WISK white logo-> All episodes <-

April 18, 2024

S1E9 - From Top Chef to owning multiple restaurants with Jeff McInnis

This week, we chat with Jeff McInnis, Owner of Root & Bone, Stiltsville Fish Bar, Mi'Talia, and more. We spoke about how he found his place in the ...

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WISK white logo-> All episodes <-

April 18, 2024

S1E9 - From Top Chef to owning multiple restaurants with Jeff McInnis

This week, we chat with Jeff McInnis, Owner of Root & Bone, Stiltsville Fish Bar, Mi'Talia, and more. We spoke about how he found his place in the ...

Apple Podcast player linkSpotify Podcast player linkGoogle Podcasts player link

Show notes

Episode Notes

Jeff McInnis, a renowned chef, shares his journey in the hospitality industry and his experiences opening multiple restaurants. He emphasizes the importance of passion and hard work in the industry. McInnis also discusses the role of culinary school and formal education in the field. He provides insights on handling food waste and the operational side of running a restaurant. McInnis talks about his various restaurant ventures, including Yardbird, Root and Bone, and Stiltsville Fish Bar. He also discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the industry and the future of dining.


  • Passion and hard work are essential in the hospitality industry.
  • Culinary school can be beneficial, but it is not necessary for success.
  • Managing food waste and operational aspects like inventory and costing are crucial for running a successful restaurant.
  • Opening restaurants in smaller cities and suburbs can be a viable option.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the restaurant industry.
  • Dim sum and wine would be Jeff McInnis' go-to dish and drink on his last day.


00:00 Introduction to the Podcast and Guest

06:02 The Role of Culinary School and Formal Education

10:03 Learning the Operational Side of the Business

26:11 The Impact of COVID-19 on the Restaurant Industry


Follow Jeff McInnis on Instagram!

Connect with Jeff McInnis via Linkedin!

Learn more about Root N Bone Indy!

Learn more about Stiltsville Fish Bar!


Angelo Esposito [00:00:06]:

Welcome to Wisking it all with your host, Angela Sposito, co founder of Wisk.AI, a food and beverage intelligence platform. We're going to be interviewing hospitality professionals around the world to really understand how they do what they do, from chefs to owners, mixologists to bar managers, you name it. We want to provide you guys with a ton of value, anything hospitality related. Welcome to another episode of Wisking it all. We're here today with Jeff McInnes, who's a renowned chef across Miami and most of the state. So, Jeff, I'd love to maybe do it justice and have you introduce yourself and mention some of the projects from behind.

Jeff McInnis [00:00:52]:

Sure. Yeah. My name is Jeff McInnes, and I'm based here in Miami. Most of the time, I do get the glory of traveling, which is not as much fun as it used to be. But yeah, I have three restaurants here in Miami. One of them is on the beach, South beach. It's called Stiltsville Fish Bar, which is obviously a wonderful local seafood concept in the Coral Gable South Miami area. I have an italian concept that we just opened about a year and a half, two years ago called metallia.

Jeff McInnis [00:01:20]:

And we have root and bone in south Miami, which is a southern concept, a lot of grape, fried chicken, upscale southern comfort food. In New York, we have a root and bone. That's where the first one was started. And since then, we've been able to open a few more. But that's in the east village of Manhattan. I have a root and bone in Indianapolis that we are having a fun time operating a very different market. And we have a project with the Wyndham grand in Rio Mar, Puerto Rico, that is a version of a little bit of everything. It's got our southern comfort food.

Jeff McInnis [00:01:53]:

It's got pizza. It's a larger menu, and it's a lot of fun. And that's right on the beach inside of a resort. And then we also just recently opened a fast casual. Well, it's not fast casual. It's casual, a concept outside of Chicago in a valpraiso area of Indiana. In Portage, Indiana, we have a little concept called another round, which is a pizza concept, pizza and beer concept that we just opened about four weeks ago.

Angelo Esposito [00:02:17]:

So first of all, thank you for taking the time to be on the show. Really, our goal here at wisking, et al, is to give our listeners some insight, learning some experience on what to do, what not to do, lessons learned along the way. And having you here with all your experience, I think it'll be truly rewarding and insightful. But one of the ways we like to start the episode is to get the background in how you got into the industry. So maybe we can start off with that. How? Right, like, where? At what age did you start getting into that cooking hospitality itch?

