Welcome to #HOMETOWNHUSTLE – a SweetwaterNOW exclusive series where we highlight hardworking individuals in our community.
This week, I had a chance to chat with Robert Burgess. For the past year, Robert has been the executive chef for the Open Range at the historic Outlaw Inn in Rock Springs.
Robert started his journey to becoming a chef 20 years ago. When Robert was just 17-years-old, he served a 4-year internship under three of the best chefs in the world at Miraval, a five-star resort, in Tucson, AZ.
“I cooked for Oprah Winfrey, Ben Stiller, and a few other celebrities – every plate had to be perfect. It was a lot of pressure, but that’s where I started my journey.”
From there, Robert moved on to cooking in retirement communities, and he just kept going.
“I’ve been here and there and everywhere. Being a chef is a great career that has allowed me to travel around the country. I do love being in Wyoming and I love my staff here.”
For Robert, being a chef is all about doing what he loves.
“I have always loved cooking. It helps so much if you love what you are doing. When I was younger I had a really bad temper, but cooking mellows me out.”
Being an executive chef comes with quite a few responsibilities and challenges. Robert is in charge of hiring, scheduling the menu, ordering the food, and more.
“I order all of the food, and I always make it a goal to order the highest quality food I can, all while trying to keep the prices affordable.”
Robert also just made it through his first banquet season at the Open Range. The Outlaw Inn is equipped with three bars, and a lot of banquet space capable of hosting hundreds of people.
“We offer a banquet catering menu but if someone comes in with a personalized request for a wedding or any other event, I can do it!”
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In addition to everything else the Outlaw offers, they will also be adding a coffee shop, complete with a drive-thru at the end of January 2020.
To Robert, restaurant success is all about getting to know the customers and the community.
“I make it a point to come out into the dining room each night. It just makes me happy to know that the customers are happy. At the end of the day, if you’re customers are happy, you’re doing a good job.”
With Robert being new to the community, I asked what he enjoyed most about working here in Sweetwater County and his answer didn’t surprise me. He spoke about how impressed he is with how the community comes together to help people in need.
“I recently volunteered at the Cowboys Against Cancer event and had a chance to chat with Margaret Parry. It’s really great how the community comes together and supports all kinds of different things. If there’s a need in the community, it’s met by other members of the community.”
*With that said, all year long, the profits from every single filet mignon sold at the Open Range will go Cowboys Against Cancer.
Robert also enjoys working at a place that embodies so much local history. The Outlaw Inn was built in 1966 and has since been a historic landmark for locals and travelers. Learn more about the history of the Outlaw Inn here. Because this is an older building the team at the Outlaw and Open Range have put a lot of time and money into new equipment and building improvements this year.
“Now that we have taken care of the equipment and building improvements, in 2020 we will be able to focus on perfecting the food.”
Throughout the years, Robert has learned a few lessons he’d like to share with aspiring business owners, managers, chefs, etc…
“Be humble and try to stay positive. There are a lot of days when things don’t go exactly the way you want them to go, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure or not moving in the direction you want to move in. Just because life takes you down a road you don’t anticipate going down, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the view.”