Fresh seafood and fresh owners
LIONSHEAD – Montauk Seafood Grill in Lionshead just reeled in a couple of fresh owners, but they’re no small fish in the restaurant business.Tom Ludwig and Dimitri Souvorin acquired Montauk less than a week ago from its original owner of 16 years Gary Boris, who they worked under for many years. Ludwig did everything from wait tables to tend bar to manage the front of the house, and Souvorin was chef, which he will continue to do as co-owner.”We’ve done nothing in our life beside serve food to people. Well, I can also show you how to catch a lot of fish in the river,” said Ludwig, who has also worked as a fly-fishing guide for the last 10 years.Even with their experience in the restaurant business, buying Montauk was no easy task. There was the whole business aspect of it that neither Ludwig or Souvorin had much training in. But when the opportunity arose, they both jumped at the chance to run their own ship. They immediately began searching for investors and formed a corporation.”Since we weren’t business people we had to deeply learn the process while trying to court investors. We were playing two sides of the game at the same time,” Souvorin said.It took them nine months to cull enough money from investors, and they had to change the operating agreement 11 times.”So many people said yes at first, but when it came to writing the check, it was a different story,” Ludwig said.
More hurdles popped up even after the money was secured. Other people were interested in buying the restaurant, so competition became a factor as well. Ludwig and Souvorin kept going, even if they heard the word “no,” Ludwig said. Eventually, the other competitors dropped out of the race.”It really takes perseverance, drive and desire. Keeping a positive attitude helped get us through it. Not getting mired down by the details. We kept focused,” Souvorin said. “After going through this experience, I could buy my own space and start from scratch. A year ago, I couldn’t do that,” said Ludwig.Catch of the dayIt’s hard to imagine finding fresh seafood in landlocked Colorado, but Montauk (and Boris) established a reputation as being the valley’s premier seafood restaurant with its fresh catches. The new owners intend to keep it that way.”I order big eye tuna from Hawaii. They are literally swimming in Hawaii, they catch it, air ship it and I’m selling it the same day,” said Souvorin.He orders seafood from all over the world and is always on the look out for a better purveyor. Souvorin will contact chefs in New York and San Francisco whose restaurants are known for fresh seafood and ask about their sources.
“Dimitri is a hands-on chef. He cares more than anyone prior because it’s his now,” said Ludwig.Montauk’s high-quality food belies its atmosphere, which is casual and comfortable with nautical theme decor and white linens on the table. It has been a local’s favorite for years, which is why the restaurant stays open for most of the year. Every night they have a vast selection of fresh fish and the menu will change depending on the season.”Our customers are very educated diners. They eat the best food all over the world. We’re premier dining in Vail, and we’re expected to live up to the worldwide standard,” Souvorin said.Every day’s a lessonIt’s been less than a week since Ludwig and Souvorin took on ownership, but from ordering for the kitchen and the bar to the customers, every day they learn something new.”We have more interaction with the customers than we did as managers. We are learning more about what they want, about their vacations, how each restaurant plays a part in their vacation,” said Souvorin.
On the other hand, not much has changed for the duo because they were so involved with the running of the restaurant before owning it.”It feels like this is the way it should have been the whole time,” said Ludwig.Montauk Seafood Grill is located at 549 Lionshead Mall. For reservations, call 476-2601.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado