meez podcast

Tracy Malecheck-Ezekiel and Arjav Ezekiel on Their Thriving Restaurant, Birdie’s, and the Keys to Its Success

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About this episode

#63. In the latest episode of The meez Podcast, we're sitting down with Tracy and Arjav, the dynamic duo behind Birdie's, a cherished eatery in Austin, Texas. Not only are they partners in life, having met and fallen in love in the bustling New York restaurant scene, but they've also ventured into the world of business together, creating a dining experience that's both successful and beloved.

Their journey began over shared Negronis and led to the opening of Birdie's, which has since become a testament to their hard work and dedication. Impressively, they managed to pay back their investors within just 7 to 9 months of opening, a feat that speaks volumes about their commitment and the restaurant's instant appeal.

Tracy, recently nominated for Best Chef Texas by the James Beard Foundation, has a rich history of working in prestigious restaurants such as Del Posto and Blue Hill. Together with Arjav, who curates an exceptional wine list, they've embraced a counter service model that emphasizes simplicity without sacrificing flavor.

In this episode, the power couple shares insights into their daily menu changes, their approach to maintaining consistency, and the recipes that have become staples. They also delve into the personal side of their lives, discussing the challenges and joys of balancing parenthood with running a restaurant.

The conversation extends to the vibrant Austin food scene and the business strategies that have contributed to their long-term success. Join us for a deep dive into the story of Birdie's, where simplicity meets sophistication, and discover why this restaurant is a must-visit on your next trip to Austin.

Where to find Tracy Malecheck-Ezekiel:

Where to find Arjav Ezekiel

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

What We Cover

(06:16): Arjav and Tracy's background

(07:28): How and why Birdie's was created

(26:53): The couple's attempt at creating a more sustainable industry

(33:11): How raising margins will help with overall industry culture

(41:10): Separating self-worth from restaurant reviews

(46:16): How Tracy's mentors show up in her cooking

(52:28): How Tracy consistently changes the menu and maintains quality

(56:58): Arjav's opinion on wine enhancing the meal

(1:00:38): Being a parent and running a successful business


[00:00:00] Josh Sharkey:

You're listening to season two of The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, a culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, we're going to talk to high performers in the food business, everything from chefs to CEOs, technologists, writers, investors, and more about how they innovate and opperate


And how they consistently execute at a high level day after day. And I would really love it if you could drop us a 5 star review. Anywhere that you listen to your podcast. That could be Apple, that could be Spotify, it could be Google. I'm not picky. Anywhere works. But I really appreciate the support. And as always, I hope you enjoy the show.


Hello ladies and gentlemen. Today we have a bit of a double whammy. We have the co-founders of a really beloved restaurant out of Austin, Texas called Birdie's, Tracy and Arjav. They are married and they are also business owners together of a very successful restaurant. And the timing of this episode is kind of interesting because I'm, well, I record these ahead of time, obviously.


And this episode, I believe, is coming out the second week in June. So by that time we will know Tracy was nominated for Best Chef Texas by the James Beard Foundation. You're a winner no matter what in my book because you're amazing. But let's give up for Tracy and the award ceremony will be actually the week before this came out.


But anyways, Tracy and Arjav met at Restaurant Untitled, I believe, in New York. I hope I'm getting that right. They worked together and Tracy worked at a bunch of restaurants in New York at Gru and Del Posto and Blue Hill. She worked at Lulu's Cafe in Chicago. Interestingly, she applied for a job at Hot Dogs, which I thought was pretty cool.


If anybody remembers Hot Dogs, it was this hot dog restaurant in Chicago that unfortunately closed, but was really famous and made incredible hot dogs. Anyways, the two of them met and fell in love over Negronis and decided right away they opened a restaurant together and fast forward, they did. And it is a very successful restaurant.


So much so that they paid back their investors in like something like seven to nine months. They didn't raise a ton of cash. I think it was like 300 grand, but still that's pretty incredible to pay back your investors that quickly. It is a counter service model. So obviously really, really delicious food.


If you went to James Beard, that tends to happen, but also counter service. So you order the counter, sit down. They also have an incredible wine list, which Arjav takes care of. Today we talk kind of like a pretty wide ranging conversation about the food and their approach to simplicity. They are very, very simplistic in terms of how they approach things in a very good way.


You know, there's not a lot of fuss and just delicious food. And they try to make everything about their business as simple as possible. We talk about changing the menu daily, which they do somewhat daily and how that impacts things like consistency and what kind of recipes you use and don't use, what stays on the menu, what doesn't, things like that.


We do talk a bit about family, obviously they're married, they recently had a child and what that's like to be parents and also run a restaurant and how you split time and as we all know it's way harder on the mom at least in the beginning but probably always and you know how do they deal with that.


My wife and I dealt with it, me trying to help as much as I possibly can but of course. Man, it is really tough on the moms and Tracy is a rock star and you could, we talk a lot about, you know, how that all went down. We dig into Austin and the Austin scene and just generally their thoughts on things that they love about it.


All in all, just a really incredible conversation. We do get into their business model and why it works and the things that they stuck their stuck to the guns in the beginning and how that has paid off in the long run. So I learned a lot and I'm actually really excited because I've actually never been to their restaurant.


Last time I was in Austin we didn't get a chance to go there so I will most definitely be going there next time I'm in Austin. But you know the drill, I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.


Good to meet you both. I'm actually really glad that I got both of you. On this call, I think when Gia connected us, right, you guys work with Gia, is that right? Yes. Cool. I was actually like worried that it might just be one of you, which would be awesome. But I love having both of you on because whether you like it or not, we're going to talk about like working together as a married couple with kids.


I have two kids and a wife and a lot of curiosity there of how that goes. So we'll, we'll talk about that today, but I have a bunch of, you know, sort of background on the two of you, but I have to admit, I've actually never been to the restaurant. I've been Austin a bunch of times. I think the last time I was there was for like an indie chefs.


Like, like an indie chef event where we cooked at, uh, Foreign and Domestic or something and we ate around everywhere. Oh yeah. When were you at foreign and domestic? So, I did a course for this indie chef's dinner there, like, a couple years ago. And I think that was the last time I was in Austin. I mean, I've been to Austin a bunch of times, but that was the last time I was there.

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