night venue. We do some special night events with the local newspaper, Coloradoan, some catering events, and charity events at the grill. My husband and I create all the dishes and write all the menus.
I also do all social media and photography. Most photos on the menu are mine. Some are from a past photographer but many I have replaced with my own. I take care of our Facebook and Instagram, plus the website when I can find time.
Yes their cinnamon rolls are amazing, even getting national attention, but Silver Grill doesn’t just stop there. Maybe the secret behind this successful brunch place isn’t just the menu, but the people who make the menu possible. Be sure to stop by Silver Grill Cafe not only for the mouthwatering food and the impressive history but to also meet the amazing people behind the grill.