Talking about III Forks Steakhouse with General Manager Curtis Osmond, Chef Dylan Hauge and Proprietor Pete Nebrich
1. Tell us about III Forks.
III Forks started in 2000 in Dallas. It's original concept was as a traditional steakhouse and it had everything in a steakhouse that you ever wanted or needed. It was opulent, it was over the top, it was very well appointed. When we began opening up additional locations we started to evolve III Forks. What you see here in Jacksonville is the contemporary evolution of the classic steakhouse. What we hope to capture at III Forks is something for all occasions and for different parts of the evening. We have a great bar that's very well appointed and features great, classic drinks - an amazing selection of cocktails and specialty drinks. We also have great wines by the glass. We offer that in a setting that is detailed, well appointed and comes with service that is top notch. We have a great, inviting patio that offers water elements and fire elements in a nice, cosy environment. All those would be great off the golf course, out of the office to finish up some last minute meetings or to reward a staff. Our Happy Hour has both heavy and light hors d'oeuvres. You can also enjoy a burger or a great meal.
In the dining room we offer places that would be perfect for a special occasion, a celebration, or an impressive business dinner. If you're looking to impress someone, we hope III Forks offers the perfect place for that - whether it be in one of our dining rooms or one of our private rooms.
2. Have all the III Forks locations evolved in a similar way, or is Jacksonville unique in some regard?
All the III Forks locations evolved at the time they were constructed but we've not gone back and retrofitted earlier concepts. Each of the locations embodies what that community was looking for in the eyes of our designers and construction teams.
3. How might the Jacksonville III Forks be different that other III Forks locations?
We offer something that's unique in Jacksonville specifically. Our decor is very unique and speaks to something that was, perhaps, missing in the Jacksonville market. The wall around the wine room, and the wine room itself, both jump out at you when you walk in and offer something that is very unique. The fireplace inside the dining rooms is also very different. I'm hard pressed to think of any place that brings together all those elements in one dining room, even though Jacksonville has a lot of amazing restaurants in its own right. Although Jacksonville has other steakhouses there is not necessarily a contemporary steakhouse and we thought we just opened up the possibilities for how you might choose to dine with us.
4. What do you mean by a contemporary steakhouse?
When you consider just dress, you can be comfortable at III Forks with jeans and a nice buttoned down shirt or you can come straight out of a Board meeting in a suit and tie. You can be on a casual date night with your husband or wife or you could be on your way to a symphony performance in a black tie affair. I think that oftentimes some of the more traditional steakhouses might make you feel that you really need to throw on a jacket to feel comfortable.
5. Do you serve lunch and dinner?
We're dinner only, except for private events.
6. How long has III Forks been open in Jacksonville?
7. What attracted you to the Tapestry Park area?
Tapestry Park was really interesting because we felt like the South side of Jacksonville was really the epicenter of business in Jacksonville. It allowed a convenient location for folks who lived in the San Marco area and the Riverside area, and even as far as downtown. And then it also attracted folks from the Beaches. The success of the Town Center really underscores how many people felt the same thing - it is easy to get to and pulls from multiple areas.
8. Where does the name III Forks come from?
The 3 forks of the Trinity River in North Texas is an area bound by the East, West and Elm Fork of the Trinity River. As Texas became a state, that area is now basically Dallas, but prior to that the lore had it that in pre-Texas statehood the area was called 3 Forks territory. Our original steakhouse took its name from that area.
9. III Forks advertises its use of USDA Prime steak. What is USDA Prime?
The USDA have grading criteria they use for all beef produced in the United States. That grading is to distinguish beef based on its flavor and tenderness. The USDA Prime moniker is determined by many factors and is reserved for its highest quality beef. One factor in the grading is the density of marbling within the ribeye - marbling being flecks of fat within muscle fibers. A higher density of that marbling will produce a higher flavor profile and greater tenderness in the meat. The top 2% receives a Prime grading, which is the best designation you can get in the United States.
10. Is there a regional aspect to where you get your beef from?
Prime beef is available in any part of the country although we've found that the flavor profiles of beef vary by region. We've determined that the area in the midwest produces the highest quality of beef along with the flavor profiles that our consumers believe is the best. So our beef is sourced out of the midwest of the United States, which we feel has the highest quality of flavor and tenderness.