Jeff McInnis [00:02:45]:

I was young, and I was so young that I didn't know what I was doing or what I was getting into. So that's where it was able to take off. Cause once you realize that you're walking on a dangerous bridge, usually get off. But, yeah, I think I was. I was 15 years old, and I was working in a kitchen before that, I was helping out on some docks and putting bait on people's hooks and cleaning the bottoms of boats and doing stuff like that. And there was a guy that had a restaurant, and I agreed to wash some dishes one day and was washing dishes at a restaurant for a little while, making a few bucks after school, and somebody hurt themselves. Somebody cut themselves really bad. One of their sous chefs, the chef, was out of town, and I was able to step in and cut some fish out of the necessity that somebody wasn't there.

Jeff McInnis [00:03:31]:

And I looked like a hero for five minutes in front of some other cooks. And it was cool. It was a good feeling. And from there, enjoyed the high paced, crazy environment. And I think that night, you know, I was 15. I think that night, they're like, oh, you saved the day. And they bought me a six pack of beer. And so that was.

Jeff McInnis [00:03:50]:

You feel like a hero when you turn your friends. Yo, I just left work, and I had a six pack of beer. Let's do something. So it was this rough pirate community that I started into at an early age, and I guess by the time I got done with high school, all my friends are going to be pilots or attorneys or accountants or whatever. And they had all these goals in colleges that they wanted to go to. And I was like, every day after school, I just go and work, and I haven't even thought of that. Oh, wow. I'm graduating now, so what do I do? I took some time off and went to culinary school.

Jeff McInnis [00:04:20]:

Lived like a bum out of a volkswagen bus on a beach for a couple years. And I went to college in Charleston, South Carolina, which was great. One of the coolest cities I could ever imagine. I'd love to get back there one day. Yeah. And did that for a while in Charleston and same routine. Go to school during the day and then work all night. And I just.

Jeff McInnis [00:04:38]:

I think I never really picked my head up. I just kind of kept my head down and worked. And I think the restaurant industry saved me in essence. And there's plenty of bad stuff that happens behind the scenes after work with camaraderie and hanging out with people. But it kept me busy enough to where the other kids in college were all going out and partying, and I was just working hard every night, and I was able to put myself through college. And when I got on the other side, I was like, this is it for me. I gotta just take it seriously. Yeah.

Jeff McInnis [00:05:05]:

It wasn't that my mom or dad was way into food and, oh, I loved cooking with them, and they took me to fancy restaurants. The opposite, I think fanciest restaurant I went to growing up was like a cracker barrel or something. But, yeah, just got in early and it grabbed me, I guess.

Angelo Esposito [00:05:20]:

Yeah, that's amazing. I love your analogy about being on that Dane's bridge but not realizing you're on it. I always say it's one of the few industries that I think most people are really passionate about. You got a lot of people who are in jobs or careers that they don't like, but to really go in hospitality, most people, not all people, most people are really in it for the passion. And then ideally, that develops into more than passion, and you can make a life out of it, but I think a big part of being at the right place at the right time, igniting that itch and then kind of working your way up. So when do you kind of take that decision to, okay, you're liking it, you're working, your head's down, but when did you decide to enroll in culinary school? Like, what made you take that decision?

Jeff McInnis [00:05:56]:

That was young, and it was just that. It was just the fact that if I enroll in the culinary school, I can move out and be away from mom and dad and do something, I think. Again, I don't think that passion hit me at that age. I think there was passion some more days than others, but at that point, it was still just a craft and a trade for me, I think, and a way to make a buck and a way to travel. And I think that after I got out of school, I had the luxury of working in a really nice restaurant in Charleston, and all of a sudden came out on the other end. I was like, wow, I actually know how to cook now, and I can do things that impress people. And working in open kitchens, being able to see what you're doing and see the people you're feeding and have them turn around to you and say, hey, that was incredible. And be inspired, grew a big spark in me.

Jeff McInnis [00:06:41]:

And then from Charleston, I think, from there I moved to the Caribbean and was able to live in St. John's, the Virgin Islands, for a while. And from there, I able to move to San Francisco and worked for three years in San Francisco in a very upscale fine dining with a bunch of japanese guys. I was the only white guy in there that knew how to speak English. And that kind of stuff became extremely exciting. And just the fast pace, crazy life. And I think the travel. Yeah, when I was young, I was cooking and moving to a lot of cities and doing exactly that.

