Person 2 Person | Stories - Person 2 Person: Cafe Rio Founder Steve Stanley
Wednesday, September 25 2013, 11:20 AM MDT
Person 2 Person: Cafe Rio Founder Steve Stanley

Lines have been out the doors since 1997 in St. George, Utah. Thats when Steve and Patricia Stanley opened the very first Cafe Rio restaurant. Now, the Stanley's are getting ready to open a new restaurant sometime in mid-September.

However, this time The Wild Zucchini Grill is filled with Italian food.

 In this week's Person 2 Person Shauna Lake sits down with Steve Stanley to discuss his past with Caf Rio and the future with The Wild Zucchini Grill.

Below is a transcript of Shauna Lakes interview with Steve Stanley:

SHAUNA LAKE: I am so excited to meet you. I dont know if I should hug you or yell at you because youre probably responsible for seven to ten extra pounds because you invented the pork salad, the sweet pork salad. Ive just been so curious and interested in how Caf Rio came about. Its kind of like a cultural phenomenon in Utah. How did you invent that?

STEVE STANLEY: Ive been a chef for about 45 years so that was one of the recipes that we developed for Caf Rio. It was based on kind of a Central American barbeque, and it was one of my favorites. Its actually my favorite thing is the pork taco with some jalapeos on it. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

So tell me about those very beginning stages where you come up with that recipe, the very incubator stages.

STEVE STANLEY: My career prior to Caf Rio wasI would travel around the country and companies would hire me to solve problems in restaurants or hotel food service, either to fix problems or design new concepts for them. And I had been living in Austin, Texas and there was a company there that I developed and opened two concepts for them and they hired me to fix one that they had. And so I had been thinking about this idea. It wasnt called Caf Rio at the time but the quick service fresh Mexican. So I actually approached them with it and said would you guys be interested in doing this. They had no interest in it. They were all full service. So Tricia my wife and I decided towe wanted to do it on our own.

: So what Im imagining is you tinkering in your kitchen at midnight like, with your dressing, your house dressing. Did you try like a thousand different recipes before you came up with the special one?

Most of the recipesIve done millions of recipes. Most of them I have an idea of what I want to start and so Ill just make it the way that seems right to me. And then usually theres two or three modifications after its finished to tweak it and make it a little better. Thats about how it came about.

SHAUNA LAKE: So when is there that moment in your mind like oh my gosh, this is going to be off the charts successful?

STEVE STANLEY: I started to get a hint of that even pretty early on in St. George just because the lines of people. I was amazed that people would stand in line especially outside in the heat of St. George to get tacos or a salad or anything for that matter, and so we really took that as an obligation as a team running the restaurant so we really need to make this a great experience if someones willing to wait that long.

SHAUNA LAKE: People came to buy it from you. You had no intent on selling. So they must have seen the money making potential in this and said, hey, let us take this off your hands and make you a very wealthy man.

STEVE STANLEY: Yeah that was, that was kind of what happened. Yeah Im real pleased with how it turned out absolutely. And you know Im happy enough that Im starting it again doing another company.

So now youre starting over, and youre starting this time with not Mexican but Italian.

STEVE STANLEY: Right, Italian.

Tell me whats next for you.

The name of the restaurant is The Wild Zucchini Grill, and its Italian street food. So it functions similarly to Caf Rio in terms of walking into the kitchen and preparing meals that are ready when youre finished. Well be making pizzas, salads, pastas and sandwiches. So itsI worked with a company in California tothey make conveyor broilers. And these are usually used to cook chicken and burgers and steaks and things. I flew down to their factory and we played with this machine for a day until I got to the point where we could make a pizza in this oven in two minutes I can cook a pizza. So thats how we do the pizzas and we make all of our breads and everything by hand and fresh every day.

SHAUNA LAKE: Did you do all the recipes again yourself?


SHAUNA LAKE: So can you really replicate the success of a Caf Rio? Do you believe you can?


SHAUNA LAKE: Or do you think thats a once in a lifetime phenomenon?

STEVE STANLEY: Well its more than sufficient for any one person already, but the one thing I learnedthe biggest lesson I learned when I sold Caf Rio was that retirements overrated. Its just not something; I didnt do well with retirement so Im really excited getting back to work and cooking again.

SHAUNA LAKE: Is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery? And when all those copycat recipes show up in cookbooks, are they even close?

STEVE STANLEY: Well I can tell you, Bob asked me when he bought the company because there were all kinds of people out there with recipes online especially, and I had reviewed them periodically and I never saw one that was accurate, but he asked me to keep an eye on them and he would call me periodically and say have you seen these or hed send me a list of them to check out. And for about a year and a half I did that, and I never saw one that was accurate. There were some that were close, but not that

SHAUNA LAKE: And now that were friends. Help me out maybe?

STEVE STANLEY: Id love to give it to you but its not mine anymore. I gave it to Bob.

SHAUNA LAKE: Its been so nice to get to know you better Person 2 Person.

STEVE STANLEY: Thank you. Its nice to meet you.

SHAUNA LAKE: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

STEVE STANLEY: My pleasure.

Find The Wild Zucchini Grill on Facebook Here.

Written and Produced by Leslie Tillotson

(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)

Person 2 Person: Cafe Rio Founder Steve Stanley

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