by Steven Doyle photos by Robert Bostick
We hooked up with Kenny Bowers, owner of Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill in Addison, Kenny’s Burger Joint in Frisco and for the past year Kenny’s Italian Kitchen, also in Addison.
Bowers is an engaging person who is excited about what he does for a living. He lives for food and restaurants, and it is with this passion that has carried him successfully through out his tenure in ownership. Bowers also walks the edge a bit, but that goes along with the personality that can work the outrageous hours that he does and still maintain control over each of his locations.
We enjoyed our conversation with chef Bowers and hope you do as well. This month marks the one-year anniversary for the Italian Kitchen and the six year anniversary for the Wood Fired Grill.
Every since I was little I have been obsessed with food. From where I am going to eat, to what I was going to eat. My parents were divorced and my father would take me to these expensive places. Me being the obnoxious kid, I would take advantage of that and order the most expensive and interesting thing on the menu.
I was eating pate when I was eight years old and loved it. I remember once being with my mother and she ordered Veal Oscar. I tasted that and thought it was really good.
How did you get involved with restaurants?
I grew up in Boston but moved to Dallas in 1988 to work with my cousins and my uncle in the insurance business. I used to cook on my days off. I eventually met a guy named Jack Chaplin. He was the owner of the restaurant, Chaplin’s, and was a customer of mine in the insurance business. We were chit chatting one day and Itold him I wanted to be in the restaurant business. I was going to open a deli.
Chaplin had sold his restaurant and told me about this idea he had. He wanted to open this lobster place on Greenville Avenue. I asked him if he would be interested in taking on a partner. I hadn’t been in the restaurant business but was really interested. He spoke with his wife and decided to make me a partner in Daddy Jacks.
Did you have any formal training?
Chaplin and I worked together for three years and literally that was my schooling. Jack graduated from Johnson & Wales in the fourth graduating class. So working with Jack was literally like have a private tutor on the job for three years.
You were involved with Rock Fish for many years, how did that transpire?
After three years at Daddy Jack’s I wanted to expand and Jack didn’t, so I sold my interest in to him. I opened up Lefty’s Lobster House in Addison and ran that for a few years. I sold that to my partner and opened up Big Fish, Little Fish on Henderson. There was a lot of construction and chaos on Henderson and there really wasn’t enough to make a living for two, so I sold and hooked up with Randy Dewitt.
At that time there were two Rock Fish restaurants. I was there for seven years and we built it to twenty-five. That was a great learning experience.
I left Dewitt to open up the Wood Grill. It had a rough first year, but it went well. It’s been open now for six years. We always had compliments on our burgers and always wanted to open a burger place. So in 2008 we opened the Burger Joint in Frisco.
What made you think Italian?
A neighbor of mine asked me what was next and he showed me the space where Kenny’s Italian Kitchen is located. It was a Spanish tapas restaurant, and we came in and sat down and looked around. I said let’s change the flag and do something Italian. It made sense. It was relatively cheap rent since it’s only 2,400 square feet, we already had relationships with the hotels and it was close to the Wood Grill.
I grew up in Boston and there wasn’t really any old school Southern Italian, red-checkered table clothed restaurants in Dallas. People like Italian, but it’s a different animal. People have their mother or grandmother that make Italian food and they are extremely opinionated when it comes to their red sauce and lasagna. It was a challenge to come up with recipes that would appeal to a large crowd.
What is your favorite dish on your menu?
My absolute favorite here is something like what my step-mother made, veal Parmagano. I took this to the next level. We take a large bone-in veal chop and pound that down and bread it. It is awesome. But we do the classics like Chicken Marsala, Veal Piccata and we do specials like Veal Oscar on the weekends.
You have the El Jefe burger challenge at the Burger Joint. Any challenges here?
We are working on creating something that will compete on thelevel with El Jefe, but for now on Sunday nights we do dollar meatball night. It’s a four ounce meatball. We have a deal if you break the record for the most meatballs its free. The record so far is 17 meatballs.
How much does it cost for one rib?
4 responses to “A Chat with Kenny Bowers”
I haven’t been to the Italian restaurant yet, but have been to the Burger Joint. Fun atmosphere, casual and on the cheap. You CAN buy one rib! Seriously funny and you can buy a single onion ring. the best is their fat assed beef sandwich that is similar to a Philly but huge. If the Italian place is similar count me in.
I love the Wood Fired Grill. I love the Burger Joint. But as someone who grew up in New England and moved to Dallas just a few years ago the Italian place misses on all cylinders for me. I’ve gone three times now and every time left if not disappointed at least unsatisfied. I’m still looking for that really good Italian place in DFW.
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