Jeff McInnis [00:07:10]:

I think that was probably what ignited me and said, hey, this is real. You're suddenly. I guess at one point I turned around and started really gathering all of my repertoire and recipes and everything and started building on it. And I remember some guy looking at me like, what is this little black book you have? I'm like, oh, that's where I keep all my recipes and best of the best and stuff. And he was a young guy, and he was like, oh, that's how you do it. And I was like, I laughed. I'm like, what do you mean? He's like, yeah, you just, all of a sudden the chef turns to you and says, hey, come up with a special. And I see your brain going, and you flipping through books, and then all of a sudden you got something incredible.

Jeff McInnis [00:07:44]:

I was like, I didn't know that we all didn't do that. And from there, I think I was able to train people and start realizing that, hey, I could be the boss, I could be the chef. I could do that. And it was just, it wasn't necessarily something that somebody taught me. It was just basic hard knocks.

Angelo Esposito [00:08:00]:

Yeah, it's interesting because I think one of the things about hospitality is a lot of people don't necessarily need an education. I think it's a bit more common, let's say, where you might go into school or get educated to go into work at a hotel or work in a restaurant or. Seen it.

Jeff McInnis [00:08:14]:

Yeah, it should be. It should be. The schools here are overpriced. And I wasn't very good in school. I didn't. I was bad. I didn't study. It's not that I didn't get good grades.

Jeff McInnis [00:08:23]:

Cause culinary school was a little easier for me, but I definitely ignored the accounting classes and all that stuff. I just blew them off. Or God forbid, I admit this over there, I've kind of copied my friend's homework and cheated a little bit on the test. I don't know how I got through it, but I didn't like it. And I probably should have paid more attention, but I think it was a piece of paper that I was purchasing at the end of done what I the did without the day school part. I absolutely think I could have. I think I could have. And I think a lot of Americans are realizing that they can do that now.

Angelo Esposito [00:08:53]:

And so, like, to our listeners, if you had to recommend getting a more formal education in the culinary style scene or not, do you have a preference, or do you think most people can do without it?

Jeff McInnis [00:09:01]:

I guess if you have the 65, $75,000 laying around, or your parents are happy to do it for you because they want you to do it. And there's a lot of parents in this world that feel like their kid has to go to college. Oh, shit, he's gonna be a chef. All right, let's just accept the fact he's gonna be a chef, but let's still make him go to school. There's that aspect, that family aspect, that thing that we've always done. So if you have that lined up, for sure, I learned a lot in school. For sure I did. I don't want to downplay it, but if you don't have that, and I didn't have that, my parents, when I graduated high school, they're like, hey, we've got a college fund.

Jeff McInnis [00:09:35]:

I'm like, yeah, all right, cool. It's $9,000. Oh, that was 1996, so I guess that got me somewhere. But today, that wouldn't get you. They wouldn't buy your book. So if you can't do it, just. There's plenty of places you can go. I would have.

Jeff McInnis [00:09:50]:

If this was last year, I would have said, you can always go to New York and intern at some of the finest restaurants. But now you don't have to go to new York. There's plenty of other restaurants, and you probably shouldn't.

Angelo Esposito [00:09:58]:

Yeah, fair enough. And so what are things maybe you learned along the way? So before getting to that status where you were the one mentoring people, you go about learning. And did you have any mentors that kind of helped you in that kind of journey?

Jeff McInnis [00:10:10]:

Yeah. When I was in Charleston, there was a gentleman. His name was Phil Kor. He was. He was actually a New Yorker, but he had moved to the low country. God, I don't know, a long time ago. And he ventured out and opened his own little restaurant and did his own little investment. I worked for a mom and pop restaurant.

Jeff McInnis [00:10:25]:

It was called Atlanticville. It was on Sullivan's island outside of Charleston on a barrier island. And I lived down the street and I could skateboard to work. It was a dream job, but I didn't pay much, but it was just making everything from scratch. And he was funny and had that New York attitude. And he cooked for some of the big guys back in the day, paid attention to trends, and we redid the menu every month. And it was fun. He made it really fun.

