Volkert Works To Revamp, Reopen Legends Bar & Grill At Quality Inn & Suites in Tyler
By CASEY MURPHY
Bob Volkert was "itty bitty" when his father taught him to cook.
As a child growing up in the small town of Joppatowne, Md, he always found himself in the kitchen, learning the trade from his dad and serving as "little helper" to his mother, grandmother and sisters during special occasions.
After about 30 years in the restaurant industry, Volkert has been working to revamp and reopen the Legends Bar & Grill, inside Quality Inn & Suites in Tyler.
Volkert started his professional cooking career when he served for nine years in the U.S. Navy. He became the executive chef for the Sheraton Hotel & Resort in Panama City, Fla., where he oversaw four full-size kitchens, room service and three outdoor kitchens for two years. "I love the beach," he said. "It was fabulous."
Volkert moved on to Atlanta and joined the corporate side of managing restaurants.
"But truly my passion has been the kitchen, always," he said.
After his parents moved to Carrollton and his father became ill, Volkert moved there 17 years ago to be close to them. He started in Texas as a manager at Bennigan's.
"I've always been in management, for as long as I can remember," he said. But "in the back of my head, it's always been my dream to have my own bar and grill."
Volkert met his wife of 12 years through a Dallas radio program, "Love Line," and knew from their first date he would marry her, he said. They have two daughters, Jessica, 14, and Evie, 7. Volkert said his eldest daughter has been cooking with him since she could get on a children's stepstool.
His wife's parents live in Seven Points so two years ago the family moved to Whitehouse to be close to them. "I have no plans to move at all," he said. "It's a very nice community."
Volkert took a job as a general manager at Ryan's Buffet in Tyler but left there to get back in the kitchen. He worked at the Behavioral Hospital in Longview, which he said was a unique experience. "That's where the creativeness started coming back in the kitchen," he said.
Volkert was looking for a job closer to home when he was given the opportunity to become the chef at Legends Bar & Grill, inside Quality Inn & Suites in Tyler. The Legends restaurant was not being used but he said Manu Lial, of Dallas, who bought the hotel three years ago and owns seven other hotels, has been "working desperately to get this up where it should be."
"For him to give me this opportunity, it's just been a blessing," Volkert said of the owner.
On June 21, Volkert excitedly pointed out the changes being made to the dining room and bar. "What you see is not what you're going to get," he said as workers painted the walls.
There will be a white Legends wall where customers can sign their names and a Texas wall will be filled with black and white photos of famous people from the state, to go along with the theme in the bar, which is filled with photos of actors, singers and other celebrities. The bar's walls also have pictures of local golf courses, which fit in well with Volkert's love of the sport, he said.
Volkert wants to make the restaurant a place where people in the area can be proud to come to, receive a five-star meal and treatment but not spend a fortune, he said.
"I created the menu with the vision of the area and putting a little class in it," he said.
He said 90 percent of the food on the menu is freshly made, including all of the sauces, which are his concoctions. The chicken salad is sour cream and dill based and served with fresh fruits while the chicken pasta is made with fresh vegetables in a light, creamy white wine sauce. He also serves a 10-ounce pork chop with a Hawaiian demy glaze and the restaurant's most expensive item is a 12-ounce prime cut rib eye, Volkert said.
"I wanted to get a good variety but I wanted to keep it at a good price point," he said.
He also serves beef tenderloin sliders, fried catfish, Salisbury steak, wings and "The Legend," a roast beef sandwich on a sourdough roll with caramelized onions, Swiss cheese and horseradish sauce.
"If you're a dessert freak, you won't want to miss my cheesecake ... it's to die for," Volkert said. For the dish, he makes a raspberry and strawberry puree, makes it into a mousse and freezes it so it has the texture of ice cream, he said.
Volkert plans to take something off of the menu and replace it with something new every three months.
"I'm scared, but I'm really excited," Volkert said of opening the new restaurant. "I truly hope this will become a lunch restaurant."
He said the dining area has 60 seats and there are another 45 in the bar. The menu is set up so that customers should receive their food in less than 15 minutes from ordering, he said.
"Speed of service yes; quality definitely," he said. "I know the food is good, but the service has got to be better."
For the last month, Volkert has been trying out his new menu in the evenings and said he has gotten an "unbelievable response" from hotel patrons.
"We know it's going to work," he said. "It's just letting Tyler know we're here ..."
He said the restaurant, which held a grand opening event for VIP guests Wednesday and officially opened to the public Thursday, will have a bistro-type feel to it, with black tablecloths and white napkins.
He said redoing the bar will be his next project.
"I want to make it into something that's different," he said of the bar and grill.