Food surely makes the short list of favorite topics of conversation. It spans the gamut, from the scientific explanation that food fuels the human body by burning calories to create energy to dishes so delectable, they’re described as “devilishly delicious.”
Allison Choate’s career spans the gamut of food services. She’s the managing partner of The Joint in Eddyville, where the featured food is barbecued meats of various kinds, all the traditional fixings, and delicious desserts. But for her, it wasn’t always that way.
“Actually, I started as a registered dietitian,” she said recently. “So, I worked with food services in the hospitals then I went on to an outpatient clinic. I’ve worked with a lot of people with diabetes. I’ve always worked with food and my knowledge is the food science (aspect). So, that’s what led me to food service management in restaurants.”
Her grandparents opened their own restaurant in Calhoun, a small Kentucky town, about 90 minutes away. Even though she grew up in Lyon County, she would visit and help at the restaurant.
Jared Choate, Allison’s husband, is a high school history teacher-turned plumber. With their founding of The Joint, they became business partners as well.
His example of changing careers might have served as an example to his wife. She doesn’t disagree, but she sees other factors also at work.
In opening the restaurant in 2018, “it was a God thing, honestly,” she said recently. “I wasn’t unhappy with my job as a dietitian, I just needed something more. I’m so active; I love to be on my feet. I like the tactile aspect of what food service brings and enjoy working with my customers as well. “
“I still have my ‘patients,’ ” she said with a smile, “which is somewhat of who my customers are (from her perspective). I also have that hands-on aspect that I didn’t have so much in my previous job. I have a lot of energy; I’m somewhat of a firecracker.”
Allison Choate has more than a passing awareness of the diverse aspects of food in her career. “I knew that the food I’m interested in and the food my clientele is interested in are almost the opposite,” she said, “not that I don’t eat barbecue or ribs, but at the same time, offering just health food probably would not sell as well here. So, I think it’s really important going into business that you know your clientele.”
That’s also a topic that arose in her previous job as a dietitian. “I learned … OK, this is what folks are interested in and what they enjoy eating.” She recalled thinking, “I can’t necessarily make them eat differently, but I can at least give them another option.”
Now at the restaurant, ”I have a big menu to also offer healthier options, but then also those options that are filling, hearty, and (taste) good. So, I think it really helps having that three or four years of that dietetic career, to work with patients and to see what people will eat normally.”
The Joint also serves healthy and delicious salads, including some with a Harvest Acadian blend, with lots of nutrients and other healthy ingredients. Other ingredients that are both “good tasting and good for you” include lighter mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, as one example. Grilled or smoked chicken can add lean protein. She also notes, “Our taco salads aren’t very ‘carb-y.’ ”
Their side order of green beans offers one of the healthier options. She’s also considering adding some vegetables of the week, not only for health purposes, but also for variety.
“Even when I was working with patients, we talked about lifestyle changes,” she said. “I never taught a diet, honestly. It was more like, ‘here are a few items you should focus on during the week and eat, but at the same time, we’re going to have our so-called cheat day. I eat food from here on a weekly basis. So, you can eat some things you might not think. Barbecue really has protein; it depends on how you lather the sauce. The sauce is what is usually full of sugar.”
Besides the food itself, Choate lists other fulfilling aspects of managing The Joint that include the diverse group of employees they have. Many, but not all, are in their late teens and early 20s. She enjoys helping them learn and grow, even empowering them through communication that goes both ways. Of course, she provides customer service tips, but they also provide feedback that has resulted in better ways to share ideas about convenience, expediency, and good service in general.
Another joy in the realm of people is customers.
“I think of how blessed we are and how many people we’ve attracted here and have come to know and know well because they are regulars. Because this is a tourist area, we have some people who are here for a certain period. We’ve met people from all over, people who come off the highway, tell us their story and just why they decided to choose us to dine in here.”