Jeff McInnis [00:10:49]:

And he was tough on people and made people cry, but then he made them laugh and he apologized. And it was one of those old school chefs that he might throw a saute pan at you, but then he'd buy you a beer later after work, and he'd work it out and worked for him for many years. Yeah. And I still remember, if I went to my little repertoire of recipes, he's definitely inserted a lot of those. And God rest his soul, he passed away a number of years ago, but I still see his, his food in the way I cook. And then later on in life, I worked for the Ritz Carlton for a number of years. Gosh, I think seven years I worked for the Ritz Carlton. And the gentleman head chef was Thomas Connell, who ran the hotel.

Jeff McInnis [00:11:24]:

And I think he runs the fountain blue now. He's very organized, completely different mindset. Still had fun, didn't throw saute pants. Very cool, very collected. Rarely showed his cards, rarely showed his foot. Was always unbelievably organized and computer based and excel based and taking notes and managing and watching labor and food cost and a completely different style of managing and a more, probably a better style, but maybe not as much fun. So, yeah, I definitely think he would be called a mentor.

Angelo Esposito [00:11:55]:

That's awesome. And so for people out there that I guess are starting to develop a passion, like, any tips on, like, how to go about it? Like you mentioned, you know, try to intern at a restaurant, like maybe tips on how to start getting their, their feet wet and maybe just how you kind of worked your way up the ladder, but how you went and learning to eventually owning and operating your own venues.

Jeff McInnis [00:12:13]:

Yeah, I think that a lot of people that get passionate as a young person think that the things to get passionate about is the really fancy fine dining food. And I want to get the coolest, weirdest fish out there and do some, something that's outside, maybe outside of your reach, maybe because it's so outside your reach that you think that's what you need to reach for. And in my opinion, if I could go back, because that was kind of my attitude if I could go back, I would just start with pizza. So something basic that everybody loves and get into it. Because I'll tell you right now, there's more money in comfort food and pizza and just casual things. And it took me a long time to realize that. I guess it's easier to get passionate about something crazy, creative and super fine dining. But at the end of the day, when you get older and you want to replicate what you're doing and eventually make a buck, there's not a lot of longevity in doing things that are outside your scope and not saying that to everybody.

Jeff McInnis [00:13:07]:

For me, it became, okay, how do I actually, how do I actually become somebody who can own his own restaurants and make money off of it? And I did. I had to scale it back and get passionate about being organized and making money out of it. So I think it's, that's a more grown up approach of explaining it to people. If you can grasp that at a young age, you'll probably get a little further and maybe you can make a bucket doing some fine dining. It's, it's not impossible. People do it, you know? I don't know.

Angelo Esposito [00:13:36]:

No, that makes sense. It's funny because one of the things that I think in general in the hospitality industry, and you touched on it, hated accounting, but it's one of those inevitable things. Get more on the operating side. You're going to come across whether it's a lot of the boring stuff, it's the super important stuff like inventory, like, you know, costing out your menu and accounting and, you know, a lot of, a lot of processing and stuff like that. And so maybe to just kind of shed some light because, you know, the passion is a great place to start and, you know, working your way up, let's say, with learning about food and just working that way. But at what point did you start saying, okay, now I got start really getting into the flip side, right. I want to turn this more into a business, more into a career. How did you go about kind of learning the other things that maybe you didn't like or weren't as passionate about?

Jeff McInnis [00:14:16]:

I worked for the mayor, for the Ritz Carlton hotel group for, like I said, a number of years. And I think that just studying processes and the management skills, just honing in on seeing how a big business like that does it. I think everybody should work for a big organized company like that at some point in their career just to learn that aspect of it. And it's not always the fun part, but it's the most important part.

Angelo Esposito [00:14:39]:

Yeah, no, I couldn't agree more. And I think that's actually good advice. So to the people listening, honestly, that's great ice. If you can work for a big company, even just for a short while, I think, like you said, there's, there's a lot of structure on organization.

Jeff McInnis [00:14:50]:

I mean, there's plenty of mom and pop shops that if you could sit down for five minutes and, yeah, a week and work with the owner there, that they're doing all the same things. They might not have the same tools and the chef tech programs and everything, but it's all being done. You can, you could dive in and do it. It was all just handed to me on a silver platter because I ran restaurants, and I wound up doing task force and opening hotels in the Bahamas for the Ritz Carlton. So it was shoved down my throat, I think I opened, oh, God, I can't even remember numerous places in a couple of years. I went to Egypt. I got to travel a lot, and that's why I worked for them. So, yeah, when you work for a mom and pop shop, they might not be reopening and structuring and building stuff that fast, but it can be done.

