Behind every great restaurant is a team of diligent, hard workers. When selecting people to work in Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House or Chamberlain’s Fish Market, owner Richard Chamberlain picks people with track records of providing quality service and showing personability through all stages of their career. Given the criteria Chamberlain uses when building his team, it is no surprise that he chose Jeff Barker to partner with him in the opening of his restaurants.
Jeff Barker is the Director of Operations for both of Chamberlain’s restaurants. He has been working in the industry since before his teenage years.
“My father passed away when I was 11 years old,” Barker says. “I grew up an only child. My mother was struggling to work, so when I wanted to buy myself a pair of sneakers or just anything for myself, I felt it was my responsibility to pitch in.”
After experiencing such a tragic loss, Barker began to search for a job as a means to make money to support himself and his mother.
“Shortly after my dad’s passing, I saw an advertisement in a paper for a restaurant that was hiring a dishwasher and busboy,” Barker says. “I got the job and I fell in love with this industry. I began working when I was 12 and I’ve been in this industry ever since.”
Barker’s first job in the hospitality industry was at a restaurant called Lock, Stock & Barrel. He later went on to work at a restaurant called The Randy Tar.
“I stayed at The Randy Tar for almost nine years,” Barker says. “I worked my way through college there.”
Barker graduated from University of North Texas in 1981 with a General Business degree.
“After I graduated college, I applied for several jobs in the restaurant business, each of which required a degree,” Barker says. “I received offers from all of the jobs I applied for.”
Upon receipt of these offers, Barker felt motivated to launch a company of his own.
“I figured, ‘if I’m good enough to work for all of these places, I should just open up my own business,'” Barker says.
Barker then launched a catering company, which proved to be a success. He worked with his catering company until he received an offer he couldn’t refuse; A management position at Dakota’s Steakhouse, under Lincoln Properties.
“I was a multi-unit supervisor at Dakota’s,” Barker says. “I oversaw both the front and back of the house.”
Barker also had a run as a sous chef at Harvey Hotels when they were first opening in Dallas, until he and Richard Chamberlain eventually teamed up to open Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House. The pair also opened Chamberlain’s Fish Market in 2001, which currently holds the number one spot for seafood restaurants in the metroplex on TripAdvisor.
Having worked in this industry since his pre-teen days, Barker has developed a code that he recommends people follow if they are wanting lifelong careers in the hospitality industry.
“You have to have an outgoing personality,” Barker says. “It’s key to just be friendly to everyone. It’s also helpful to have a good memory and eliminate any gray areas in your work. You’ve got to be a person of your word.”
Apart from handling the operations at both of Chamberlain’s restaurants, Barker has also previously served as President of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association.
“During my time on the restaurant board, we were able to make a change on the way taxes are handled on mixed beverages in restaurants,” Barker says. “This was about 25 years in the making, but ultimately, we were able to help restaurants save a ton of money.”
Barker strongly believes that his decades of working in the hospitality industry aligns with the American dream.
“I started out as a busboy and a dishwasher, and now I operate two restaurants,” Barker says. “The hospitality industry is one where you can come in with no experience, starting from the very bottom, and eventually grow to run your own place.”