Courtesy of Sarah Dorio
A former Oklahoma quarterback and Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns player, Nate Hybl is opening a fast-casual restaurant called Gusto! Wood Fire Grill in Brookwood October 31. Located at 1935 Peachtree Street, Gusto! asks guests to choose from a salad, brown rice bowl, or sandwich with either chicken, portabella mushrooms, or shrimp. The dish is completed with a choice of sauce and vegetable combinations, ranging from sweet soy sriracha with carrot salad and purple cabbage to chipotle mango avocado with black bean and corn salad and jack cheese. Hybl created the menu and then hired Shawn Grodensky, a former General Muir sous chef, as the culinary lead. Hybl shares more about his process below.
Where does the name Gusto! come from?
It’s pronounced Ga-sto, as in built with gusto. It’s an old school word that we’re reintroducing.
How did Gusto! come about?
It started as a consumer need for me about five years ago. I was looking for a place with good grilled chicken that was fast. There didn’t seem to be a good solution. I started studying this new segment called fast-casual. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I ended up becoming extremely passionate about the business model associated with fast-casual and falling in love with food along the way.
Why grilled chicken?
I was an athlete and living a pretty healthy lifestyle. I love the way grilled chicken tastes. It’s healthy, and it takes on the flavors of other vibrant things like sauces and fresh fruits and vegetables. Chicken is reliable. We use a wood-fire grill, which offers even more flavor to our grilled proteins. We also have portabella for vegetarians and grilled shrimp. I used to go to the Chick-fil-A drive through and get the grilled chicken sandwich and fruit cup. My favorite part was the Polynesian sauce, barbecue sauce, and honey mustard, which is why we have all our sauce choices.
You mentioned spending years studying the food industry. Where did you get your information?
I’m not officially trained. I didn’t go to a culinary institute. I’m self-taught through thousands of hours of obsessive study in magazines and books. I took some basic knife skill classes. I worked for restaurants in town. The founder of Zoë’s Kitchen gave me a shot as assistant manager at Maki Fresh. I had a management role at Little Azio’s. I worked at Chipotle. At the General Muir, I was a server and shift leader.
You went from NFL quarterback to restaurateur. Are there any similarities between your two fields?
That would be the team aspect. Prior to working in restaurants, I didn’t realize the team dynamics that existed and how big of a role communication plays. I’m captivated and fascinated by the team aspect. You’re linking arms to represent your brand and to satisfy and please your customers. We’re hiring people to help convey this new idea. Leading these folks is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
What’s your favorite Gusto! menu item?
I love the apple curry peanut. Most of my life I would have laughed at you if you told me I would’ve loved curry, but I do. That’s the nice thing about our menu. You may have your favorite dish or you may try a couple different ones. We’re aiming for a wide variety of options familiar enough to be part of the every day lifestyle.