Chef Vinny Tardo and operations veteran Katie Elkins have brought nearly 50 years of combined experience to Burger Up Cool Springs as the restaurant’s new co-managers, along with a deep passion for supporting local farms and suppliers in their community.
For Tardo, who now serves as director of operations, restaurant management began as a family affair. His father left a steady career in millworking to open an authentic, family Italian restaurant, where Tardo started working at age 12.
“So much of our family life was centered around food,” Tardo said. “We were that typical Italian family, where food and family are super important. I spent a lot of my formative years in the back of a restaurant.”
Tardo attended Florida State University to study acting and film, but a summer job with his brother at a high-end restaurant in upstate New York caused him to leave school and jump headfirst into the culinary world.
“That summer I got hooked, and I wanted to learn as much as I could about professional cooking,” Tardo said. “I was drawn to the artistry of food, which became a creative outlet. I sought out the chefs I wanted to learn from, and I bounced between the front and back of the house to learn every aspect of running a restaurant.”
He eventually moved to North Carolina to serve as the head chef of Sunset on Main, a contemporary American bistro that used local meat and produce suppliers long before the practice became an industry trend. In 2008 he moved to Nashville to work at Saffire restaurant, where he served as executive chef for over six years. Most recently, Tardo was a key player in establishing Quinn’s Neighbourhood Pub & Eatery in Franklin, where he expanded his knowledge of craft brewery.
“People can’t believe that I work for Burger Up, but I don’t happen to eat Angus burgers,” Elkins said. “But there are plenty of things I do eat, like the salmon burger, vegetarian burger, fries, kale salad and more. We offer a lot of options for people with different food diets.”
When Elkins became a manager at Burger Up Cool Springs six years ago, one of her first initiatives was to create different allergy lists so guests with food allergies could clearly understand which menu items they could enjoy safely.
“We are a gluten-free-friendly and dairy-free-friendly restaurant,” she said.
Elkins, whose previous experience includes serving as a national trainer for P.F. Chang’s, has always supported restaurants who use cage-free, socially responsible ingredients in their food. A mother of two daughters, she understands the importance of serving children safe and fresh food, and she was impressed to discover that Burger Up utilized sources that were cage-free and from local farms.
“All of our proteins are antibiotic free, cage-free and contain no added hormones,” she said.
Tardo and Elkins are currently planning and implementing a number of enhancements at Burger Up Cool Springs, including expanding on the company’s catering services and hosting more events on the outdoor patio area. To keep up to date on Burger Up Cool Springs’ latest news, follow them on Facebook.