11. In 2010, George Singeltary, the Fine Dining writer for the Jacksonville Examiner, awarded III Forks the "Best steak in Jacksonville" for your filet mignon. What does it take to get an award like that?
I think there's many factors, but I think that right off the top, the quality of the beef that we source is one criterion that would have gone into that. Additionally to that - we take just salt and pepper and allow the quality of our beef to speak for itself. We try not to complicate the process. We broil our beef at 1800 degrees to really sear in the flavor and lock in the juices so you get a real high quality, very flavorful, very juicy piece of meat. Perhaps the culmination of those aspects are why George felt it deserved that designation.
12. It sounds like the preparation for your steaks is pretty simple…
Yes, it's very simple - just salt and pepper. We want to let the quality of the beef speak for itself.
13. How do people generally order their steaks cooked?
I think that's one of the most debated issues in steakhouses. I think it's a very personal thing. For myself, the way I get my steak cooked depends on the cut of beef. A filet will be a nice medium rare - with a nice sear on the outside. It's a tender product that doesn't require a whole lot of cooking to allow those muscle fibers to break down. For steaks like a strip or a bone-in ribeye I'll often order them medium or medium well because I want those steaks to be cooked just a little bit longer to allow the flavor to really shine through.
14. What's a double cut pork chop?
That refers to the thickness of the pork chop - it's about twice as thick as an average chop. Oftentimes those will come with 2 bones. But mostly "double cut" refers to the thickness, which is usually 1 1/2 - 2 inches thick. It allows us to get a nice sear on the outside and still be able to control the temperature on the inside of the steak.
15. Besides steak, III Forks also features a lot of seafood. What's the balance between steak and seafood that's ordered by your customers?
By our sales, we're a steakhouse through and through - people are mostly ordering steak. However, we get a lot of comments in the dining room when people are pleasantly surprised at just how high the quality of our seafood is. We certainly have a lot of seafood at our disposal being here on the coast, so we're able to source seafood in very, very fresh. We think we prepare our seafood just as carefully as we do our beef. So the care and attention from our culinary team at the back of the house shines through in the production of our seafood. But more people order steak than seafood - I'd guess that about 75% of our sales are steak and 25% are seafood.
16. Is your seafood primarily sourced locally or are your bringing in more exotic varieties?
Depending on the type of seafood itself we'll either take advantage of very local waters or we'll go to those places where we find a particular type of seafood to be the best.
17. You advertise having Australian lobster. What's different about Australian lobster and why did you choose that variety for III Forks?
The Australian rock lobster is found in the cold waters off the coast of Australia and we've found that those colder waters produce a much more flavorful, tender, and succulent piece of meat versus what you might find in the warmer waters off the Caribbean coast or off the coast of Maine. The secret got out about Australia - that it had the best lobster tail, and so as that became more fished and as more people began to find out about that supply there became some shortages and the lobster became more difficult to come by. Since that time, people took the same characteristics of those waters and found just as good high quality, cold water rock lobster tail off the coast of Africa. So, oftentimes we'll have a mix of Australian and colder water lobster tails from the coast of Africa.
18. Is your menu primarily steakhouse classics or do you rotate items a lot?
The core of our menu is tried and true. Since 2000 our customers have spoken with respect to what needs to be on the menu. Outside of the core 65-70 percent of the menu, the balance will change, based largely on what sells and what doesn't. A menu in a restaurant is not like any other business selection - if it moves it's going to stay, and if it doesn't move you'll question how you can make it better, change it, or add more variety to it. We take a serious look at the least ordered 25 percent of the menu and we challenge our culinary team to come up with things that are going to earn their way on to a permanent spot on the menu.
19. Does III Forks in Jacksonville have a similar menu to other III Forks locations or are there things that are more or less popular with people in Jacksonville?
The menu mix does change from location to location which gives us an opportunity to drive features each night which are different. The culinary team in Jacksonville will produce unique features for appetizers, fish, beef and dessert based on the demands from customers here in Jacksonville and based on local, seasonal ingredients that we can get our hands on.