Jeff McInnis [00:15:31]:

It can be done either way.

Angelo Esposito [00:15:32]:

Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. And then one of the things I think about is, obviously, outside of this, I'm in the business of software for restaurants and bars, and mainly we do is everything related to inventory and automating, ordering and losses and all that kind of stuff. But one thing that, so obviously, one of the things I'd love to get your input on is how do you as a chef, handle food waste and figuring out what to order? A lot of that, I'm sure, is experience. But how do you go about operational side of, you know, not wasting too much food, not over ordering?

Jeff McInnis [00:16:01]:

Yeah, I got a tip for you. I can go through the basic boring part, which you've heard, but I take, I do a meeting, and one of my favorite things to do, especially when somebody new is there, and I do, I pick on somebody. Human resources would tell you, you can't call people out. Then you'll, you won't get very far in our industry if you don't, from time to time, call people out. I wait for. Yeah, I usually look, I look in the trash cans. I'm, I'm a dumpster diver. I'll dig through garbage cans.

Jeff McInnis [00:16:26]:

There's usually a garbage can by the grill guy station, by the fry guy station, by the prep guy, and especially over by the prep guy station, or the grill guy, because God forbid he's over grilling something. He throws it in the trash because he doesn't want you to know. But I'll find a trash can that has just too much waste in it. That's a good product in it. That's not waste. And I'll usually just save it. We usually do a lineup before, before busy service, especially weekend day. A Friday will at 05:00 be like, all right, guys, let's all gather around.

Jeff McInnis [00:16:52]:

Let's look at the reservations. Let's talk about the specials tonight. A place like Stiltsville to pick on, for instance. We get different fish in every day, and so we change it. So we'll talk about the fish, make sure that whoever's on saute knows, hey, this is wahoo. If you cook this well done, it's gonna be fucked up and blasted. We go through the basics of what we're cooking and everything that day. And do we usually do a little cheer, put our hands in like a football team, something like that.

Jeff McInnis [00:17:13]:

At that point, I usually address any negative issues. It's not uncommon, especially when there's a new guy to pull a trash can over in the middle of everybody and just literally with a glove, start going through it and showing a few things. All right, we got a half an apple here. We've got a whole head of celery here. Somebody was peeling celery. And we've got, oh, look at this. Look at all these fish scraps. So I usually do that and I say, oh, that apple was $0.50.

Jeff McInnis [00:17:38]:

That that fish right there is dollar 20.

Angelo Esposito [00:17:40]:

This is that.

Jeff McInnis [00:17:40]:

So I usually go through that, and then I pull out my wallet and I take a dollar 50 bill, whatever I say the amount was, and I throw it in the trash and I make everybody stare at it. And then I in line up and they all look at me and like, all right, get back to your stations. Let's go. And they all look at me like, what the fuck? What? There's a $50 bill in the trash. I'm like, oh, does that bother you? Does that bother you that there's cash sitting in the trash can? Because it didn't bother you five minutes ago. And that's how I feel all the time. And so I do that at least once a month, and I go through it and I wait till I get at least a ten dollar, a $30 or $50 trash can. And I make them sit and I make them go back to their station and I'm like, you're still thinking about that money in that trash, aren't you? And I pull my money out.

Jeff McInnis [00:18:20]:

I usually do it when they're not looking. And then later I'll look in the trash, like, where'd it come? I don't know. What about the fish that's in the trash?

Angelo Esposito [00:18:27]:

That's amazing. Honestly, that was a powerful message when you said it. I got goosebumps, because being a business on the saving side and the costing side, for me, I'm super analytical, so it's amazing a perspective. And just give that analogy of, listen, at the end of the day, it's not just product or food. This is where we make money. This is our business. And I feel like sometimes people in hospitality don't see it both on the food and beverage side, where they. It doesn't feel like a product because it's just an extra shot.

