Posted by Stefanie Gans, Dining Editor / Thursday, July 11th, 2013
“We’re not throwing up gang symbols,” is what Chris Bukowski writes when sending the above picture of his childhood friends. Bukowski, famous from his time on “Bachelor Pad,” and now keeping his 15 minutes alive by opening a “female friendly” sports bar in Clarendon next month, squeezes into the middle of the photo.
Roland Kator is on the left. He moved to Columbia Pike on Monday to be the executive chef at his longtime friend’s restaurant, Bracket Room. On the right is Luigi Iovane, Bukowski’s next door neighbor growing up in Chicago. Iovane lives with Kator and will barback at Bracket Room. With a family background in construction, Iovane is currently helping out during the building phase of the restaurant.
The three, in the photo, are are showing “630:” that’s the Chicago area code where the three met, before they left for Las Vegas.
Bukowski says that Kator was recruited to play football all over the country, but when Kator hurt his wrist and lost his scholarship offers, Bukowski wanted him to go to Nevada with him, so he sent Kator’s mother a “three-page packet on why Las Vegas was the right path for Roland,” says Bukowski. And it worked.
”It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” says Kator of his injury-ending football career. He said he would have missed all those good years with Chris in Vegas. Roland stayed at UNLV for a year before heading to culinary school, graduating from the Vegas campus of Le Cordon Bleu in 2008.
“The three of us usually end up moving together,” says Kator, as he tells how Iovane also moved to Vegas with the boys. Now Kator and Iovane are in Virginia, with their friend, now a reality television star, opening up a restaurant. ”It’s awesome and hilarious at the same time,” says Kator, of Bukowski’s fame. Kator remembers a couple of months ago when he was grocery shopping and saw a magazine cover with Bukowski with his shirt off.
Kator worked at Bobby Flay‘s Mesa Grill in Las Vegas and most recently at Grand Lux Cafe, owned by The Cheesecake Factory, in Chicago. Bukowski brought on Kator less than a month ago. Kator was reluctant to leave Grand Lux, he says, but the nostalgia of their long friendship convinced him to move east.
The Bracket Room menu reads part bar-menu, part-trendy restaurant, part-I-have-to-be-on-TV-so-I-need-to-consume-fewer-calories. What Bukowski likes best represents the range of the menu: “My favorite things … would be the black grouper ceviche, the crab claw hot pot, and the romaine and kale Caesar salad.” There’s also a cheesesteak egg roll and a super fruit salad. Kator will add some chef-y touches, using lumaconi shells (which kind of look like an astronaut’s helmet) that will better hold the sauce for a mac and cheese.
“It’s always been our dream ever since we went out to Vegas,” says Bukowski about the three of them working together at his restaurant. Here’s to seeing if you can mix friends and business.
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Tags: bachelor pad, Bobby Flay, Bracket Room, Chicago, chris bukowski, Clarendon, Grand Lux Cafe, Las Vegas, Le Cordon Bleu, Luigi Iovane, Mesa Grill, Northern Virginia dining, Northern Virginia Magazine, northern virginia restaurants, NoVA Dining, nova magazine, NoVA Restaurants, restaurants in northern virginia, Roland Kator, Stefanie Gans, The Cheesecake Factory