20. What can you recommend for someone coming to III Forks for the first time?
I think you start with a steak. Being a steakhouse, I think you'd be hard pressed to come in here for the first time and not get a steak. At that point it really depends what you're in the mood for. If I'm looking for something a little lighter and a little leaner then a filet is where I'll go. It's going to be a very flavorful, very good, very high quality steak. If you're having a celebration and you're wanting to get something a little more decadent, then a bone-in ribeye is certainly where I would go. I was asked, after moving here, that if I could eat one steak off the menu at III Forks as the last one I'd ever have, then what would it be? For me, it would certainly be the bone-in ribeye, cooked medium - and that would just about be the perfect steak for me. But beyond that I think that you should look at our sides. I think our off the cob creamed corn is a go-to dish that is unlike any creamed corn you've ever had. It's shaved fresh right off the cob every day. The corn is shucked in the back into a pot and then sliced off the cob in minutes with cream and butter and a little salt and pepper mixed in. It's something that you can't pass up when you come here.
21. Is your creamed corn a seasonal offering?
No. We put a lot of pressure on our produce company to provide a corn that has the sweetness and firmness that we're looking for all year round. That puts a little pressure on them to look around the world whenever we're getting it in but they deliver.
22. What about some other sides?
Then I think you've got to start your meal with a III Forks salad, which is a house specialty. It uses a house made dressing. Sliced green apples add a perfect amount of sweetness to the dish and really set it off. Pecans are also added to give another dimension to the salad. It's a great way to start your meal.
Our six-cheese potatoes are one of our most popular side dishes. They're very creamy, and as the name implies, they're very cheesy and very delicious. They complement the steaks very well too.
Our asparagus is a very classic, traditional side dish that you'd find at many steakhouses but the stocks are hand sorted and a lot of detail is given to what they look like and how they taste. They're very tender and cooked perfectly. They're seasoned with a little salt and pepper, which is all that it requires.
Then you have to save room for dessert - all our desserts are absolutely amazing and we make all of them in house, from scratch! So if you're coming for the first time I think the items you absolutely have to get are a III Forks salad, a steak, the creamed corn, the six-cheese potatoes and then you have to save room for what I think is probably one of my favorite dishes on the whole menu, which is our bread pudding.
23. What makes bread pudding your favorite dish on the menu?
Like any piece of art you need a good canvas. We get fresh bread in each day that we serve in the restaurant. Leftover bread is toasted the following day and baked with cinnamon and sugar until it becomes the perfect canvas for the bread pudding. Over that canvas we pour an unbelievable sauce made with Maker's Mark bourbon. The bread pudding is moist and heated to just the right temperature with sauce ladled over the top. We add a little homemade cinnamon ice cream to finish it. You've got all the elements of a great dessert - it's warm and fresh with a lot of great aromas. It also tastes amazing, making it the perfect dessert.
24. What can you recommend to someone who's been a few times and is looking for something a little different?
Each of our seafood items makes a case. If you ask my wife she'll say the Chilean sea bass is better than anything she's ever had. It's just a great piece of sea bass with a little salt and pepper and it's delicious. The Atlantic salmon is fantastic, with a great flavor profile. It's very good and well prepared. The bacon wrapped scallops are one of our more popular seafood items. Our Ahi tuna is spectacular and if you're going to have some beef with your meal the Ahi tuna is something you'd have to offer some balance.
Beyond the seafood, if you just want a great burger and to sit in the bar to catch the last bit of a game on TV or to enjoy some conversation with friends, our burger is just about one of the best burgers I've ever had. It's maybe something that gets overlooked if you just came in once in a while.
25. Do you get a lot of people who come in for the more casual side of III Forks?
Absolutely! The entire section on our menu dedicated to local favorites was put together from seeing a need where people wanted to get something that wasn't a big steak dinner. We'll get a lot of people who are just off the golf course in shorts and a golf shirt and they'll find themselves on the patio or in the bar and it's like they're at home, feeling great. Those same people might be entertaining a collection of executives in a Board meeting in the restaurant on any given night but when it comes to their own personal time they're right back because they know the food is going to be of the best quality, they know the service is going to be impeccable, and they know it's going to be served in an atmosphere that makes them feel like they're being rewarded.
