Kevin McKellar ’94 ditched the excitement of Wall Street to take a risk on opening a New York City-inspired pizzeria and patisserie, Bottega Louie, in Los Angeles. As glamorous as this sounds, the restaurant requires long days, and Kevin admits the business might have benefited from art and theater classes at Trinity instead of focusing on business, economics, and political science. To learn more, keep reading.
What is your favorite memory from your time at Trinity?
I really bonded as a first year with almost everyone who lived on Calvert 3rd floor, and a lot of my favorite memories involve the people I met there. I also rushed Kappa Kappa Delta (KKD) as a sophomore with many of these same friends. If I was forced to pick a particular moment, it would be “exploring” some of the rooftops of the campus buildings with friends.
Who was your favorite professor or class at Trinity?
I took several classes with political science professor John Stoessinger who was memorable because he used his own textbooks to teach. During classes, he told us how he escaped Nazi Germany by fleeing to China.
Is there something you regret not pursuing while at Trinity?
I regret not taking any art and theater classes. I was all about business, studying economics and political science while at Trinity, and I realize now that I would actually be better at business if I knew how to draw or act.
Describe Trinity in 3-5 words.
Experience of a lifetime.
How did you get involved in your career?
I actually got a job offer to work at a small international bank in New York while a junior at Trinity, and I believe I spent my entire signing bonus at Taco Cabana over the course of the year. The bank was purchased by HSBC, a much larger financial services company, and I began working in the investment banking division concentrating in the hospitality business. I was on the team that took a variety of well-known restaurant brands public and really enjoyed that experience. I enjoyed it so much that, with one of my childhood best friends who also worked at the bank, we invested in a nightclub and a restaurant concept in NYC. The nightclub was a failure but the restaurant, called The Smith, was a huge success. It is still operational and growing to this day.
I took some time off from the bank to get a dual MBA at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University and then headed back to New York to develop the credit derivatives exchange market (yes, those derivatives) for several years. During this time, my partner and I visited Los Angeles and noticed there was no NYC-style pizza available, nor a good patisserie. So we decided to take a chance, leave Wall Street, and bring an NYC-type concept to Los Angeles. Our idea was to provide approachable luxury. We provide the service model of any of the world’s best-run restaurants but at a casual price point and with pretty packaging. Our whole aim is to take the Bottega Louie concept public ourselves using the experience we have.
You never really know how your career is going to develop. I thought I was going to be an international banker but through my work experiences and personal network I essentially ended up in the position that I am at now.
You work in a restaurant. Please describe what a typical day is like.
Bottega Louie is the busiest restaurant in California and the most Yelp’d with more than 500 employees and 2,500+ guests every day, so my typical day is signing checks and crying a lot. In actuality, the restaurant business is really about monitoring every penny and every metric possible. I typically spend the morning reviewing reports and checking in with my operations team on any issues of the day or the week. This drives how the rest of the day will go, so it’s hard to describe a typical day. As we are opening a second location in West Hollywood and a third in Chicago, I have lately been spending time preparing financial contracts and running point on all human resources and information technology projects. Lunch time is normally at the restaurant, tasting some items that are doing poorly or in the pipeline for our next menu revision. The afternoon is always working on key initiatives which largely revolve around developing our brand, whether it’s the color of our new chocolate bar packaging or the quality of our pizza take-out box. I don’t necessarily have a start or end time as the restaurant is always open, so I leave the office when it just feels like time.
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I should have been an actor.
What sound do you love? The sound you hate?
I love deep-thumping hip-hop bass. I had dual 40 inch woofers in my dorm room right by my bed. Rapper, producer, and actor Too $hort came into the restaurant and complimented me, and we exchanged phone numbers, which may be one of the highlights of my whole career.
I hate the sound of my alarm clock in the morning.
What is your favorite color and why?
Green because it matches my eyes? I’m actually extremely colorblind.
Where would you like to retire?
I have been skiing my whole life so my dream is to retire in Alta, Utah, and to be a ski bum.