Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rod Anderson on high stakes and high steaks

Posted By on Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 12:30 PM

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Rod Anderson
OK, so 2010 has not been a very good year for restaurateur Rod Anderson. In June, the owner of the Hereford House steakhouses and the upscale Pierpont's in Union Station was indicted by a federal grand jury on arson and mail-fraud-conspiracy charges in an alleged $2.5 million scheme to collect insurance after torching the original Hereford House restaurant at the corner of 20th and Main streets.

Four months after the indictment, Rod Anderson is still greeting guests at Pierpont's -- where he has now assumed general manager duties -- but he's 25 pounds lighter, thanks to the stress of a legal situation that he calls "a nightmare."

 

The stakes are high: Anderson could spend the rest of his life in prison.

He has kept a somewhat lower public profile since the indictment but says the support he's received from friends -- loyal fellow restaurateurs and longtime customers have rallied around him -- and, maybe even more important to him, the support of his employees.

"We have so many incredible people working for us," Anderson says. "My employees have rallied around me and my family."

Anderson purchased the iconic Hereford House restaurant in 1988 and has staff members who have been working for him the past two decades. The married father of two teenagers says his ordeal has brought his family closer together and has led all of them to "become much more spiritual" over the last year. "We go to church together as a family now," Anderson says, "and it's brought us all a lot of peace."

Peace is a good thing, particularly when the economy hasn't bounced back.

"One of the problems right now is that there are too many restaurants in a very saturated market," Anderson says. "It's great for the consumer, but not so good for the restaurateur. It used to be that if a customer called for a reservation at, say, 7 p.m. and we could only seat them at 7:15 or 7:30, they would take the open time. Not anymore. Now they hang up and call another restaurant."

There's also, Anderson says, a huge desire for comfort food. That includes his signature dishes, like grilled steaks and baked potatoes, but he's experimenting with other home-style fare. A chocolate brownie dessert special was such a huge hit that chef Patrick Williams is adding it to the dessert menu. A recent fried chicken dinner was a huge hit.

Anderson stays late at Pierpont's three or four nights a week to close up the restaurant. Although he's become a more spiritual man, he was never one to believe in spirits and laughed when Pierpont's staffers insisted that the restaurant -- the former women's seating lounge in the early days of Union Station -- was haunted.

"I'm not one who believes any of that," Anderson says with a laugh. "But there are nights, when I'm closing up, that I really do hear some weird noises. I guess it could be the sound of the refrigeration equipment, but I'm telling you, I never heard any refrigerators sound like that."

 

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