Missoula Restaurant Owners & Chefs:
Bill Worden – The Shack Cafe

By BOB ZIMORINO “Owners and Chefs” is a restaurant section with a twist. To fill either position, chefs and owners must be able to wear many hats: Cook, server, human resource manager, repair person, negotiator, mediator, psychologist, bookkeeper, and more.  Armed with his top 10 questions, Bob Zimorino takes a peek behind the kitchen doors to find out how these local restaurateurs view the restaurant business in their own words.

I have known Bill Worden for over thirty years. We have eaten in each other’s restaurants, always been respectful and usually shared a laugh or a story or two. This interview was no different. It lasted an hour and a lot of what didn’t make it into the story was just two old restaurant guys poking sticks into their old war wounds from all of the years of battling to stay afloat in a sea of corporate sharks.

There are a lot of restaurants in Missoula. Why should a prospective diner choose yours?

BW: It depends on whether they want a good breakfast, a great breakfast or they don’t care. We make a lot of stuff from scratch, more than most restaurants do these days. We make our own hashbrowns, our own chorizo, our own salsas, and our homemade black beans. We make a lot of the food that goes into the dishes. Actually, it’s an old style production. That’s what it is.

What dish is your signature dish and why that particular dish?

BW: Chicken In The Ruff. It was the dish that started the restaurant in 1949.

What would you want it to say to the person that orders it?

BW: The chicken says, “Have a beer on the side.”

What is your favorite dish prepared in another Missoula restaurant?

BW: Something at Pearl’s probably. Nothing in particular, I just like her food.

As a place to do business, why Missoula?

BW: As a place to do business Missoula is tough, but as a place to live it’s very nice. As the weather gets worse everybody goes away. Just trying to survive January and February is tough.

What is your least favorite cooking trend?

BW: Well the fast food places are pretty irritating aren’t they? How about the ones that try to do Italian food but don’t come very close or the ones that try to do Mexican and don’t come very close. What’s left, American hamburgers and they don’t come very close either.

It’s the Iron Chef competition and you are up. Who would you rather be up against Bobby Flay or Cat Cora?

BW: I’d like to deep fry Bobby Flay.

I remember the shack from 30 years ago when you were on Front St. What keeps you going?

BW: That’s what Mr. Pizzaman from across the street (Bob Marshall from Biga Pizza) asked me. “How do you keep from getting burned out?” I told him I got burned out 30 years ago, 20 years ago, getting burned out is nothing. You just keep going. At this point I’m pretty comfortable. It takes a long time to get someplace where you can be comfortable. And I’m still not all that happy with January, February, March and April. Besides what else is there. I thought about making castinets. I mean real quality castinets. Espresso carts, there’s a million of them. Castinet makers, zilch.

What do you think when you hear someone say: “I think owning a restaurant looks like fun.”

BW: Why I think they should sign up and buy one. (We both laugh) especially if they have never had any experience. Really though, I think a lot of times people get into these small business based on the belief that next year will better than this one, but that isn’t always the case. The guy downstairs with the waffle shop…well that’s been a half a dozen businesses over the last half a dozen years and each came in thinking they were the ones that were going to make it there. After a year or so, they start to look at how much they’re working and how much they’re making and they give it up. But who knows, maybe the Waffle Guy is the one.

Give me 5 words to describe your restaurant.

BW: Great Local Restaurant Try It, That’s seven right?

BZ: Uh no Bill That’s five.

BW: Well there you go.

The Shack
222 W. Main St.
(406) 549-9903

Checkout  our comprehensive list of Missoula Dining options.  You may also want to check out Bob Zimorino’s Taste It blog or even watch one of his many video blogs–including this one on Cashew Chicken!

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Bio:  Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in his lifetime.