Angelo Esposito [00:18:51]:

It's just this. It's just a bit of food. If this was, I don't know, laptops you were selling or tv, you wouldn't be like, oh, we're just missing one out of ten. You wouldn't be so relaxed about it. So that's awesome. I'd love to maybe just shed some light on real quick, what was your first venue? So, you know, you kind of worked your way up the ladder, like you said, you went to culinary school. You got some awesome mentorship, as you mentioned. When was that first shift to say, okay, I want to now open up my own place or lead my own place? What was the first venue? And then what did that trajectory look like?

Jeff McInnis [00:19:17]:

Yeah, I was working at Ritz Carlton, and I did a top chef, and I did well, and I cooked through the finale, and so I'd have a guy or two come in. Oh, I heard about you. Oh, I saw you on tv, whatever. And they'd always, oh, the food's so good, you should open your own place, and I've got money, and we should do this. And it's very typical in Miami to have a guy like that or a lady like that. Usually a guy trying to show off for a lady, come in and brag about how rich he is and how you're a great chef, and I love eating your food. Let's go do something. And so you get that.

Jeff McInnis [00:19:46]:

You get that from time to time, and you try to be nice to those people and keep up with them. And a guy at the time, I think he was a partner of Michelle Bernstein's, and he had a couple restaurants, Amir Ben Zayan. And we got talking, and he wanted to open an asian inspired sushi steakhouse kind of concept in midtown. And there was this place called Midtown and Wynwood that was going to be the next hot thing. And who knows? Oh, there's a place called design district. It's just going to be over there beside it. You should go. So I went and checked it out, and he was like, yeah, let's do sushi.

Jeff McInnis [00:20:16]:

And I kind of started talking to him about, oh, there's this guy named David Chang in New York who's doing this different kind of asian stuff. You should check out what he's doing. And we flew up there, and anyway, we opened a little place called Gigi's. And being in my twenties and young and just wanting to get out because the passion was really high and I wanted to be part of this project. I signed a contract that was literally one page, like, one page contract here. You're an owner, work here, and you're going to have 10% of the. It wouldn't have held up anywhere. And, you know, I knew and everybody's, oh, you got screwed.

Jeff McInnis [00:20:47]:

I'm like, I knew I was signing a crappy one page contract, but I just wanted so bad to have something that was mine and something that I could say that I was a chef partner at, that it didn't matter. And in the end, when I knew it was never going to get my 10%, I went and did yardbird. And that time I got a contract, and it was a good learning lesson, and I had a lot of fun, and I got to do what I thought and still think at the time. For Miami was one of the coolest, cutting edge, awesome places. I don't know if you ever got to eat there, but it had a lot that Miami didn't at the time, and now it does. I don't know what year that was. That was probably 2011. I don't even know.

Jeff McInnis [00:21:27]:

But a lot's changed the past ten years, and it was great. It was a great experience.

Angelo Esposito [00:21:32]:

That's awesome. As you know, I'm sure a lot of people would have been, let's say, bidder for that first venue that they mentioned, one page contract, but it's optimistic side of, hey, lessons learned, what you get from it, and you know how that translated to then yard Bird. And I know we're a little short on time, but I'd love to maybe just real quick the trajectory of what was next, because one of the things I love to share is the passion that our guest has. So I know you mentioned them briefly at the beginning, but if we could just go through them. So then you opened up Yardbird. What was next in the pipeline? Yeah.

Jeff McInnis [00:21:59]:

On the business side of things, when I opened Yard Bird with my partners, I think we got three years into it, and they had a different idea of what they want to do. They wanted to go to Las Vegas and open a giant place. And I guess I got nominated for James Beard award for best chef south. And I was riding that wave of trying to stay focused, and we just had different visions, and we agreed to go different ways. I sold my shares back to the partners of Yardbird after about three or four years and had enough money saved up to open a small place in New York. So I opened a place called Root n Bone with my wife Janine in New York City and ran that operated, that cooked out of the basement for, gosh, five years, and then wound up coming back to Miami just because we missed it. And Miami is great, and Florida is wonderful. And we came back here, did a project with a hotel for a period that opened and closed, and then invested a lot of money into Silphish bar and got some good partners there who help operate the Grove Bay hospitality group are really amazing guys.