26. Can you tell us about your wine collection? Why such a broad collection vs a more narrow collection?
If I had 10 wines on the list then at that point you are held captive to my personal taste and what I think about those particular wines and their price points. By offering 350+ different wines I'm able to take varietals that are near and dear to individuals in the community at various price points and then create a spectrum that will complement everything on our menu. If you want to have a great Cabernet with your steak or a great Syrah, or if Merlots are your thing - I've got them, and I've got them in various price points. Carrying a wide range of wines gives us many option. For instance we can carry wines with a local appeal. Perhaps there's a winemaker with a place here in Jacksonville, or who lives in Jacksonville - we can carry many of his selections. Or perhaps there's a wine that's a personal favorite of our sommelier. Or perhaps someone has their eye on something they can't get for their own personal collection but because of our buying power and our leverage we're able to access those wines in a way that otherwise wouldn't even make it to this market. That's the value of having such a broad collection.
27. Does your mix of wines change regularly or is it fairly stable?
Our wine sommelier is in a constant search for the perfect wine at the perfect price point for the perfect customer. I think that what would be surprising to most people is that when our wine experts are tasting wine they really have a select group of customers that they are thinking of when they're bringing in a particular wine. We have many people who come in and ask our team for different wines recommendations to try on any particular night - and they'll tell them what they've found that they think will be perfect for that customer. Irregardless of the price point our team looks to find the perfect wine for the particular customer they have in mind.
28. What are some of the trends in wine these days?
Sideways created a whole new niche for Pinot Noir that many people never thought would happen. It opened up a whole other varietal that has become very popular and has maintained its popularity. Pinot Noir is still a big component in wine sales today.
Chile is producing some amazing wines and as wine makers leave areas like Napa or even up into Washington state and they start to explore partnerships in South America and Australia and other areas of the world they find some great varietals that produce amazing wines in other parts of the world and add a little different dimension to the flavors. As they become more global in their search for the perfect terroir they find different uses and those emerging markets pop up. Chile and Argentina would be the two areas that I've seen the biggest surge recently although South Africa is also producing a lot of great wines. Those 3 countries would probably cover the biggest new emerging markets over the past 3 - 5 years.
29. Are people still focusing on red for beef and white for seafood?
No, not anymore. I think that used to be the rule because people were scared to mess it up. I think that what we hope to communicate to each of our customers is that there are no wrong decisions. We've gone so far as to help develop a program that runs on an iPad and allows our wine list to be very interactive. We put our tasting notes on the iPad and allow people to be their own sommelier in many cases. We want to create a very approachable opportunity for people to enjoy wine and not feel intimidated by a sommelier in the formal sense and feel as though he's trying to sell them a wine when really what he is there to do is to provide the perfect wine for your budget, for your occasion, for your types of food and styles that you like. It really doesn't matter about red or white with fish or steak. I can be found enjoying a white wine with a beef dish just as easily as a red wine with a fish dish.
30. Can you tell us a little more about your iPad application?
When the iPad was released by Apple we partnered with a software developer to create an interactive app for our wine list. When customers sit down at III Forks they're handed an iPad that's loaded with software that allows them to peruse our list, select wines based on price point, varietals, personal taste, label or region - whatever drives their decision making process. Then they can compare those specific wines on a smaller list taken from our overall collection of 350+ wines. With a smaller list it becomes more approachable and many people become their own sommelier. They can even email particular labels to themselves so they don't have to remember what they had. What they hopefully learn over time is that there will be a particular wine or style that they'll be drawn to. They'll learn about those flavor characteristics and profiles and what worked for them for a particular dining occasion. When they're out somewhere else or at the store they can gravitate towards those types of wines and select something they'll enjoy and be able to share with their friends.
31. Dylan, can you tell us about your culinary background?
Dylan: I've travelled all over. In my 20's and early 30's I went up and down the east coast from New York to Miami. I also traveled to Dublin, London, Savannah, and New Orleans. All over - I just travelled, trying to see different places and learning to cook different ways.
32. How did you end up in Jacksonville?
Dylan: My first job out of culinary school was at the Ritz Carlton in 1997. I knew the area and when I came down to meet with Curtis I just felt very comfortable with him and III Forks and decided to make the move.
