20 Questions with Boka Group Owners Rob Katz & Kevin Boehm

20 Questions with Boka Group Owners Rob Katz & Kevin Boehm

Eerily enough, on the day we did this interview it was Rob’s wedding anniversary and that was the day I met both of them 6 years ago when I was a server. They both happened to be in the restaurant at the same time! I’ve enjoyed dining at their restaurants over the years and just talking when we get the chance. Both are very funny, quick to make and take a joke, and they have personality to spare which is evident just by looking at them.

I also appreciate their support when it comes to writing the blog and knowing they read it. I like they helped make one of my predictions last December come true! I knew they would be a fun interview and they didn’t disappoint. I’m not sure I’ll laugh this hard again for a while when it comes to playing 20 questions!

Name                                                 Rob Katz                                 Kevin Boehm
Restaurant                                      Boka Group                            Boka Group
Married                                            Kathleen                                 Courtney
Kids                                                    Jameson, Shelby                 Sophia, Lola
Age                                                     45                                              40
From                                                 Vancouver, BC                      Springfield, IL
Culinary School                            Self Made Man                       Univ of Illinois
Knife                                                  Righty                                      Right
Twitter Handle                              @robkatzboka                    @kevinboehmboka
1. What did you have for dinner last night?
Rob: Hachi’s Kitchen – pretty much every Sunday
Kevin: Smoked sturgeon latkes at Perennial Virant and then a spicy mono from Japonais

2. Place you eat most often on days off – that isn’t in the BOKA group?
Rob: Sai Café
Kevin: Arami

3. If I gave you $5,000 how would you spend it?
Rob: Frivolously
Kevin: Foolishly
CFS: I’ll leave the specifics of that out (laughter)

4. First word that comes to mind when I say Michelin?
Kevin: Best year ever at Boka
Rob: That’s one word
Kevin: Boka
Rob: Goal

5. Favorite Charity Event that you attend?
Hope Institute Celebrity Chef Dinner, Springfield IL

6. Last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in?
Rob: Tokyo
Kevin: Chicago, Best restaurant city in America
Rob: Oh, SEE he’s just going for it. You give him fastballs
CFS: It is a softball question
Rob: I need to slow my answers down
Kevin: laughing – I’m like Glen Allen Hill hitting homers on to Waveland.

7. If you weren’t in the restaurant industry what would you be doing?
Rob: I was a trader – some sort of finance. I’m challenged by business real estate or something like that.
Kevin: Film. I knew what I wanted to do growing up and then made my life conform to that

8. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Kevin: Own my own restaurant – true story- I was at MCL cafeteria when I was 10 and told my parents this is what I want to do.
Rob: I wanted to be an athlete
CFS: What sport
Rob: I played a lot – I don’t want to get specific
Kevin:  laughs – Jr Racquetball Champion of Canada
CFS: So you’re the Wayne Gretzky of racquetball
Rob: Laughs – yes
Kevin: Maybe Luc Robitaille
Rob: I’ll take that
CFS: Luc’s a perennial all star

9. Most exotic vacation destination that you’ve been to?
Rob: One? My cup runneth over but my best one – Islands of Thailand – were exotic! Elephants walking on the beach.
Kevin: Because of my incredible work ethic (everyone laughs) I’ve not been anywhere exotic
Rob: Spokane
Kevin: Spokane, Wa., it can be exotic

10. Most embarrassing restaurant moment?
Rob: It was recently. I was at Girl and the Goat. It was a crazy night – just hands were needed. So I was touching tables making sure people were good and this one is a mess and I start clearing and things are moving. I reach forward and knock a water pitcher down. I try and grab that and I’m just like…please uh someone!
Kevin: When I was a server in Florida. It was mother’s day and the restaurant manager forgot it was mother’s day. I had a huge section since there were only four of us. I got a big table which was another restaurant owner in town. They sat down and I was so in the weeds. I took their order and after a while they yelled at me to check on their food….I went back and asked the chef, “Where’s table 20!” He replied, “Uh, I don’t have a table 20.” So I went to the computer and realized I’d never hit send or something. I had to tell them they were never going to get food we were so behind. Beads of sweat and I could feel the panic attack coming.

11. What are you most excited about right now?
Rob: It’s been a crazy 12 months! Yesterday was our first Anniversary at the Goat, we’ve opened two other restaurants also and we have two more restaurants coming this year. Just really excited about those two that are coming.
Kevin: I’m excited we’re still having a really good time. It’s been a crazy year and we’re still like goofy kids some times. I’m glad we’re having fun.
Rob: All your questions are kinda nebulous.
CFS: my goal is to ask questions and learn more about you without getting in the way.
Rob: Ok what’s more exciting for me is watching my kids in a game. They’re old enough now and it gets my heart pounding, soccer or basketball.
Kevin: I was nervous at Jameson’s basketball game.
Rob: I don’t want to miss any of them. We’re both hands on Dad’s and that gets me excited.

12. Do you have any pet peeves?
Rob: I have several. You know I used to be “phone boy.” I’m on the phone a lot and I used to put people on hold and I don’t like it. It feels s like you don’t deem them important. I don’t do it to people anymore.
Kevin: Dropped silverware on the floor or when I ask a server about an item on the menu and they tell me exactly what they have on the menu – like I didn’t just read that.

13. Favorite Music Video?
Kevin: A-ha, “Take on Me”
CFS: Not last Christmas by Wham?
Kevin: Singing – Last Christmas I gave you my heart
Rob: He likes anything by George Michael. Sorry I don’t have a good one for ya.

