Since opening Anvil Bar & Refuge in his hometown of Houston, Texas in 2009, Bobby Heugel has continued to make an impression on the restaurant and bar scene nationwide. Over two and a half years since opening, Anvil has received countless national accolades — Bon Appétit named Anvil one of the “Top Ten New Cocktail Bars” in its August 2010 issue, GQ magazine included Anvil as one of “The 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America” in October 2010 and Anvil was just recently listed in Food & Wine’s “50 Best Bars in America” in December 2011. Yet, it is Bobby’s work beyond Anvil in 2011 that has shown Anvil is only the tip of the iceberg.
Bobby was named a Star Chefs Rising Star and nominated for a James Beard Award in the Best Wine & Spirits Professional category for 2011. He was also included in Forbes “30 Under 30” Food & Wine movers and shakers list which will hit the stands mid January 2012. Beyond these accolades, Bobby’s consulting company worked with several beverage programs and spirit brands nationwide. Bobby and his partners also worked towards opening a new restaurant, Underbelly, with Houston chef, Chris Shepherd, and a beer bar, Hay Merchant, with Anvil partner and longtime friend, Kevin Floyd, which will debut in a matter of weeks. Their coffee shop, Blacksmith, a partnership with David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto, will follow this upcoming spring as an expansion of their affiliated micro-roaster, Greenway Coffee. Bobby has plans to establish several other concepts inside and outside of Houston in the following years, but he is quick to establish his pursuit of these endeavors as an interest in talent, not a restaurant group. Bobby believes “the future of this industry lies in the hands of talented individuals and personalities, not idealized concepts – an important distinction that will direct the most successful and influential trends of hospitality, food, and beverage communities.”
Amid all of his new endeavors, Heugel’s most notable accomplishments to this point have arguably been outside of his businesses. In July of 2011, Bobby was chosen as one of four individuals from a membership pool filled with the nation’s most-respected bar professionals to serve as a Board Member and Treasurer for the Tequila Interchange Project, an organization he helped found in 2010. The Tequila Interchange Project seeks to promote sustainability and traditional production methodology amid growing concerns surrounding modern production trends in Mexico. He, along with the other members of TIP, regularly meet with regulatory officials in Mexico as well as independent researchers and professors at the University of Guadalajara to address these issues.
In November of 2011, a group of Houston restaurant and bar owners teamed together to fight for independent businesses against misguided and looming municipal policies on parking issues and urban density. Amid that struggle, a glaring need was exposed within the Houston restaurant and bar industry: an active organization that campaigned for independent restaurants, bars, cafes, food trucks, purveyors and producers. OKRA, an Organized Kollaberative on Restaurant Affairs, is the product of a union of individuals who found that as group, not only could they have a positive impact on their industry, but rally the support of the Houston community. Bobby was quickly elected President of OKRA, which has already become an active political organization in Houston and will continue to represent the independent restaurants on political and social issues.
Beyond its political agenda, the organization also plans to host quarterly food festivals that will benefit rotating charities, teach classes on food, wine, and spirits monthly, and host other events. Most exciting, however, is Bobby’s dream of opening a non-profit bar that will finally become reality under the operation of OKRA. The group hopes to refurbish an existing bar to minimize costs and generate as many funds as possible for charity. While the search has just started, OKRA isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel; instead, the organization is attempting to open a simple, neighborhood bar that allows Houstonians to support their community by buying a drink. Bobby and his OKRA colleagues plan to open this bar in the summer of 2012 – a concept that challenges restaurants and bars nationwide to pursue collaborative efforts that engage their communities.
Bobby feels that the future of this industry hinges upon an ability to engage social and business endeavors with equal consciousness. At only 28 years of age, we are certain to see this perspective continue to have an impact on the food and beverage industry nationwide.