by Bill More
I had the great pleasure of meeting with Kevin Roecker, 51, now the Kitchen Manager at The Bickford House in Peoria. Bickford is a Senior Living facility in Peoria and Kevin handles all their kitchen duties. Just prior to the Bickford he managed and cheffed at the Ironstone Restaurant at Willet’s Winery in Mackinaw.
Roecker started in the food business at age 16 as a dishwasher at the Country Kitchen in Morton, his home town. From there he was promoted to food preparation, worked at The Red Bud Restaurant, the Blue Max Restaurant and many more over the years.
His education in hospitality started at ICC with a Business Management degree, and that was followed with an Associate’s Culinary degree from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
Kevin had his hand in ownership with the Willie and Octavia’s Restaurant at the Metro Centre in Peoria. Business was strong until he got hit with a downturn from 9/11, and the utility costs at the spot turned out to be more than he had budgeted. His biggest disappointment was having to close this spot. It turned out that the location was not exactly right for the concept, the size was more than he really needed.
When I tapped his historical perspective Kevin told me that we he started out in the business there were a number of very popular German restaurants in the Peoria area, and buffets were also very popular. The buffets were home style foods and not the current trend of chocolate fountains, custard bars, and ethnic stations. There were just a very few high end dining spots but they did very well. These trends have since changed.
Roecker now sees that Sushi is big in Peoria, ethnic restaurants are also very popular and growing in number, and the Farm-To-Table is another trend he sees increasing. He has been surprised to see how far people will go for a Special Event that a restaurant may be providing, Wine and Dine concepts, or Murder Mystery Dinner have proven quite popular and folks will drive for many miles to experience such an event.
For the future here is what his crystal ball has in store.
He sees an opening for a solid Vegetarian/Vegan location, he can sight more different Ethnic Restaurants and places that will provide Healthy/Earthy options for diners.
For a final thought, and it is an extremely important one, Kevin said that the Summer is typically a slower time for restaurants. He knows Central Illinois goes out to dine for special events far more often in the Fall and Winter. His most sincere wish is that YOU support the Locally-Owned restaurants in Central Illinois in the Spring and Summer, so they will be there ---- solid and IN Business --- in the Fall and Winter when you want them the MOST.
Bill More is Your Secret Chef, Personal Chef in Central Illinois.
After a 33 year corporate sales career he made the change 7 years ago to follow his passion and share his talents with Central Illinois. He now provides Dinner and Massage Experiences, Romantic Dinners, Dinner Parties, In Home Cooking Lessons, Girls Night IN! Parties, and many more custom options to his clients, and thanks them for their loyal support over the last 7 years. He wants it to continue long into the future.