14. Dish on the Boka Group menu you eat most?
Rob: They do change a lot. How about I give you one from each?
CFS: no, give me one.
Rob: Ok the Sugo at Girl and the Goat is pretty good! You’re a VIP. I know you’re coming in I’m giving you the Sugo and the green beans. But now I feel like you made us pick
CFS: I had to argue with Giuseppe to pick one
Kevin: I dream about the Clam chowder at GT
Rob: we split it up….and the latkes at Perennial Virant
CFS: Boka’s REALLY good to…
Kevin: and the Bento box at Boka.

15. Kevin – You’re a big movie, fashion guy – who do you think has impacted Men’s Fashion more – Richard Gere in American Gigolo, Travolta’s White Suit in Staying Alive or Marlon Brando in the Wild One?
Kevin: sighs – you know. Gere, its funny, to this day his look still works. His held up the best. But Travolta’s look defined an era…that spanned 3 years
Rob: Not only that, Kevin’s emulated the button from that Era. Matter of fact, I think Kevin thinks John was being conservative with the buttons.
Kevin: Rob is absolutely right, I wear my buttons one button lower than anyone else and that’s because of John Travolta.

16. I think you guys could be nicknamed the Boka Boys. Reminds me of “The Sunshine Boys.” If that were the case, who would be George Burns and who would be Walter Mathau?
Kevin: It’s funny – Burns is older but Matthau is crustier, which screams Katz!
CFS: Katz is a Matthau
Rob: I get the worst of both
Kevin: Katz is Matthau at Burns’ age

17. Rob – you’re from Vancouver BC – home of looters, rioters and fake Olympic snow (Kevin laughing) – I’m going to name some hockey players and I want you to name the biggest a-hole, hockey goon – Raffi Torres, Kevin Bieksa, Alexander Burrows or Maxime LaPierre?
(Kevin still laughing)
Rob: Well it changed. Definitely I’d kicked the crap out of Burrows.
CFS: Do you like they’re all Canucks?
Rob: I know they’re all Canucks – Torres and Bieksa are definite pricks. But Burrows is a hair puller and a biter. So I’ll have a go at Burrows just for that.

18. Rob one follow-up to the hockey – is Robert Luongo a bigger Sieve, Choke Artist or Crybaby?
Rob: Can I say all of the above?
CFS: Yes
Rob: I’m going all of the above.

19. Do you consider yourself restaurateurs or entrepreneurs?
Rob: That’s a good question and you’re the only single person who’s ever asked that. We’re both Entrepreneurial Restaurateurs. We are business guys that are in the restaurant business. It’s part of our success. It’s a hard business.
Kevin: All skills are transferrable. We look at things from the business side and the artistic side. There’s a lot that look at the artistic side only. If you open a restaurant and aren’t making money, who cares if you have 4 stars, it has to benefit both. Everyone has to be happy.
Rob: You can’t run a 60% food cost and get your stars but lose money. I’m just saying that’s not fair. It’s an art that’s being done in the kitchens and we have to make sure were all on the same page and pay our bills, support our families and live the lives we want. It’s a tough business.
CFS: I agree I think many fail because they’ve never been in the industry and not treating it as a business. Thinking I don’t care who will come.
Rob: People can be too stubborn not willing to change.

20. Who is on your radar to collect for your chef menagerie? Do you collect a lock of hair from each chef when they join the cult — I mean group?
Rob: Well Stephanie has enough hair for everybody so we just took one lock from her.
Kevin: It’s not just a lock of hair it’s more than that. There’s a ceremony I don’t want to go in to it. It’s secret.

21. I picture your secret “Boka lair” with shag carpet, two plush leather chairs just for you two, a couple bottles of cognac, a wall of chefs pictures that you currently “work with” in bedazzled frames on one wall…
Rob: did you take him down there?
Kevin: no, it’s weird
…with another wall of chef headshots stuck up with push pins and a mirrored ceiling. Some nice Bachman Turner Overdrive playing…
Rob: of course
Kevin: thank you
…and when you decide on the next chef to “Bid” like in a fraternity a disco ball magically pops out of the ceiling. Is that what’s its like?
Kevin: You pretty much nailed it but you missed the posters – Heather Locklear with the feathered hair from 1983.
CFS: TJ Hooker Heather?
Rob: Which by the way I used to try to feather my hair. (Laughter) If you can picture it 13, Vancouver, I’d go down to Corky’s hair salon and they’d ask how do you want it – feather it! Uh well sir! Feather it anyway and I would try my best to feather it every day.
Kevin: You’re missing the classic posters – Farrah, Heather Thomas, Heather Locklear in TJ hooker and Rob has a wall of famous Canadian Singers – Shania Twain, Cory Hart and Brian Adams.
CFS: Cory has the sunglasses on of course.
Rob: Yes
Kevin: But, ya that are all you missed, you nailed it.

22. Did Paul Virant have anything else in his “rider” besides insisting the name of the restaurant be changed?
CFS: I heard it was no peaches from Georgia too far away.
Rob: I think he wanted the Green City Market closer. Didn’t want to have to cross the street.
Kevin: A helicopter pad from here to Western Springs.

23. Do you have an inside joke between you two that will never die?
Rob: YES! I don’t’ even have to look at him, DON’T EVEN HAVE TO LOOK and I know what it is.
CFS: What’s the joke?
Rob: Nope sorry
Kevin: laughing so hard – – no one else private inside joke
Rob: He’s gonna be 80 and I’ll be 85 and he’ll call me and lay it on me and I’ll flat line.

 Thanks again for a fun interview.

If you liked these 20 questions, check out the how Ryan Poli, Francis Brenna, Giuseppe Tentori, Charlie McKennaChris Pandel , Michael Muser, and Curtis Duffy answered.

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at chicagofoodsnob@hotmail.com. Joe is retained as a compensated blogger by Pei Wei Asian Diner.

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