33. What have been your major cooking influences?
Dylan: I grew up in Louisiana and went to culinary school there. In my career, and in every restaurant I've worked at it's always been about local, seasonal, fresh ingredients. It's been driven into me to the point that it's just the way I cook now.
34. What made you want to be a chef?
Dylan: Right when I started it was exploding - it was cool to be a chef, like a rock star. I just liked to make food and to make people happy when they eat it.
35. When you were traveling around were you working at different restaurants?
Dylan: I worked at a restaurant in New York for 5 years before coming to III Forks. They sent me to their other restaurant in Dublin to help out a little bit. Things like that have allowed me to do some traveling with the restaurants I've been working for.
36. How does Jacksonville compare to a city like New York in terms of steak?
Dylan: New York is Manhattan and it's just one of a kind. They take everything so seriously. Our sister restaurant in New York was a chophouse called Keens which is really amazing. I used to go there to watch the chef age his beef and it was fascinating to me. So I've always been interested in steaks. Having the chance to dive into that on my own was just very enticing to me.
37. What attracted you to III Forks?
Dylan: When I flew down here I wasn't sure if it would be more than a night away from the kids. But then, when I met Curtis, and when I walked through the front doors of III Forks it was really amazing to me. There's no other restaurant that I've ever been to in all my travels where you open a door and it has a sight as amazing as III Forks.
38. How do you bring your own style to III Forks?
Dylan: We do nightly features where I get to have some fun. I'll do a steak feature and a fish feature every day. I'll order in cool stuff and try to teach the cooks how to work with great ingredients.
39. How would you describe your cooking style?
Dylan: I'm pretty much all over because of my travels but I would have to say that whenever I can put a little bit of Louisiana or New Orleans into a dish, I will. I have fresh crawfish that are being flown in and will be here tomorrow for a special I'm working on.
40. Where do you get your recipes?
Dylan: Sometimes I'll get a recipe by eating out and trying something but thinking that I could do it better by playing around with it. Most of the time though it's just stuff that I think up.
41. Can you describe a dish that you'd consider as your own or your signature dish?
Dylan: I have one dish that I created in New York City. It's a brunch dish that became wildly popular to the point where people were coming there just to have it. In fact the owner actually named it after me - Poached Eggs Hauge - I didn't want him to do it but he did. I got copied on an email yesterday that it's starting in the Dublin restaurant as well. It's a black pepper and citrus biscuit with baby arugula tossed with a champagne vinaigrette. It's got roasted tomatoes, salmon and basil pesto. It's different, it's unique, and it's just something you won't find on a brunch dish.
42. Will it be available here in Jacksonville?
Dylan: It's not here but not long ago when we were opening III Forks in the Dallas airport they asked me to come up with some dishes to do there and that was one I proposed.
43. What about a dish that you've created for III Forks in Jacksonville?
Dylan: I'd say to order one of our specials. The features are what I bring to the table; they'll be a part of me.
44. Is there a particular type of feature that you like to do?
Dylan: Whenever I'm writing up my features I'm thinking of the time of year and what's fresh, what's local, what's at the peak of ripeness and I'm always writing my features based on that.
45. What sorts of things can we expect, coming into the summer in Jacksonville?
Dylan: Fava beans, peas, corn, heirloom tomatoes, and things like that. Right now we'll start to run a lot of lighter items.
46. The core dishes - beef and seafood - are prepared very simply - often using just salt and pepper to season. Is the same true of the specials?
Dylan: No! I pretty much go crazy on the specials. It allows me to keep the passion and keep the love for the food and stay on top of things.
47. What's your favorite dish at III Forks?
Dylan: The bone-in ribeye, hands down by far - cooked medium. The outside has a char and the inside is so juicy. It's just delicious.
48. Do you oversee the desserts as well?
Dylan: Yes. I've worked with our pastry chef for a long time. We'll go over the recipes together. It's something I enjoy doing.
49. Can you tell us about your steak tartare? Starting with what exactly steak tartare is.
Dylan: It's a real classical dish. It's steak that's chopped up finely with lots of black pepper, capers, cornichons, lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, egg yolks, herbs, salt and pepper mixed together. We'll usually put it in a mold and serve it with toast points. It's served on a Himalayan salt block.
