Full Circle: Goodwin Event Brings Successful Restaurateur Back to Where it All Began
Full Circle: Goodwin Event Brings Chef, Restaurateur Back to Where it All Began
EAST HARTFORD—Goodwin College provided an appropriate setting on Wednesday for award-winning chef and restaurateur Billy Grant to share his tale of hard-earned success. After all, he first honed his craft a few miles down the road at local landmark Augie & Ray’s.
Grant, the owner of several well-reviewed restaurants throughout the Greater Hartford Region, was the keynote attraction to Goodwin for the second installment of the College’s Vital Voices in Entrepreneurship. The series welcomes local business leaders to come to campus and discuss their careers, successes, and times when they came up short.
“It’s humbling for me to come here and have people listen to my story,” said Grant, the owner of Restaurant Bricco and Grants Restaurant and Bar in West Hartford as well as Bricco Trattoria in Glastonbury. “I’m very lucky to do something that I love to do.”
Capital Workforce Partners sponsored the event, which brought hundreds of people to hear Grant speak. Fittingly, his own catering company provided the food and drink, with guests noshing on hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Among the guests were East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc, Goodwin students, staff, faculty, and alumni, and many people from the local business community.
Local media personality Rachel Lutzker, the popular traffic reporter for Fox 61, local Clear Channel radio affiliates, and evening host on The River 105.9, interviewed Grant during the keynote portion of the evening.
“We have rock stars with us tonight,” said Goodwin College President Mark Scheinberg.
Lutzker has long been a friend of Grant and is a huge fan of his restaurants. In fact, she and her eventual husband had their first date at Bricco in West Hartford, and returned to the restaurant to celebrate their engagement.
“I’ve never met somebody like Billy, who’s so successful yet so generous and nice,” Lutzker said, adding that Grant had not only an inspiring story, but also a commitment to the community and charity.
Grant’s restaurants have become part of the culinary fabric of the Greater Hartford region. Hartford Magazine has lauded Grant and his establishments with several of their “Best of” awards, and Grant has been named a Connecticut Restaurant Association Restaurateur of the Year. His restaurants have received top ratings, popular among the general public as well as the critics.
For Grant, the speaking engagement was a homecoming. His father formerly owned a branch of Augie and Ray’s, an establishment long associated with East Hartford. Grant’s first job was working at his father’s restaurant, manning the grill and deep fryer and occasionally running the cash register, which he admits made him nervous.
Goodwin College is now connected with Augie and Ray’s, which continues to be a favorite of local residents and the Pratt & Whitney lunch crowd. The restaurant is now home to the Mark Schein-burger, named after Goodwin’s president, and the restaurant regularly contributes to the Goodwin College Foundation.
Grant explained that his time working the lunch counter and working for his father’s business taught him important lessons about hard work.
“I walked away with an understanding of what it takes,” said Grant.
As Lutzker noted, Grant is deeply committed to the community and to charity. He is leading the upcoming Share Our Strength Hartford event on April 11, with Lutzker also taking part in the festivities. Share Our Strength is an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger throughout the country, and Grant will be leading over 35 of Connecticut’s most prominent chefs to present attendees with a delicious way to give back to those less fortunate.