Justin Zora Serves as an MC at the Second Annual Idaho Potato Drop 

From behind the bar to in front of a record-breaking crowd

Justin Zora thinks enthusiasm, commitment and clarity are the keys to success., and he actually loves the daily Grind.

photo by Patrick Sweeney

Justin Zora thinks enthusiasm, commitment and clarity are the keys to success., and he actually loves the daily Grind.

Though the Treasure Valley is technically a metropolitan area, we often still think of Boise in "small-town" terms. Our vision of what we look like may be shattered on New Year's Eve.

If expectations are met for the second annual Idaho Potato Drop, close to 50,000 people could gather downtown to watch the giant spud descend with the countdown.

That's a helluva crowd—but Justin Zora, who will keep grownups entertained between musical sets on the Adult Stage during this year's Idaho Potato Drop, is comfortable with all eyes on him.

Zora's wide smile is a familiar one around Boise. Whether as an employee, a co-owner or owner, the big teddy bear of a guy has been everybody's buddy behind the bar for years at the likes of Boogie Woogie's, Barbacoa, The Drink, Fatty's and Shorty's. Now the general manager at Grind Modern Burger, Zora has an uncanny ability to make everyone who comes into his establishment feel genuinely welcome and, maybe more importantly, to instill his values in the people who work for him. When asked what three things are necessary to be successful in his industry, Zora offered suggestions that transcend foodservice.

"First of all, you have to have passion. You have to," he said. "You don't do this job to get rich. You may do it to eat and drink for free, but that only gets you so far. When AT&T calls about the phone bill, you can't pay them in gift cards. The second thing you have to have is a team of people who 'drink the Kool-Aid.' They have to believe in what you're doing. If they aren't buying it, it doesn't matter how dedicated or passionate you are. It won't get across to your guests."

Zora's belief in what he does, along with a keen sense of humor and a gregarious nature have translated to a host of hosting duties for Zora. He has hosted local fundraising events for The Chive (a popular website), he was a Fusion Awards host, and he shared MC duties with KCIX Mix 106 radio hosts Mike Kasper and Kate McGwire on the Family Stage during last year's Idaho Potato Drop.

Zora's third requirement for success is something he said the Idaho Potato Drop has, and it's part of why he's excited to be involved again this year.

"An establishment has to have a clear-cut vision of what it wants to be," he said, giving the counterexample of a once-favorite watering hole that kept changing its employees' uniforms, unsure of what clientele it wanted to attract.

"I mean, you're going to try things," Zora said. "But it's like that old country song: 'If you don't stand for something / you'll fall for anything."

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