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.
Keith Pascar joins the Blind Squirrel Team with eleven years of professional experience and training in the culinary arts. Formerly the sous-chef at Sagra Trattoria in Austin, Keith brings his appreciation of scratch cooking, fresh, high quality ingredients, and classic culinary methodologies to the Blind Squirrel in Round Rock, Texas in his new role as Chef de Cuisine. 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. At the Blind Squirrel Keith manages a small well-trained staff, to quickly produce delicious, innovative, mouth-watering sandwiches in minutes. “I believe in letting the flavors of truly fresh ingredients speak for themselves. Great food can be prepared quickly if you respect the flavors of the ingredients; their compatibility, their contrast.” Keith goes on to note, “We value our customers’ total experience, satisfying their hunger for food, their hunger for flavor, and their need to be in and out quickly, without actually feeling rushed. Lunch should be delicious, it should energize you for the afternoon, and it should not take all day to enjoy.”
Gary Hryb, Sous Chef, 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.