We head to the studio office of Ron SIlver's restaurant, Bubby's in the Meat Packing District. Bubby's also located in Tribeca as well as 6 outposts in Japan and is known for its comfort foods. We found out about how he created one of the quintessential destinations for brunch with his passion for great food and keeping it simple. We also talked about how his interests and passions in CBD and THC that led him to create Azuca which compliments food as well as the love for creating art which you can see in his restaurants as well as his show in Mexico City.
ATHLEISURE MAG: So what was the moment that you realized that you wanted to be a chef?
RON SILVER: I would say that there were multiple moments where I realized that I wanted to be a chef. One of the things is that when I was a little kid, I realized that I loved to cook and part of that was because it was mischief – it was fire and knives. So, I take to mischief very well and then I would say another small thing was that my mother took my $5/a week allowance from me and I went to get a job washing dishes. That was $80/a week so that was another realization that was my spot. I washed dishes for a long time.
AM: So when did you wash dishes?
RS: When I was 13.
RS: And I washed dishes until I was 21 in and out.
AM: That was a long time to wash dishes.
RS: I liked washing dishes – I did other things in between. I was washing dishes in Alta Ski Resort and I wiped out and broke my rib, I was out for 6 weeks. So I decided during that time that I would be a chef. So I think that was when I really decided to go for it when I was 21.
AM: So what were all the places that you went to in terms of culinary school or restaurants that you worked for prior to coming up with Bubby’s?
RS: I worked for some hotels for awhile and then I moved to Atlanta because I lived in Salt Lake and there wasn’t any real good dining there. I moved to Atlanta and worked for some of the best restaurants in Atlanta and I was offered a scholarship to the Culinary Institute but I did a quick cocktail mathematics and realized that I couldn’t afford that scholarship and didn’t go to school. I moved to NY when I was 24/25 and just worked my way up and I opened Bubby’s when I was 28.
AM: What made you realize that you wanted to open this up and to create this kind of cuisine here?
RS: Well the style of cuisine in the 80s was really weird, nouvelle cuisine with small plates and small portions and I wanted a place that really had good home cooking and large portions on small plates. I really just wanted to cook the food that I wanted to eat.
AM: What’s the average day like for you, being at Bubby’s?
RS: I’ve been running Bubby’s for a long time, 28 years - so my average day at Bubby’s, I am sort of regimented about how I do what I do. I go to Tribeca and have a coffee and go around and talk to everybody. I go around and kind of see if things are looking good and then I come up to Highline and I do the same thing and then I come up here to my office and I’m a painter. So that’s what I want to do when I come up here, is paint. Once I know that everything is kind of locked down, I can paint. I am also in the cannabis business.
AM: We’re going to get that too as well. So you have the 2 restaurants here and the ones in Japan as well.
RS: Yes, 6!
AM: How do you decide where the next place will be for your restaurant and the community that it serves?
RS: Well I suppose that the world decides for me. I’m not a business person really. So the Japanese people called me 10 years ago and I was like, “there’s no way that I’m doing that” and then we were having lunch the next day and I was walking around the space about a week later. I don’t really make a plan.
AM: Do you think that you would create another concept that is outside of Bubby’s that’s something different?
RS: It’s a good question. I don’t have a lot of reason to do that, but at the same time, I do come up with a lot of ideas that are interesting sometimes so I think that the jury is still out on that.
AM: We were at the Specialty Food Show here in NYC and we saw Azuca. We know that you launched it last year. Can you tell us more about why you are in this space and what made you want to create this?
RS: I’ve been in cannabis space since I have been washing dishes really. So, I’ve smoked weed since I was a kid - like everyone in the kitchen does. I think what really inspired me to get into this business was that I felt that I really had something to offer it. Maybe 6 years ago, I discovered that there was a very large problem which is how cannabis edibles deliver. So I really set up to solve that problem in that regard. I was able to make really good progress with that. In a way, it sort of fell in my lap, but I did a ton of research.
AM: What did you initially launch and are there more launches for this year?
RS: So what we have is a technology really. Azuca is a cannabinoid edibles technology and what that means is that it allows edibles to be consumed in an understandable way which is helpful for people who want to take cannabis or CBD or also for people who want to make edibles. We’re very much in the business of helping people understand cannabis edibles.
AM: What are your plans for that looking at the rest of this year and going into next year?
RS: Well, we’re working with some of the biggest cannabis companies in the country and we’re just getting started with those guys. We are selling CBD, edibles – like our sugar Azuca packs which will be available online and in stores soon. We have THC edibles in Massachusetts with a partner up there and we are also talking to people and other countries about CBD stuff.
AM: You’re also a painter. How long have you been painting and what is it about that that draws you to that form of creativity?
RS: I’ve always been an artist and I started Bubby’s so that I could make art. I can’t really answer what draws me to it. I know that if I don’t do it, I get very crappy.
AM: How many paintings do you create a day?
RS: It depends. I am always working on something. At the moment, I’m doing it on paper which is a little quicker than oil paint. So then all these paper things will be mounted on fabric so that is going to be a big job. I can paint a bunch of things it’s just going to take forever to get them mounted.
AM: Will you ever or have you ever been in a gallery?
RS: I had a show in Mexico City in August.
AM: Wow how exciting! How many pieces were in that show and were you nervous?
RS: 40 pieces and yes it was my first show!
AM: Congratulations! What are 3 signature dishes that we should eat when we come to Bubby’s?
RS: Well the Fried Chicken and pancakes, that’s a thing to eat, we have really good Watermelon Lemonade – that’s a thing to drink and the biscuits! Well the burgers are great too!
AM: When you’re not painting and you’re not focused on Azuca and Bubby’s – what are 3 things that we could find you doing in terms of relaxing and getting your athleisure on?
RS: Smoking bong hits, reading and I have 4 kids.
AM: Do you have any philanthropic efforts that you are a part of that you would like to share?
RS: Bubby’s does a lot of philanthropy. We give stuff to people all the time and support a number of things like New York City's oldest men’s shelter - New York City Rescue Mission. Azuca will have a huge amount of social stuff to do because the cannabis business is very ripe for a lot of different opportunities for a lot of different people who deserve them and don’t have them. So we’re very focused on how we are going to sort of set our company up so that it is incorporating the social aspects of things that we need. Especially the War on Drugs that has been particularly hard on brown people and we’re very much focused on making sure that we’re staying aware of creating opportunities almost in an artificial way. We’re getting a lot of help thinking about that and it’s the biggest deal. In setting up our company it’s run by women and my CEO as well as everyone in the company really has a deep moral compass. I think the jury is out on how we are going to be helpful. Not just philanthropically but also responsible and opportunity creating way. Philanthropy is great, but I think it’s a lot of challenge to create actual opportunity and we’re very much so focused on that.
AM: What legacy do you look to leave behind with all of the fingerprints that you have put down on all these areas?
RS: That is a tough question. I hope that I leave something behind that my kids are part of and something that continues to do good work after I’m gone and maybe I hope to leave behind a bunch of beautiful stuff.
You can hear Ron Silver right now on our show, Athleisure Kitchen which is a part of Athleisure Studio, our multi-media podcast network! Make sure to subscribe to find out when the episode drops. You can hear it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts and wherever you enjoy listening to your favorite podcast.