Chef Pete Repak is slicing thick cuts of rib eye steak in the kitchen of Ruth’s Chris Steak House with precise skill early one afternoon.
“I cut most of the meat for the restaurant,” Repak says. “We’re getting really good meat. Our meat is prime,” he adds.
As manager of the kitchen and staff, preparing meats for cooking is just one of many things that Repak does at the restaurant during his 12-hour work days. Among his main responsibilities are ordering meat and other foods and managing cooks who work in the kitchen. Creating well-prepared food is essential.
“We can’t send something out that’s not perfect,” Repak says.
Before things get busy at the restaurant, Repak makes a family meal for the staff.
When the dining room opens in the evening, the waitstaff begins serving guests.
At Ruth’s Chris Steak House, providing high-quality service is a top priority, Repak says.
“It’s all about the service,” he remarks. “We have excellent front-of-the-house service.”
People come to restaurants for the experience of dining out, Repak says.
“When you come here, it’s a celebration,” he says.
The menu at the steakhouse features items such as creamed spinach, which Repak calls comfort foods. Many of the items are simply prepared, but are rich and flavorful, such as roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, honey and butter.
While a variety of steaks from New York Strip to filets and Porterhouse are signature items, other entrees such as jumbo lump crab cakes are popular with guests, he says.
Appetizers range for seared Ahi tuna to barbecued shrimp and a chilled seafood tower that includes Maine Lobster, Alaskan king crab legs, jumbo shrimp and lump blue crab.
Everything at the restaurant is freshly prepared, including salad dressings, using recipes developed by the international franchise that creates menus for its restaurants.
Moving to the Asheville area is a dream that has come true for Repak, who loves the South and its cuisine.
“I’ve always called myself a secret Southerner,” he says. “We’ve always wanted to move to this area,” he adds.
For Repak, a Chicago native whose first job was at a steakhouse, working at Ruth’s Chris Steak House is coming full circle. And he is bringing more than 20 years of experience to his position at the restaurant in Biltmore Village.
After his training at the Culinary Institute of America, Repak became senior sous chef while working at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. He later served as executive sous chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. He also worked at a noted Chicago catering company before launching a gourmet carryout business in his hometown. His professional background includes a corporate position with Whole Foods Market and operating a consulting business in the food industry.
However, Repak says he is happiest when leading a team of chefs in the kitchen.
“It’s all an exacting approach to time and temperature and the willingness to do the hard work demanded by detailed, layered recipes, no matter the effort,” Repak says of food preparation. “Also, bacon is good,” he adds.
When he is not working at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Repak spends time converting his home and property in Old Fort into a small working farm with a garden and livestock.
“We’re trying to take the idea of of eating local to the nth degree,” he says of the project on which he and his partner are working.
The home in which he lives was owned by a chef, Repak notes.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House is at 26 All Souls Crescent. Dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. The restaurant and bar open at 4 p.m. daily.
By Sandra Barnes