Jeff McInnis [00:23:01]:

And they help a lot. They do a lot. And speaking of mentors, their organization skills and human resource skills and all the things that there's no way I could do for seven restaurants. So I still operate root and bone in New York by myself. We're closed right now because of COVID There's no indoor dining, and there's basically. There's outdoor dining. But you and I know there's no outdoor dining, so we still operate that one on our own. But here in Miami, we opened Stiltsel Fish bar with those guys as a management company.

Jeff McInnis [00:23:28]:

They help operate it from there. We opened root and bone in Miami, which was fantastic and really took off and was doing well before COVID And prior to that, excuse me, went to Puerto Rico and opened a place in a hotel, which a friend of mine was the general manager and gave us a good deal. So that's more of a licensing deal. So all these deals are different. So there's different partners, different deals in all these places. It gets complicated, but that's a licensing deal. So we license our brands and. And we develop this brand for them and do consulting and still fly down there and get to go surfing once in a while and, yeah, and try the food and work with the cooks and tweak the menu.

Jeff McInnis [00:24:03]:

And that's always great, to go down there and see a young person like, oh, there's a chef from America coming to teach us three new dishes. That always gets you energized and puts a smile on your face. So from there, in South Miami, we opened Mitalia, which is an italian concept, which my wife and I just. We love italian food, and there was a need for it. Not that either of us have this extensive italian background, but there was a need for it. And you put your mind to anything. It's possible. We've done some of the best food that we've ever done at any of our restaurants there.

Jeff McInnis [00:24:35]:

And, yeah, it's directly next door to root and bone. So there's like this giant patio that we share, and we put a life band out there on Thursdays and lots of outdoor seating, so that's good, especially this time of year. So from there, we have opened a restaurant about one year ago in Indianapolis. That's another root and bone. Big dining room, giant open kitchen. Really gorgeous. Got to, got some partners up there in Indiana that they were way into it and said, you design the kitchen and the dream kitchen you want and pretend that this is your flagship. So we really went all out with that one.

Jeff McInnis [00:25:09]:

It's the most beautiful place. It's in Indianapolis, right off of south of broad ripple. I don't know if you've ever been to the city, but very cool city. A lot of people haven't been there. Cause there's not a lot of reason to go there as a tourist, but it is such a cool area. From there, same partners have a place in Hobart, Indiana, which is next to Valparaiso. I don't know if you know that area. It's rural area.

Jeff McInnis [00:25:29]:

And so from there, we open a pizza concept. Really good beer, local beer, pizza, chef driven pizza menu, just one oven in the kitchen. Very affordable family, community, little neighborhood. So that's it for now. Yeah. And we're seeing, with our partners in Indiana, we're seeing that might just make a little more sense to focus on these smaller cities. It just. It's a lot of fun and rents a lot less.

Jeff McInnis [00:25:53]:

It's a lot less risk. Yeah. And it's. There's a lot of uncertainty of what the industry is going to do right now and where people are going to live and where they're comfortable to go out and eat and. Yeah. So it's been a learning experience, for sure.

Angelo Esposito [00:26:05]:

Yeah. And that's, that's super interesting. Do you think that's where it's heading between one and other things you think shift from maybe having to be in the downtown center of a big city to now being able to have top notch restaurants in the suburbs, I wouldn't.

Jeff McInnis [00:26:19]:

I don't think you could put your finger on one thing like that. I think you'd have to look at every state and then every city and hone in on who's doing well and why. Obviously, there's a reason why Miami is actually doing okay. We're not doing great. Everybody like, oh, it's. You're murdering it down there. No, we were closed, and we owe a lot of money to a lot of landlords and a lot of people right now. For us to be almost breaking even at the beach, people would say, that's fantastic.

Jeff McInnis [00:26:43]:

And it is. You always look at the positives. South Miami, we're still waiting on the people down there, on the families down there to get more comfortable about going out. And so you look at each city and people that have grandma or an older aunt or uncle that live with them, they're not going to be going out as much. And there's only so much money. You know, I didn't build any of my brands, except for maybe this latest one. I didn't build any of these places to do well out of to go business. You're going to do that? Look at what Domino's does.

Jeff McInnis [00:27:10]:

They have a 400 square foot spot without a dining room, and there's just Uber drivers picking up now. And they have their own drivers pick. They didn't invest in this. So everybody turns to us all the time. Oh, you're open for to go business. That's like turning to American Airlines and saying, hey, you guys can do a taxi service with Boeing airplanes. No, it doesn't. You don't understand the amount of insurance and how much we pay for trash linen.

