There are only two things restaurateur Peter "Kaz" Kasperski can't live without: work and good food. For him, the two are so deeply intertwined that the thought of losing either blows his mind.
And that's meant a windfall for Valley diners.
Kaz began his torrid love affair with the restaurant biz as a teenager growing up on the Great Lakes. He was allowed to get a boat, but his family insisted he pay for his own gas. "So I got a job where I drove my boat to wash dishes for 10 hours just to make enough gas money to get back to work the next week," says Kasperski. After that, he was hooked.
Peter "Kaz" Kasperski
He threw a dart at a map and landed in Phoenix, worked his way up from waiter to manager, and eventually opened his first restaurant, Cowboy Ciao, in 1997. (For details, visit www.cowboyciao.com, and see our award for Digestif.)
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Kasperski's Stetson Drive Empire now includes four restaurants — Cowboy Ciao, Kazimierz, Sea Saw, and Digestif — with plans to open three more — Mexican Standoff, Shell Shock, and Confection — in the near future.
As for the concern that owning seven restaurants on the strip would lead visitors to assume they're all the same, he isn't worried. "They have some similarities, like the same wine list and philosophy of success," he says, "but each one has its own identity."
When he's not juggling dual responsibilities as owner/operator and resident "bar guy," the hardworking entrepreneur loves to indulge his passion for eating. The self-proclaimed restaurant junkie can sometimes taste upwards of 100 dishes a day while traveling around the country doing research. Damn! How has he managed to avoid ballooning up like Jabba the Hutt? Jenny Craig? Liposuction? No need. Kasperski exercises regularly, enjoys playing basketball, and burns a ton of calories running from restaurant to restaurant.
The big question on everyone's mind is whether the 50-year-old foodie will ever relinquish his restaurant kingdom. He's tried other careers, including a stint as an investment banker, but even his family knows where his heart lies. Kaz's now-estranged wife once sat him down in front of their daughters and asked when he was going to retire. The three girls burst into laughter and told their mother she was crazy for even thinking he'd ever quit.