BY ALISON BERKLEY | July 13, 2011 | Food & Drink
Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce have seven babies. Two of them are actual children (Bryce, 8, and Alexis, 5), one is a new Rhodesian ridgeback puppy and four are the couple’s bustling Aspen restaurants: The Wild Fig, LuLu Wilson, Brexi Brasserie and CP Burger.
In case you thought it was hard for restaurants to make it in Aspen, this powerhouse duo has proved otherwise. Completely self-made, they worked their way up the restaurant ladder over the course of two decades. Craig started as a struggling waiter and ski bum who arrived from South Africa with $40 in his pocket, and Samantha, a NYC transplant-turned-bartender, came to Aspen in 1991. They’ve both learned the business from the ground up, which Craig says is the key to their success.
“We don’t play the stock market or invest in real estate. We invest in ourselves,” says Craig, who built all their spaces himself. “If it fails, we’re the ones who are losing. We hire well, we have high expectations and we never settle for mediocrity. I have to set the tone and always be full of energy.”
In terms of investments, the couple has diversified their portfolio with four very different restaurant concepts. Their first, The Wild Fig, opened in 2003 and offers coastal Mediterranean cuisine. LuLu Wilson kicked off on New Year’s Eve 2006 with an American menu that focused on local and sustainable ingredients. However, after a recent re-do, it’s now a yet-to-be-named boutique steakhouse. As its name implies, Brexi Brasserie (opened in 2009) features hearty French cuisine. And their newest addition, CP Burger, is “fast casual,” says Craig—a direct response to today’s challenging economical climate that appeals to a broader customer base. Adjacent to the downtown Silver Circle Ice Rink, which is considered part of the eatery, CP Burger puts a modern twist on the oldschool diner.
How does the couple do it? “We get asked that all the time. And the other day I realized the answer,” Samantha says. “There are so many amazing people throughout history who have done so much in their lives, people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. If you think about what they were able to do in a day, it puts things in perspective. All we’re doing here is running restaurants. That much, we can manage.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATT POWER