Corrections or additions?
Bobby Trigg’s Tale
Bobby Trigg and Michael Bloomberg have something in
common; they both took buyout packages from Salomon Brothers and put
them to good use. Bloomberg founded Bloomberg Financial, and Trigg
went to restaurant school.
But whereas Bloomberg had prepared for Wall Street, Trigg had ended
up there by default, leaving college after the first year. His father
(then a senior vice president of the New York Stock Exchange) helped
him get the first job, and six years later he was earning $45,000
a year, monitoring positions for the brokers at the government trading
Now Bobby Trigg is a successful restaurateur and has moved his
the Ferry House, from Lambertville to Witherspoon Street. "Going
back to school at age 26 was the best move I could make," says
Trigg. He traces his cooking roots to having been a problem child,
"always in the doghouse." The family moved from Long Island
to Yardley when he was 10, and he didn’t like going to Catholic
so he rebelled in small ways — wearing the wrong socks, not
the top shirt button, forgetting books on purpose, and being a general
nuisance. "The only time my parents knew that I was home, not
gallivanting with my friends, was if I was cooking dinner for
So began a chef’s career.
He chose the Restaurant School in Philadelphia because it compresses
two years into one year and requires extensive apprenticeships. He
chose an apprenticeship with the noted chef, Newtown’s Jean Pierre,
in part because he was one of the few chef-owners in the area then.
"I always wondered why he did certain things, why he sent the
dishwasher home on a slow night, and suddenly when I opened, it all
clicked in — that everyone else can get their hands dirty and
run the last three loads of glasses. From him, I learned how to make
Trigg later spent three years at the Peacock Inn. "I loved this
area, and when I was about to turn 30, I opened in Lambertville."
Faced with a 48 percent rent increase, "I figured if I was going
to pay Princeton rates, I might as well be in Princeton."
Except for the slow opening, the Witherspoon location has been working
well: "I don’t feel I am in competition with Lahiere’s, Quilty’s,
or Alchemist and Barrister, because I am the only BYOB on the street
besides Karen’s, and hers is a different cuisine."
Trigg has three sisters (one of them, Jeanne Whittaker, works at
Lynch on Scudders Mill Road) and gives thanks for his family’s help.
His mother came up from South Carolina (where she and his father are
in retirement) and helped him by upholstering seats and sewing drapes.
"She had a lot of input even on table arrangements. She has a
good eye — without her, I would have been lost.
"My wife, thank God, supported me through this whole move."
He met her at Havana’s bar in New Hope. "I was wearing a Jerry
Garcia hat, and she came up with a smart comment about how `the
Dead is playing at my wedding, would you like to marry me.’"
a senior analyst for a pharmaceutical firm, is a horsewoman who rides
in the evening — which works out well, since Bobby has 13-hour
"My father is happy for me, but he knows how hard I work, and
that it’s a tough business. People think you make a lot of money but
a lot of costs go into opening a restaurant that you don’t see."
An example of hidden costs: an $11,000 one-time contribution to the
sewer trust fund. Other costs came from an opening that was five
later than he’d planned, which meant that he lost his staff (who found
other jobs) and he had to hire from scratch.
Did he ever regret leaving Wall Street? "Back in January I was
regretting it big time."
"I’m an owner who really cares. I take criticism well. I try to
improve on my faults," says Trigg. Two years ago he blew a disk
in his neck and had neck surgery. "You learn from things like
this. You learn from people that hurt you in this business. I’m happy
I’m open. It took a while — I hope people think it was worth the
— Barbara Fox
After four good years in Princeton, Jason Ungar will
say goodbye to Quilty’s on Witherspoon Street and rejoin his business
partner, Sam Roberts, at "the other" Quilty’s in New York.
They sold the business to Steven and Harriette Willis, who will take
over in early June, as soon as the liquor license can be transferred.
It has not been announced whether Edward Larkin, the head chef, will
stay, but the name will change.
"I have known Jason for years and I knew what Steve was looking
to do," says Richard Immesberger of Terrapin LLC, who put the
deal together. "It’s a wonderful restaurant. The new owners are
looking to do a high end white tablecloth contemporary American
something the borough really needs and presently doesn’t have."
Immesberger, who has his office at 228 Alexander Street, is the
Steve Willis was born in Chicago, raised in Massachusetts, went to
Middlebury College (Class of 1981), and is a New York investment
His wife, Harriet Brainard Willis, comes from a family with long-time
Princeton roots; she went to Princeton Day School and Middlebury
has taught at Lawrenceville School. With their four children, ages
2 to 11, plus assorted livestock and horses, they live on a farm in
The restaurant will be managed by Steve Willis’s brother-in-law, Rich
Hoerner, who has had a 25-year career managing high end restaurants
in such spots as Beverly Hills; he and his wife (Willis’s sister)
will be moving here from Farmington, Connecticut.
"Princeton’s been great, and it’s very sad to leave, but New York
calls," says Ungar. He and Roberts opened Quilty’s in September,
1994, and followed up that success with a second Quilty’s in Soho
in November, 1996, and the latter boasts a big name chef, Katy Sparks.
"New York is doing so well and gets such phenomenal press —
we are in every major publication very often, and it makes more sense
to concentrate there. And I miss seeing those guys. It was an
offer that came along at the right time."
— Barbara Fox
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.