August 8, 2012
Restaurant providing perfect place for professional growth
Since his arrival back in Sterling, after receiving degrees in culinary arts and food service management with an emphasis in hotel management, Colby Reardon is excited to be overseeing the management of this local eatery. (Courtesy Photo)
By Barbara Baker
As the popular saying goes, “Be careful of the words you say, keep them soft and sweet, you never know from day to day which ones you’ll have to eat”, Colby Reardon is the first to admit he’s eating his own words. As a youngster growing up in Sterling, he always said he would leave this 1,000 horse town and never look back. Funny how time and experience can change the mind. In May, Reardon, a 2003 graduate of Sterling High School, returned to northeastern Colorado to become the food and beverage manager at the Plainsman Grill.
Reardon brought back with him some wonderful credentials including an associate of arts degree in culinary arts and a bachelor’s degree in food service management with a minor in hotel management, all from the esteemed Johnson and Wales University. He did one year of studies at Northeastern Junior College before venturing on to Denver to pursue his love of cooking. He worked for several years for Ted’s Montana Grill in Denver, climbing the ladder from being a host to supervising a shift crew. He was offered a manager’s job at a Black Eyed Pea in the metro area, a job he held for only a short time as the national chain began closing sites with the downturn in the economy. He returned to Ted’s for a while, eventually being hired by Windcrest, a high end retirement center in Highlands Ranch where he was an evening service manager overseeing the work of 18 servers taking care of nearly 400 residents.
Reardon is in a roundabout way just returning to his roots. He remembers well coming to the Sterling Country Club as a child, hanging out and learning how to play golf. He actually worked one summer at the Club as a cook. “I would come out here with Hugh and it was always something I looked forward to,” Reardon says, referring to Hugh Aikin, his mother’s husband.
“For me to get an opportunity, at my age, to be able to be the boss in a facility like this is a great test,” Reardon says. Since arriving at the Grill on May 1st, this new leader has been taking time to access the current and future needs of the restaurant and has made sure that customers coming to dine and groups meeting on a regular basis are being well cared for. “I’m working to establish a crew that is well-trained and can provide consistency in food and service,” he notes. “We really need to establish a mix and balance here that works and that is my goal right now.” As far as changes to the menu, Reardon is waiting until fall to introduce some new food items. “I did add a couple new beers and wines,” he said, noting that the bar now serves Odell’s 5 Barrel Pale Ale and Landshark beer and Gallo chardonnay and merlot. “I’m revamping some of our well drinks, too, adding some new liquors including Appleton rum and Margaretville tequila. We're responding to what our customers have told us they want.”
Colby Reardon, the new food and beverage manager at Plainsman Grill, draws a glass of Odell’s 5 Barrel Pale Ale, a new addition to the beverage menu since his arrival. (Courtesy Photo)
Reardon, who has liked to cook since he was a small boy, says he has some of his own food favorites and when he goes out, he usually orders these same items so that he knows how one restaurant stacks up against another. He often orders cheese enchiladas when sampling Mexican food and he calls himself a pasta lover. “I’m a huge Jimmy Buffet fan and I love his restaurants,” Reardon confesses. Perhaps the only thing he loves more than Jimmy Buffet music is Elvis Presley and he has a huge Elvis collection—providing a hint of this young man’s seemingly old soul. An avid traveler, Colby has been to all parts of Mexico and the Caribbean, usually on trips organized by his mother who is a travel agent. “I really want to go to Ireland and to Europe,” he said. He is a big sports fan (go CU Buffs!) and likes to sink his face into a book whenever he can. Ernest Hemingway is his favorite author. He hasn’t had time to read much lately as he’s working long hours and taking advantage of a chance to golf before and after work and on his days off. For now, he’s just enjoying being back home.
“It is definitely way quieter here and I’m saving a lot of money on gas,” he laughs. As a kid, and prior to his return to Sterling, he had no real interest in the culture of northeastern Colorado. But, now he’s finding ways to reconnect. “During wheat harvest, I helped combine a whole field out in Fleming at Marv and Judy Connor’s place,” he says, grinning wide and making sure to point out that he never did anything like that growing up. “I might get to help some people work cattle this fall and it will be the first time I’ve ever done that either!” The way Reardon lights up talking about getting connected to the country could be an indication of the maturity that comes with frontal lobe attachment in your twenties.
Reardon says the weekly gatherings of the Rotarians and the Republicans and the Edwards Jones and Women’s Christian Connection groups among others have been a great opportunity for him to see old friends and make new ones. He has overseen several weddings at Northeastern 18 this summer and has several more happening in the fall. He’s looking forward to booking groups for holiday parties and dinners and he says it is not too early to start reserving dates. With the experience he’s had in the city, he feels very qualified to make any event as nice as possible working with the budget he’s given.
In the meantime, Reardon invites everyone to stop by and try the Plainsman Grill for lunch or dinner Wednesday through Saturday. “When I went to NJC to school, I never would have dreamt I’d be back out here, helping run a place that I frequented as a kid. It’s really pretty awesome. I can really appreciate what this place has been and what it might become.”