Star Spotlight: Brooke Eldridge

Junior Brooke Eldridge’s mom and stepdad, Michael Corvino, opened their first restaurant, Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room, in May of 2017. She worked as a hostess over the summer and she shares her experience working with her family in the restaurant business.

Junior+Brooke+Eldridge+holds+two+dishes+at+her+mom+and+stepdad%27s+restaurant%2C+Corvino+Supper+Club+and+Tasting+Room.+photo+by+Meghan+Baker

Junior Brooke Eldridge holds two dishes at her mom and stepdad’s restaurant, Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room. photo by Meghan Baker

by Gabby Staker, Design Editor

How long have your parents been in the business?
“So my step dad, he’s been in the restaurant business, been a chef, since he was 16. He started working at hotels and stuff, but he and my mom got married three years ago and from that, they just started to plan that they wanted to open a restaurant in Kansas City. They opened it last year in May 2017, and that was just kind of the beginning.

Do you have plans to expand that?
Ideally, they’d like to open a whole chain of restaurants across the country– maybe three or four– all under the Corvino name, because it’s always been a priority of theirs to travel. One in Seattle, I know they really wanna do, but right now I think they’ll stay in Kansas City for a while because I think they both begrudgingly like it.

How did they start their own restaurant?
Michael has always had the dream to open his own restaurant and my mom has had the entrepreneurial background with opening businesses and being in customer affairs, so what they did was they saw these characteristics in each other and they said, ‘Hey that’s a pretty cool dynamic, we should open a restaurant!’ So my mom does more of the front of house stuff. She works with greeting the guests, figuring out what looks good on the table, menu, fonts, all that good stuff, while Michael’s in the kitchen, working on food and recipes. It’s really just the two halves of a restaurant that they take respectively put together to make it work.

How do you fit in?
My mom always wanted me and my brother, who is 19 and in college, to just be apart of their business, make it their legacy. So over the summer, I worked as a host in the restaurant, which I was so scared about, because the people that go into the restaurant, at first, were first-class, business professionals. They expect what they want, and they want food, and when you’re the first person to greet someone at the door, they’re hungry and they’re angry and maybe they’ve had trouble parking. But, hosting is actually no big deal. We just seat people at tables. I liked meeting people and they always saw me and thought I looked like my mom and knew immediately that connection, and I think my mom really liked it because it makes that family legacy that she really enjoys.

Do you want to carry on that legacy in the future?
I’m not really interested in continuing working in the restaurant after high school or into college, just because it’s not really my thing as much as they want it to be my thing. But I do like to bring in my own personal interests and what I can contribute to the restaurant. So I like graphic design and stuff like that so sometimes I’ll design the menus for that week or something like that, or I’m really good as stalking people on social media. Sometimes a special guest will come into the restaurant and I’ll just find out everything I can about them and so I think you just find your thing. My brother, he really likes music, and so he’ll bring in a Spotify playlist for different times of the night. We just all contribute what we’re best at and put it into the business.

What impact has this had on your family dynamic?
I think in the beginning, it was harder because my mom and my stepdad would be out all night and I wouldn’t see a lot of them. But, when I started working at the restaurant, we had so much to talk about. When we came into the restaurant, we’d see a work guest that had crazy hair and we would all come home at night and be like did you see that person at table 20? They were so weird, or they were really drunk, or they were so cute, you know? And then we could talk about people on staff, like Did Dave freak out earlier at 6:00? You know? So I think we really grew closer through that.

How much time would you say you spend there?
I would spend a lot of time there if I could drive, but since I can’t make my way over there– it’s like 20 minutes away from my house– so once I do start driving, I know I’ll be eating there every night for dinner because they have this thing called “Family Meal” every day before service starts where one cook will make dinner for the whole staff and everyone eats together. It’s really good food, too! Over the summer, I’m there every day eating and talking to people.

You said your parents are gone for most of the week. How does that play out?
I think I’ve become a lot more independent. Their hours are weird: they leave for work around 12 p.m. and then they’ll come home at 3 or 4 a.m. They’re open as a bar too and have live music on the weekends, so they’re there late when people are at the bar having fun late. On the weekdays, it can be 12 o’clock, but usually I’m in bed by then, so we don’t really see each other unless it’s me on my way to bed. I really just had to learn how to live by myself, talk to my dog sometimes, but I think, also, my mom and I had to learn how to communicate over phone calls and make sure we’re keeping each other informed of things going on. We send random pictures and videos throughout the day.

Do you feel like you see the food industry differently based on your experience?
Yes, for sure. So, first of all, as I started going to the fancier restaurants, because my mom and stepdad have super high standards now, I used to be able– this is going to sound really snobby– I used to just be able to go to Applebees and be like Yes! So good, I love Applebees, but as I started experiencing more fine dining and things like that, I definitely have a taste for the fancier kind of things, and I’d say I don’t judge things, but I do notice minor things like plating and flavor combinations. I always feel really bad about it too, because I feel like I’m being judgmental and fine dining isn’t something really common for teenagers to experience. Also, working in the restaurant business has given me a greater empathy for when I go to restaurants and they can’t seat you right away. I understand ok, there’s a wait, this table’s taking longer than usual, and I appreciate service at restaurants a lot more because you don’t realize how much work is going on behind the scenes.

How have your flavor tastes changed?
When I was maybe like 12 or 13…14… I was so picky. I wouldn’t eat anything. Not even broccoli, things like that. Raw fish was a no, always. Since then, I’ve started eating the weirdest things. I had cow tongue once and it was actually really good. I’ve had things like octopus, seaweed, mostly things from the sea I guess. Michael will bring home the randomest things for us to try, like weird food or weird moving things in tupperware, and we’ll just eat it. And it tastes good usually! You just don’t look at it too closely before it’s cooked and you’ll be fine.

Do your parents cook at home, too?
Yeah, so I’m actually terrible at cooking. You’d think I’m good because I’ve learned, but usually on nights that they’re not home, I have frozen pizza, pasta. I eat a lot of quesadillas. But on Sunday and Monday nights, they make an effort to come home and cook dinner. One night we have pasta and it’ll always be a different kind of pasta, like we’ll do squid ink pasta and the next night we’ll do something random, like get takeout from one of [Michael’s] friends’ restaurants.

Is there a community around the restaurant business?
Yes, they’re buddies… all of them are, all of the restaurant people because they’re all just so interrelated. By doing events throughout Kansas City, you just get into contact with so many different people and musicians, too, because we have live performers at the restaurant, we have met so many cool people who travel the world doing music. We hear all their stories and it’s pretty cool. So [the restaurant people] have this tight friend group where they just all share recipes. It’s kinda dorky, but it’s funny.