Who’s surprised that the son of a Mexican chef, and self-proclaimed food fanatic, would one day find himself in charge of the kitchen at Coba. Hey, it would be surprising if he didn’t. He’s the kind of guy who says food is his life and means it. Whose happiest memories are of family gatherings in the kitchen while his mother cooked huge Sunday dinners featuring chile con carne and the tacos he loved. The kind of guy who wants every guest at Coba to feel that same sense of festivity and family that food means for him.
What’s a confectionista? (Ok, it’s a word we made up.) It’s a mash-up of confection and perfection. Plus people who love perfect confections. That’s why we call our head pastry chef Shanyn Velasquez, our confectionista in chief. She’s the awesome talent behind each and every hand crafted, homemade, fresh baked sweet treat you’ll find at Cocoh! Her love for what she does lights up the store. As does her thousand watt smile.
Who do you hire to be the General Manager at what you want to be the guest friendliest restaurant in town? The guest friendliest guy in town, of course! Over the past 30 years, Bahman Fakharpour’s beaming smile and genuine warmth has made generations of Lexingtonians welcome at local landmarks like Amato’s, TW Lee’s, Columbia’s and Applebee’s. “I love people and I love food” he says. “If our guests say one word – ‘Wow!’ – we know we’ve done our job.”
As a 13 year old kid in Warren, Ohio, Larry Kerns had two choices for his first job: a paper route or a gig at The Hotdog Shoppe, owned by his best friend’s dad, Paul Treveline. Had he chosen door number one, his life journey might have led him to investigative journalism. But he chose the second, and the lesson his first boss taught him remains his compass to this day: find one thing to do and do it better than anyone else. Larry met the Greers in the mid 1990’s, when he was VP Ops for the original Cheddar’s franchisee. They stayed in touch when he moved on to Dallas to manage upscale Tex Mex concepts Mi Cocina and Taco Diner. One day the phone rang and it was Lee Greer, with a sketch of a floor plan of a restaurant and a dream. Count me in, said Larry, energized at the thought of creating something from nothing. And a new story began.
Some people travel through the world with their eyes open. Some don’t. Good thing for Lexington, Lee Greer is an eyes-open kind of guy. Everywhere he goes – and he goes everywhere – he’s on the lookout for the unique and the unusual. A super sleek saltshaker. A Maya headdress. A tower of tequila. Cool light on cascading water. A chandelier that looks like it escaped from a museum. A show-stopping plate presentation. A glass of Aztec xocolatl. Lee can honestly claim that just about everything that’s ever wowed him, just about everywhere on the planet, is now a part of Coba. Everything is personal, everything has a story. And even though it’s all looking good now, he plans to never stop looking.
Phil Greer is a patient man. It was only when Midwestern tastes began to open up to the bolder, spicier, more exotic flavor profiles of Cuban, Latin American, Mexican, Tex Mex and Baja cuisines, that he knew the time had finally come for a restaurant on the scale of Coba. Not in New York or Las Vegas or Chicago, but in Lexington, Kentucky. Phil’s hospitality philosophy, rooted in his time with Shoney’s and the hugely successful Cheddar’s concept, puts value front and center: large, moderately priced portions of fresh food cooked from scratch from ingredients delivered that day (there are almost no freezers at Coba). With wow factors like “the best chef in the southwest” and the world’s largest private jellyfish aquarium thrown in just to make sure the bar starts – and stays—high. “I’m a lucky guy”, says Phil. “I’ve had a lot of success in life, climbed a lot of mountains, done a lot of cool things. But I have to say that this chance to build something with my son, from scratch, is maybe the coolest of all.”