They grew up not only in different parts of the country, but also from completely different backgrounds, but one thing brought Elliot Harris and Bryan Tyrell together, their love of serving great food and providing outstanding customer service.
Both are lifelong Dead Heads and in the words of one of their most popular songs, "What a Long Strange Trip It's Been" as they both have trucked across the United States and Europe and Africa but eventually ended up in South Florida.
Elliot has spent a fair part of his 44 years on Earth in and around music. He has worked and rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in rock and hip-hop, including the Allman Brothers, Phish, OAR, Counting Crows, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Cypress Hill and Rick Ross. But he never played a chord or sang one note.
“I was always the business guy. I jokingly told people ‘I’m probably not cool enough to get into my own clubs,’” says Harris, whose career in music has been, in a way, by the numbers - literally.
As a licensed financial adviser who ran the entertainment wing of a top New York firm, he worked with major touring bands and record labels, including Universal’s Republic, helping with business modeling, licensing and distribution. He also had a company that handled security and logistics for Live Nation venues. He’s even worked as a bartender and owned clubs, including one that was the site of an infamous celebrity brawl.
After high school, Harris attended the State University of New York at Albany, where “one of my neighbors said ‘What are you doing for a job? You should get into the restaurant and nightclub business.’
Around that time, Harris also started working what he calls “a hobby job,” where he just did “everything backstage that needed to be done,” from grabbing people who needed to be grabbed to getting the temperature on stage lowered.
But he’s also a guy who went to the University of Pennsylvania’s business school: the Wharton School. So when he met guys who wanted to open nightclubs, “They’d say, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing. You went to a fancy school. Can you help us?’ ”
Using his love of music, his affinity with musicians and his education, Harris says he “developed a reputation as the guy who did the right thing,” he says. “I would be the guy who would look at (a band’s) opportunity of agreement, like they’d say ‘I want to get involved with a new clothing brand, but I have no idea what I’m looking at.’”
Harris can’t reveal the names of the artists he professionally advised, but he’s got stories, like the time “we were about to do a clothing line for a big hip-hop star in the mid-2000s - you’d know the name - and I looked at it and said, ‘You don’t make any money in this deal.’ ”
Later, Harris opened nightclubs including SoHo’s W.I.P., where in 2012, Drake and Chris Brown famously had a beef that erupted into a brawl - “That was my place!” he says.
He left New York in 2012, after dealing with a heart condition that he’s now recovered from. Here in Boynton Beach, he can not only pursue the food business, but do “my favorite thing, which is to be with (my) three children.”
Although he doesn’t play an instrument, Harris recently started working the turntables himself, working with noted hip-hop D J Jason Nevins, known for remixes of Run-DMC, Cypress Hill and others and who has worked on tracks for Duran Duran, Florida Georgia Line and Nelly, and Mika featuring Ariana Grande.
“During the MLB All-Star Game I was at an A-list party on the rooftop of a magnificent condo in South Beach, and the D J was awful. There were a lot of guys in the nightclub business who were like, ‘Show this guy how it’s done,’ ” he says. “Of course, I proceeded to knock out half the power in the building.”
His business partner on the other hand grew up far away from the bright lights of New York in a small town south of Kansas City. Bryan was the youngest in a family of nine, yes nine kids. He got his love of the food service business from his mother. No she wasn't in the restaurant business, well sort of when you have that many mouths to feed daily. Sunday dinners consisted of four whole chickens cut up, 20 pounds of mashed potatoes and gravy and countless ears of corn. "I was fascinated how this could be pulled off, so I started watching and helping my mother with the cooking."
It wasn't until later that he got the fire back in food preparation. One weekend after graduating from college, a former roommate of his asked if he could help with his Competition BBQ team. That was something that would change his life.
The team started winning competitions, state titles, cook-offs with over 100 teams there. It culminated with winning the prestigious American Royal World Championship of BBQ held in Kansas City.
"I wasn't the head chef," Bryan explained. "I was more of a lift this, carry that member, but I watched and learned from one of the best BBQ'ers in world, Jeff Steheny.
After back to back World Titles, Stehney opened the then named Oklahoma Joe's BBQ and hired Bryan as his Smokehouse Manager.
"Jeff taught me how to serve World Championship BBQ in a restaurant," he explained. "Within three years, we were named the Best BBQ Restaurant in the World by Zagats."
Three years later, Stehney recommended Bryan for a position in London, UK where he opened five BBQ Restaurants in six and a half years. His success followed him across the pond. His ribs were named "Best Ribs This Side of the Atlantic" by Time Out Publications, he was twice nominated for Best American Restaurant going up against the famous chef Gordon Ramsey and one of his sandwiches was named Best Sandwich in London.
After two years in the Caribbean, he moved to South Africa and assisted in bringing Jamie Oliver's Italian Kitchen to the country. Bryan returned to the states and moved to South Florida and again his success continued. One reviewer said his ribs were the best he had ever tasted, another said his smoked pastrami was possibly the best in the the country.
He has been featured in many magazines in the area and has done live cooking segments for most of the television stations in the West Palm Beach area.