Restaurateur Jason Dady of Tre Trattoria

Restaurateur Jason Dady of Tre Trattoria
February 2012

If Jason Dady has planted deep roots in the hospitality industry, it’s because he started out with deep roots in the hospitality industry. One set of grandparents—Gale and Ollie Dady—owned a local tavern for nearly 40 years, where the young Dady learned the value of customer connections. As if that wasn’t enough to prime a young man already in love with cooking, Dady’s maternal grandfather, Charlie Murphy, was a master butcher and favorite meat expert with locals.

Dady quickly took his passion from familial roots to official training. He studied at Texas Tech University, earning his BA in Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management. With front-of-house and administrative skills firmly established, Dady went on to attend the California Culinary Academy. While there, Dady worked at Stars Bar and Dining under Chef Chris Fernandez. And after graduating, Dady’s travels took him to Napa and the Beringer Wine Estate, where he honed his skills in New American cuisine under Executive Chef David Frakes. Dady fused his front- and back-of-house savvy while assisting in the opening of two restaurants.

In 2001, back on his native Texas soil, Dady planted his first San Antonio roots with The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, featuring one of the city’s first tasting menus. He followed that up with small plates cuisine at BIN 555 Restaurant & Wine Bar in 2006, and two locations of Tre Trattoria, an Italian restaurant with a focus on fresh-made pasta. Last year saw the inception of the “DUK Truck”—a bright yellow gourmet pop-up truck (or “Dady’s Underground Kitchen”) that brings market-driven street food to local festivals and the like. And Two Bros. BBQ Market is Dady’s most recent—and most emphatically Texan—contribution to the San Antonio dining landscape. But given his proven penchant for innovation, and the success of the legacy he’s building upon, it’s likely Dady will continue to build into the next generation of family success, and San Antonio cuisine.

Interview with Rising Star Restaurateur Jason Dady of Bin 555, Tre Trattoria, Two Bros. BBQ Market – San Antonio, TX

CH: When did you open your first restaurant? How did you know you were ready to own and not just work for someone else?
Jason Dady:
We opened The Lodge in 2001; Bin 555 was next. I went to Dallas and cooked and thought I could do it on my own [in San Antonio]. Naively, thought we could do it. We thought this was an interesting market, where we could get roots started at a young age.

CH: What was the deal? How did you get the money? Do you have partners?
I got a small business loan with my wife and brother.

CH: Tell me about your concepts?
Bin 555 was the first place to get small plates; we opened Tre because you couldn't get fresh pasta. Now, we do 300 pounds of fresh pasta a week.

CH: How has the San Antonio market changed since you opened The Lodge?
We changed this city. There was no wine bar. There was no place doing tasting menus. We need boundaries to keep being pushed. The growth that’s happened in the last five years is awesome, and it’s bringing in forward-thinking diners. The only downside there are so many places opening up. The labor pool is getting thinner. Cooking is the easy part.

CH: What are your top three tips for running successful restaurants?

1. Take care of your staff.
2. Watch the bottom line.
3. Understand that your job is to inspire people every day.

CH: Do you want to conquer the city or maintain your empire?
I want to solidify our place as a restaurant group in San Antonio.

CH: What was a frustration in the early days?
I’d say, don't have kids until you're established as a chef.

CH: Did you have a mentor for your development?
As a chef, yes. But not really as a restaurateur. I look up to Danny Meyer.

CH: Was there a point when you grew too fast?
It's easy when you become successful to tap on the breaks. What's made us successful is slow growth. My wife still does everything. She’s the accountant and business keeper; she also does marketing.

CH: How many opportunities do you review per month?
We get pitched five times a week by people who want us to look into opportunities. If you start to listen, offers happen. But right now, we’re concentrated on wrapping up what we’ve done and shifting energy to upscale casual concepts. Guests are dining and they want to be inspired with a better value. People want to spend $25 per person and feel the same way they do when they spend $70 per person.

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