It’s a catchy name that brings back childhood memories. “bubu,” the name of chef/restaurateur Troy Guard’s latest restaurant, which opened in February in the Lowry Dining District, is short for Bubu Arare, a Japanese rice cracker Guard ate growing up in Hawaii. The newest restaurant in Guard’s collection, with concepts ranging from Mexican to burgers to fine desserts, emphasizes healthy bowls combining protein, starch and veggies.
With a tagline of “the fresh revolution,” bubu doesn’t have a freezer, which ensures the benefit of daily deliveries and ingredient preparation. Diners choose from pre-selected bowl combinations such as the “OG Colorado” with roasted carrots, quinoa, green chili, avocado and pumpkin seeds; adding a base of rice, noodles or salad; and a protein of chicken, steak, shrimp, raw tuna or raw salmon. Or, diners can create their own combinations from a long list of ingredients.
The staff is trained to help people create combinations that suit tastes and dietary needs, often switching around ingredients. “Probably half of all tickets have a change order with specifications by customers,” says Guard. To enable people to create meals at home, bubu also sells to-go items by the pound.
Guard opens restaurants that serve the food he likes to eat, and he ate a lot of rice bowls growing up. As he got older, he liked eating salad bowls with fresh, versatile ingredients. “I think even though we don’t always tend to eat as best we can, it’s nice having the options there if we want to,” says Guard, adding that he’s not trying to be a health food nut. Diners can make their meals as healthy as they want. Or they can the other way, ordering the Hawaii Special, a secret menu item with Spam (another homage to Guard’s childhood) over rice with veggies, kimchi and a fried egg on top.
Despite plans to open two more restaurants this year and two in Stapleton in 2016, Guard still works six days a week but has reduced his 12-hour days down to eight. The Stapleton resident and father of two young children who is approaching his mid-forties, says the long hours are too much. “I have a lot of great people now and I don’t have to be overseeing as much,” he says, although he still visits each of his eight restaurants daily. “It sounds weird but the more restaurants I open, the less I kind of work. I have enough people who do it all so I just go in, taste everything and talk to everyone because these guys are very well-trained and smart people.”
Guard feels it’s important to be in touch with his 270 employees. “I still want to have that personal touch,” he says. “I like staying in tune with everything. I want my staff to know I’m not sitting at home eating bonbons, watching TV with my legs up.”
Guard says he’s at a different stage in life now, from being the chef who tried to handle everything to focusing more on the business and the people. “Now I want to make sure we have a great work environment. I used to hate paperwork; now I enjoy it. I’m more into the teaching, training and developing people,” he says. “If you’re not good at that, you aren’t going to be able to grow.”