Jeff McInnis [00:27:34]:

It's just a different model. We're hoping that everyone gets more comfortable and that this vaccine works and that people can wear their masks and just keep it down long enough to be able to bring something back because our industry needs it.

Angelo Esposito [00:27:47]:

Yeah, yeah, I hear you there. And so just one of the ways we like to end off the podcast is really just on a little fun note. We call it last day on earth, but really it's just about, hey, if it was your last day, what would be your go to beverage and your go to dish? Doesn't really matter where. You could mention where if you have a place. But more about the actual dish and drink.

Jeff McInnis [00:28:05]:

Funnest way for me to eat, and I'll probably always feel this way. I get really excited when I see a good dim sum restaurant with the old school carts rolling around with the really good steamed dumplings. And, man, I think, yeah, I can think of some of the best soup dumplings I've ever had in my life. And I'd rather eat that any day than over an expensive steak or anything. So I would go with an old school traditional, like, what is it, the golden unicorn in New York? Or something like that. And I like wine. I'm into wine. Don't get me wrong.

Jeff McInnis [00:28:36]:

I love a good cocktail. I love a good whiskey. But just over the past ten years, I've been really diving into good wine. So whatever wine, or depending on what kind of dumplings I'm eating at the time, if, since this is all hypothetical, I would say a wine pairing, somebody educated sommelier laying it out for me on my experience.

Angelo Esposito [00:28:55]:

I love it. That's amazing, Jeff. Honestly, it was short but sweet. It was amazing to connect with you, and I think what you shared some really cool nuggets of information that I think people will be able to take home. So I just want to thank you for being on the show and taking the time to chat.

Jeff McInnis [00:29:09]:

Great. Thanks, Angelo. Appreciate you having me.

Angelo Esposito [00:29:11]:

Take care.

Jeff McInnis [00:29:11]:

You too.

Meet Your Host & Guest

Chef Jeff McInnis

Jeffrey McInnis, hailing from Niceville, Florida, has seamlessly blended his love for fishing with his passion for cooking, inspired by the coastal wonders of his upbringing. Following his stint on Bravo's "Top Chef," Jeff returned to Miami, where he made waves in the culinary scene, earning multiple James Beard nominations for his Southern cuisine. In 2013, he co-founded Root & Bone in New York City, receiving accolades for its whimsical dishes, including the famed fried chicken. Now, back in Miami, Jeff and his partner Janine are delighting patrons at Stiltsville Fish Bar, showcasing the freshest Florida seafood with authentic Southern flair.


Meet Angelo Esposito, the Co-Founder and CEO of WISK.ai, Angelo's vision is to revolutionize the hospitality industry by creating an inventory software that allows bar and restaurant owners to streamline their operations, improve their margins and sales, and minimize waste. With over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry, Angelo deeply understands the challenges faced by bar and restaurant owners. From managing inventory to tracking sales to forecasting demand, Angelo has seen it all firsthand. This gave him the insight he needed to create WISK.ai.

Recent Episodes

S1E9 - From Top Chef to owning multiple restaurants with Jeff McInnis

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Show notes

Episode Notes

Jeff McInnis, a renowned chef, shares his journey in the hospitality industry and his experiences opening multiple restaurants. He emphasizes the importance of passion and hard work in the industry. McInnis also discusses the role of culinary school and formal education in the field. He provides insights on handling food waste and the operational side of running a restaurant. McInnis talks about his various restaurant ventures, including Yardbird, Root and Bone, and Stiltsville Fish Bar. He also discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the industry and the future of dining.


  • Passion and hard work are essential in the hospitality industry.
  • Culinary school can be beneficial, but it is not necessary for success.
  • Managing food waste and operational aspects like inventory and costing are crucial for running a successful restaurant.
  • Opening restaurants in smaller cities and suburbs can be a viable option.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the restaurant industry.
  • Dim sum and wine would be Jeff McInnis' go-to dish and drink on his last day.


00:00 Introduction to the Podcast and Guest

06:02 The Role of Culinary School and Formal Education

10:03 Learning the Operational Side of the Business

26:11 The Impact of COVID-19 on the Restaurant Industry


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Learn more about Root N Bone Indy!

Learn more about Stiltsville Fish Bar!