Meet the Chefs
Jack Raia has been involved in the restaurant and culinary industries his entire career. He brings a professional lifetime of experience including over 18 years in various management positions – 12 years as an accomplished chef and 11 years of catering supervision. A graduate of the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America, Jack has managed, owned or supervised restaurant and catering operations, as well as managed real estate development for small and large companies, including a major upscale supermarket chain in New York City. Jack’s latest endeavor, The Blind Squirrel, located in Round Rock, Texas, is the culmination of his experiences as a classically trained chef and an industry professional. Jack has always been fascinated by the culinary treasures of international peasant cuisines. Since early in his career he was intrigued by the similarities different cultures shared in the preparation of the family meal. Though the ingredients were the similar, the resulting flavors were vastly different because of the cooking methods used. He enjoys an interest in history, culture, and how the foods we all love are reflections of the land and people that create them. Jack strives to share this interest using these scratch-made authentic techniques to tap into these flavors bringing sophisticated flavor combinations to the lunch table in a familiar context – the humble sandwich – making it accessible, casual and fun.
Gary Hryb, newly appointed Chef de Cuisine, was born and raised in southern Connecticut. After graduating from The Center for Culinary Arts at Lincoln Technical Institute, he moved to Boston, where he honed his culinary skills for five years in some of Boston’s finest restaurants. While not in the kitchen, Gary loves trying new beers, and wines, playing classic rock on his Gibson guitar, and going on adventures with his dog Tyrone. Through fate and circumstance, in the fall of 2012, Gary discovered Austin, Texas. He instantly fell in love with Austin’s homegrown blend of world class live music, handcrafted foods, and adventurous libations. Gary now contributes his culinary expertise and creativity to preparing eclectic sandwiches at The Blind Squirrel in Round Rock, Texas.
Kurt Ramborger, who is profoundly Deaf hails from the northern valley of the City of Angels joins the Blind Squirrel as our new lead Chef. He grew up in two kitchens, one was with his Deaf mamma, and the other, his Irish gramma. While growing up, he was immersed in their culinary influences as they whipped up home-styled meals. The immersion went deep into his soul and never left there.
Kurt is a self-taught chef whose journey began in the early 90′s. Throughout the journey, he traveled not only through different restaurants or catering gigs but also all over the country which led to his flair with food. His style consists of places from Los Angeles; Seattle; Oakland; Berkeley; San Francisco; Pittsburgh; Frederick, Md; Little Rock, Arkansas; Detroit, and even on an isolated island called Mackworth in Maine where the food were sustainable and local.
He is currently in Austin with his two children and since the move to this city, he became well known for being America’s hottest chef in 2012. In this contest by Eater.com, Kurt was voted as the hottest chef of Austin and it led to a wildfire of him championing the country’s nation’s social media contest. Kurt also made an appearance in a well known Food Network show, “Chopped.” He became the first Deaf chef to be on the national cooking television show.
After all the traveling and noise, Kurt is happy with knowing that he can bring his colorful and varied history into creating subtle yet memorable sandwiches at The Blind Squirrel in Round Rock
Keith Pascar remains with the Blind Squirrel Team as Chef in Emeritus, having recently accepted an appointment as a Chef Instructor at a locally acclaimed Culinary School. Keith has eleven years of professional experience and training in the culinary arts. Formerly the sous-chef at Sagra Trattoria in Austin, Keith continues to contribute his appreciation of scratch cooking, fresh, high quality ingredients, and classic culinary methodologies to the Blind Squirrel in Round Rock, Texas. Keith comes from a large, boisterous Italian family in Boston. Growing up, the kitchen was never big enough to contain all the food and love, but his family always gathered and shared there anyway. Thus began Keith’s lifelong passion for great food. He received his professional education from Central Texas College, graduating with honors. He has spent much of his career experimenting and perfecting the art of efficient, a la minute production, using high quality ingredients to serve customers excellent foods, quickly.