50. Do a lot of people order steak tartare?
Dylan: Yes - a lot of people order it in the bar.
51. Is it an appetizer or a meal?
Dylan: People get it for a meal quite often. There's 12 ounces of it, so it's quite a lot.
52. Is it available in all the III Forks restaurants? It seems like something that would be quite challenging to a lot of people.
Curtis: it's something that all the chefs are able to prepare. It hasn't always been on the menu and because of demand it's earned its way onto the menu. Each of the chefs brings their own variation to their tartare - it's basically the same but with small twists that are unique to the chef preparing it.
53. Do people come back to the tartare dish or is it something they try once just to see what it tastes like?
I think there are a certain percentage of people who love steak tartare and they will seek it out. They are big fans.
54. Can you tell us about your private events?
Private events represent about 1/3 of our business. The occasion for the private events can be very different. You might have business meetings, Board meetings or production meetings. There may be a reward aspect to it because certain goals have been met. People come to celebrate as a team or for team building exercises. There can be communication functions when you're rolling out a new product line and need to get the salesforce in to update them. We do a lot of those business type events. We have smaller private rooms as well. These can be used for intimate gatherings such as anniversaries or birthdays. We have a lot of high profile visitors who come through town - sports and movie celebrities for example. Often they want to have dinner in a nice place to feel like they're out and about but without being inundated with autograph seekers or picture takers.
55. Are the private events during the day or only at night?
We have a fair number of private events during the day. Because we are not open to the public for lunch we have the ability to host very large luncheons and we've got a very talented culinary team who'll put together menus that are geared to lunch, rather than being heavier steak dinners. Sometimes they're larger gathering with hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. Or it might be a presentation to a large group. Whether it's lunch or dinner, during the week or on the weekend, the private rooms are in demand - so much so that we have a person dedicated to working with special events. What they do, all week long, is to work through the details of people's various special events.
56. Are there trends in steakhouses or at III Forks in particular?
Steak is always going to have a place in people's hearts. Many times when people achieve various marks or moments in their lives, a good steak is what they think of. From that standpoint, being able to offer a great steak, prepared exactly the way you want it, in a very well appointed environment, will be something that will always be in demand, so steakhouses will always be around. While other types of cuisine, different styles of preparation and decor, come and go as fads, steakhouses have been around and they will continue to be around. The contemporary evolution of the steakhouse goes hand in hand with the way people show up to work every day. In most businesses, outside of the political arena or the banking and financial services sectors, you see people showing up in more casual attire. I think the steakhouses that have become more contemporary fall in line with that genre of dress, where you don't feel like you have to put on a jacket. I've also seen trends across the country towards a much bigger bar component and added venues such as a patio. In our Chicago location we have a rooftop lounge that offers a slightly different menu from the restaurant and gives people an opportunity to go to a venue where they know the service will be top notch, the environment will be very well appointed and the quality of ingredients will echo what you'd expect at a steakhouse.
57. Are you seeing more demand for specialty beef products, such as grass fed beef or Kobe beef?
There certainly are markets in the country where grass fed or organically produced beef is popular but we haven't yet seen it gain mass appeal. And it hasn't had a strong demand in the markets we operate in. We tend to have opened our locations in places where corn fed, wet aged 28 days, midwestern beef is the perfect beef for our customers. Based on what I've seen across the country this is the most popular and time tested type of beef. Kobe beef is, from a price point, beyond what most people are willing to pay for a steak. We do run Kobe style beef from time to time as a special but it's not in most people's budget.
58. Curtis, can you tell us a little about your background?
Curtis: I've been at III Forks for 8 years. I spent 20 years working for the management company that acquired III Forks. When we started opening III Forks restaurants we opened the second location in Austin, TX in 2005. I opened that location as the General Manager.
59. Have you had any big surprises running III Forks in Jacksonville?
Curtis: You're always amazed at the situations that may come up but, at the end of the day, managing a steakhouse is just like managing other restaurants that I've managed, but, no pun intended, the stakes are higher. You're dealing with higher cost ingredients so when you make mistakes you pay dearly for them. The consumer expects perfection every time and it's something we work diligently at from early in the morning to late at night. We're always making sure everything is perfect, from the decor to the flatware and the table arrangement, and all the details around the event. People may not dine at a steakhouse as frequently as their favorite lunch spot during the week so we know that if we make mistakes we may or may not have the opportunity to make up for those mistakes. So we work tirelessly all day to make sure everything is perfect, every time.
60. Where do you like to eat when you're not at III Forks?
Curtis: One of my favorite places to eat in Jacksonville is TacoLu. Don and Debbie have become good friends and it is a great place to enjoy great food in a completely different atmosphere from what I see every night at work.
Dylan: If you go to Barbara Jeans at this time of year around 7:15 when the sun has fallen below the trees over the intercoastal, it's amazing. I love to just sit outside. The kids can run around and feed the fish and the birds.
Pete: I like all places! Cap's is certainly a pretty cool place to go down to, to sit on the water and watch the day go by and enjoy some good wine and food.
61. Can you talk about the water and fire elements at III Forks?
We have fire pits out on the patio. We have a beautiful fireplace as you walk in from the valet area of the restaurant that leads you down a hallway to the host stand. We've found that fire and water bring people together. Dylan and Pete both talked about their favorite restaurants being on the water. The element of water makes those places different from some other amazing seafood restaurants in the Jacksonville area. And it probably just conjures up memories of things that are special to them. We think those elements are relaxing and soothing. If you think of your own patio or back porch - some element of a fire pit or a fireplace or some sort of fountain, stream or a brook or pond - that makes it special and unique and creates something that hits all the senses.
The patio at III Forks is really Zen like. You get away from all the hustle and bustle and it takes you back to what III Forks is focusing on - fresh ingredients and a good place to come and enjoy really good food. Being able to come and relax is a part of the whole experience. Now that it's warm we're going to invite people onto our patio - it's really incredible at night. You can come to watch the game on TV or to entertain clients. It's really this perfect, insulated space where you can come and relax.
I think it's a time in our culture where you're inundated with messages - instant messages, e-mail, social media - you've got all types of billboards and commercials and branding that's thrown at you all the time. What I'd suggest to anyone who came to III Forks is to put all that stuff away and just focus on the people you're having drinks or dinner with. Allow the rest of the world to quiet down a little bit so that you can enjoy each other's company, or focus on that business deal. Concentrate on your conversation and allow our experts to bring you the wine and the food and set the stage for something that can be a very relaxing, stress-free evening.
62. What's next for III Forks?
In Jacksonville, what's next is dinner tonight. I say that in all seriousness. It doesn't matter what happened yesterday or the day before - what matters is tonight. One thing we try to impress on our staff and our team is that tonight we have to produce excellence. Our focus in on the shift tonight. We have a number of people coming in tonight who expect it to be perfect. It's our job to make sure that it is. As far as the company is concerned what brought us to Jacksonville is a group of people who had dinner in another of our locations and they were from Jacksonville and they said "III Forks would be great in Jacksonville!" So, they showed us this property and after some back and forth we agreed that this would be a great spot for us. I was managing the location in Austin. I relocated to Jacksonville. We found Pete, Dylan and the rest of the staff. We brought the team together and opened this location. Over the first 3 years that we've been in business here it's been one of our highest volume per square foot locations that we have in our portfolio.
63. Why do you think III Forks has been so successful in Jacksonville?
Hopefully it means that what we're bringing to the table every night is something that people are looking for. We take a lot of special care and attention to each reservation, looking to make sure that everything about that experience is perfect. We've been rewarded with the fact that people are coming back. What's surprising to me is that after more than 3 years in the market we still have people every night who say this is their first time in - which is exciting! It means we have an opportunity to make this a place they want to come back to. That's what we're challenged with. I think as long as our attention to detail is high, we source the best possible ingredients, our culinary team puts together great dishes, our wine team puts together great wine selections, our dining room staff continues to become educated about the emerging trends or what people are looking for, and we take great care making sure everything is perfect then we'll continue to have the success that we've had to this point. That will then lead to what's next with III Forks, just like it led to this opening. Our work will lead to someone who's visiting Jacksonville, Florida, doing business with one of our many amazing neighbors and becoming exposed to something they don't have in their community, and they'll pick up the phone and call and say "Curtis, you should come here!"