Stephanie Telesco 

The art of managing an iconic Boise restaurant

Stephanie Telesco says it was all about the attention to detail. That's why her formal education in art history was the perfect foundation for her success at the Brick Oven Bistro. The daughter of a Filipino businessman and a physician, Telesco spent her formative years learning about art, Spanish and sociology, teaching English, marketing real estate and owning a clothing store. But from the mid-1980s, Telesco and her husband, Jeff Nee, were the proprietors of the Brick Oven Bistro, working 12-hour days, seven days a week until their last supper on Nov. 25.

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Did you ever see yourself running a restaurant?

Absolutely not.

So what was your impetus?

We didn't want to lose money on our investment. It was about to go bankrupt.

What was the problem?

Probably mismanagement. I began thinking that art history was the perfect background for me because it gave me an eye for detail.

What's the biggest difference between when you took the reins of the restaurant in the 1980s and 2012?

The complexity of the food and, of course, our size. We moved from where Addies Restaurant is now to the Grove in 1991.

And you watched this portion of downtown Boise build around you.

When we moved here, I told Jeff that this was the worst decision we ever made. Nobody was walking around the Grove at the time. But then we saw the Boise Centre, the new arena and, of course, BODO come in.

When did you decide to close?

A couple of months ago. We didn't want to sign another three-year lease and my husband had an opportunity to work with his brother to help manage a credit card developing and processing company.

Have interested parties been looking at your space?

Oh yes. We've been giving quite a few tours. But I can't say much about who they are.

Are they local?

Let's put it this way: If you had a list of the top local restaurants, most of them on that list are probably interested in this space.

If you could wave a wand, who would you see coming in here?

Somebody with a bistro-like concept. Maybe someone with some live music. If it's a chain restaurant, I'm going to be so sad.

Do you have a sense of how many people have worked for you over the years?

About 4,800.

That's stunning.

Can you imagine having 4,800 children? That will give you a flavor of what running this restaurant has been like.

What did most of those 4,800 have in common?

An appreciation for a job well done. They didn't mind when I would always tell them, "Two hands."

What does that mean?

God gave you two hands. Let's use them.None of that silly theory that everyone who plays should get a trophy.

Now that you're closed, where you will you go out to eat?

The CasaBlanca Cuban Grill. I love Cafe Vicino. We really want to try The Brickyard. But we're hard pressed. The truth is, we've been very disappointed by the food here.

I'm guessing that you've heard more than once that the food in the Treasure Valley is overwhelmingly average.

The sad part is that a large part of the public is OK with that. When I used to interview staff, I would ask them about their best dining experience, and too often, I would hear someone bring up the name of a chain.

And now you're going to start working on a cookbook.

I'm hoping to get our first recipes on a website, hopefully by February. Then I'll write my first book, focusing on our special entrees. I'll probably write another book after that with all of soups, salads, side dishes and desserts.

You're also an astrologer. What's your star sign?

I'm a Libra. We love peace and quiet.

I find it hard to believe that you love peace and quiet.

I love it. Running the Brick Oven Bistro was really managed chaos.

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