By: M.C. Reyes, Editor-in-Chief.
Davenport - After his brother got a call to go to Afghanistan, Joel Rodriguez, one of the owners of Ovation Bistro & Bar Restaurant was already out of the military. After giving it some thought, he decided that he wasn't going to let his younger brother go to war alone, so he signed back on with the National Guard that way they could deploy together. Talk about brotherly love and dedication to your country, right?
Last month, we had the honor of interviewing Joel and the story that he shared with us was, undeniably, amazing.
Coming from an immigrant family, the Rodriguez' brothers didn't have much. Due to their parents' jobs in the fields, the season would determine where they would be. In one of those moves, they ended up in Haines City where the Rodriguez' brothers were finally born.
"In the Florida orange groves during the rest of the year, we never complained and, in fact, are still very proud of the work that our parents did to provide for us. We have black and white pictures of them working in the fields in every one of our restaurants to remind us what hard work looks like and to remind us that, in the United States, anything is possible," shared the Rodriguez' brothers on the about page of their restaurant's website.
A couple of years after returning from their deployment to Afghanistan, the Rogriguez' brothers decided that the skills they had learned while working for a big restaurant could be used to their advantage. That's when they decided to open their own restaurant, which they called Ovation Bistro & Bar. They opened their first restaurant in Davenport and after the immense support they received from the community, they decided to open two more restaurants... one in Lakeland and one in Winter Haven.
"After returning back home in 2006, we both went back to work as cooks and then managers at a big Australian themed steakhouse. This is where we learned our way and the ins and outs of the restaurant business, eventually running our own locations. Managing a restaurant is hard work and long hours, but also fun," said Joel.
"Having a passion for BBQ and steaks and enjoying nice wines and whiskeys... we asked ourselves, 'why can’t we go somewhere to get real good BBQ and have a nice glass of wine or a stiff drink?' So we decided one day, while we were smoking some brisket at home, that we were going to open our own restaurant, one that was BBQ based but felt like a steakhouse and not like a quick-service restaurant. Our new restaurant would not only have great BBQ, but a comfortable atmosphere, a sizeable wine list, full bar, specialty coffees, and desserts, we told ourselves. This was in late 2014, and that's how the Ovation Bistro & Bar was born," shared the Rodriguez' brothers on the about page of their restaurant's website.
The Rodriguez' brothers' story is a great one, but what makes their story an even better one is what they are doing to help the community that opened their arms to them when they needed it the most. As part of the commitment to their community, they started The Ovation Bistro Foundation, a non-profit organization, whose sole mission is to help Polk County residents by donating meals to the Feeding America Tampa Bay Organization and also by supporting hundreds of charities. They have even given out scholarships to local deserving students. So far, the foundation has donated over 30,000 meals.
Today, as we gather to bring awareness to the hunger and homelessness cause, we want to congratulate Joel and Fernando Rodriguez for the job they are doing to improve the quality of life for those around them. This, in our opinion, is what makes America great.
We invite you to stop by their restaurant and say hi to them. According to them, they are in the restaurants on the days that end in “y,” so chances are, if you go and say hi, they will be there.
One last thing... when we asked Joel what his favorite dish at the restaurant was, he said without hesitating, that his favorite dish was the smoked prime ribs. And, let me tell you... if they taste as good as they look in the photo that Joel showed me from their menu, I might have to go and try them myself.