Willie Degel Shares His Experience on "Restaurant Stakeout"
Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Willie Degel, CEO of Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, who shares the inspiration behind opening Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse in Queens, how the company has grown since its inception & his experience creating and hosting Food Network’s “Restaurant Stakeout”.
"We're pleased to be joined by William Degel, CEO of Uncle Jack's Steakhouse. How you doing? I'm great Steve. Always great. Born and raised where? Flushing, Queens. Is that right? Yeah. Met fan? Big Met fan. Hardcore? Jet fan. Jet fan? Went to Shea Stadium as a little kid. Giants, Yankees? I threw snowballs at everybody. You did? And you admit that? Of course. Of course. The cops never got you? It was fun. Back then it was allowed. It was Shea Stadium. Stop. By the way, tell everybody Uncle Jack's Steakhouse, the history. Yes. Your grandfather? So my grandfather was Jack Foley, my Uncle Jack was Jack Foley Junior, was the hiring boss for the longshoreman's union, at a Columbus Circle speakeasy. So that's how... and he was my godfather, so growing up hearing the legacy, the stories from my mother, I always loved, like, traditional antique shops, old things, so then when I started bartending and segueing cooked, I opened up Uncle Jack's Steakhouse, dedicated to my godfather. So the longshoreman's un... you don't mean the ILA? You... It was the longshoreman's union, I don't know the exact name. Did you work over on the docks at all? No no, my father did, my uncle put everybody to work, that's how my father met my mother, you know. He dated her, and then my dad got a job. Classic New York story. Right. Yeah. For people who don't understand this, it opened... Yeah. ...up 1996? 1996. Bayside Queens, Bell Boulevard. That was the first one. Describe the feel of the place. The feel of the place is old brick walls, mahogany, very detailed, very classy, luxurious, copper tin ceilings, velvet drapery, like an old burlesque speakeasy bordello-type atmosphere. This place is the Meat House I opened in Duluth, Georgia just a few months ago, last September. That's got an outdoor, that's a different feel. That's more like an industrial meat factory warehouse, I'm building... Georgia? Yeah Georgia. Duluth, Georgia. Of all the places in the country? Yeah, I had a... A guy from Queens goes, "Eh, I want to be in Georgia"? I had partners that live in Georgia. Alright. I went down and visited 'em, they're my family members, my sister in law, wifes, uncles, other people moved to Georgia. Then when I was filming on the Food Network, a lot of Georgia developers building these big buildings were calling me and saying, "Hey, we'll come down here, we'll give you cheap rent, we'll help you build the restaurant. Nothing like you get here in the city." Right. So they're more very proactive. They want their brands, they want the name, they'll make the money on their higher..."