Ray Villaman is currently the President and owner of Tahoe Restaurant Group, including Base Camp Pizza, which was recently named one of the top 25 pizzerias in the country by USA Today. Ray is a veteran restaurant executive with over 200 restaurant openings with multiple brands, and is a sought after leader in the restaurant industry. In addition to being a board member of the California Restaurant Association, Ray is on the advisory board of four companies focused on the restaurant vertical. Ray is a previous board member with United Enterprise Fund (NYC), specializing in restaurant franchise investments, and has assisted with deal flow and due diligence, as well as deal structure/financing for numerous investments. He has spoken to national audiences in major metropolitan areas across the nation, including as the keynote speaker at the Restaurant Leadership Conference in 2011.

Ray lives in Lake Tahoe with his wife, Christine and sons, Jacob and Nicholas. We caught up with him for a round of 50 questions, here’s what he had to say:

1. What is in your fridge right now?

Ray Villaman: My wife is an amazing cook, so the fridge is mostly filled with whatever she wants. Plus some comfort food items for me like eggs and cheese.

2. What's one meal you couldn't live without?

Ray Villaman: Texas style BBQ!

3. Food memories are super powerful. Is there one strong food memory that you have?

Ray Villaman: Thanksgiving meals. It symbolizes family, togetherness, and gratitude.

4. What family foods did you grow up with?

Ray Villaman: Coming from Hispanic heritage, we had typical Mexican dishes, but we also had a lot of American dishes. A lot of southern barbecue, too. You know, ribs, corn on the cob, and baked beans type of thing.

5. What is one food that you hate?

Ray Villaman: Tomatoes.

6. What restaurateurs/concepts do you most admire?

Ray Villaman: Houston's which is owned by the Hillstone Restaurant Group.

Hillstone Restaurant Group neon sign.

7. What restaurant do you miss?

Ray Villaman: There's a concept called Flax and Kale, in Barcelona, Spain.

Photos of Flax and Kale, in Barcelona, Spain

8. Favorite industry event?

Ray Villaman: The NRA show in Chicago.  

9. One thing you can't run a restaurant without?

Ray Villaman:  People.

Instagram photos from Base Camp Pizza, owned by Ray Villaman.

10. One thing you wish you knew before you opened your first restaurant?

Ray Villaman: How to negotiate a lease.

11. If you couldn’t be a restaurateur, what would you do?

Ray Villaman: An actor, maybe, or a life/business coach.

12. First job?

Ray Villaman: Busboy.

13. First album?

Ray Villaman: Foreigner 4.

14. First concert?

Ray Villaman: REO Speedwagon.

REO Speedwagon and Foreigner records.

15. First time you fell in love . . . with a dish?

Ray Villaman:  My in-laws were visiting and made a dish called Eggs Goldenrod which was cream-based over toast with hard boiled eggs chopped up on top.

16. First time you fell in love . . . with a restaurant?

Ray Villaman: Right out of college. It was a concept called California Pizza Kitchen.

17. Last vacation?

Ray Villaman: Yosemite.

Guide Map of the Rail and Stage Routes to the Yosemite, Big Trees and the Geysers. 1885 Doxey & Co. Publishers

18. Last song you listened to?

Ray Villaman: Beatles, "Back in the USSR."

19. Last book you read?

Ray Villaman: Peace is Possible.

20. Last podcast you listened to?

Ray Villaman: Mastering No limit Hold'em.

What SpotOn Restaurant Advisory Council member Ray Villaman is reading and listening to right now.

21. Last thing you ordered online?

Ray Villaman: A hotel room.

22. Weirdest job?

Ray Villaman: Amusement park ride operator.

23. Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?

Ray Villaman: Octopus.

24. Weirdest place you’ve traveled?

Ray Villaman: Morocco.

25. Weirdest thing you're good at?

Ray Villaman: Magic tricks.

26. Pets, yay or nay?

Ray Villaman: Yay.

Dogs of Base Camp Pizza.

27. Green thumb or black?

Ray Villaman: Black thumb.

28. Coffee or tea?

Ray Villaman: Neither. I’ve actually never had a cup of coffee.

29. To snooze or not to snooze?

Ray Villaman: My wife is my alarm clock. She usually kicks me out of bed.

30. The book or the movie?

Ray Villaman: Movie!

31. Cocktail/mocktail or beer?

Ray Villaman: Mocktail.

32. Casual or fancy?

Ray Villaman: Casual.

33. Digital or analog?

Ray Villaman: Digital.

34. Black and white or color?

Ray Villaman: Color.

35. Windows down or AC on?

Ray Villaman: Windows down.

36. Ocean or desert?

Ray Villaman: Ocean for sure.

37. Early Bird or night owl night?

Ray Villaman: Definitely a night owl.  

38. New house or old house?

Ray Villaman: New house.

39. Flea market or mall?

Ray Villaman: Both.

40. Introvert or extrovert?

Ray Villaman: Extrovert.

41. Live to work or work to live?

Ray Villaman: Work to live.

42. Sweet or salty?

Ray Villaman: Sweet.

43. City or country?

Ray Villaman: Country.

44. Sunrise or sunset?

Ray Villaman: Sunset.  

45. Summer or winter?

Ray Villaman: Summer.

46. Reality TV or documentary?

Ray Villaman: Documentary.

47. To binge watch or not to binge watch?

Ray Villaman: Binge watch.

48. Classic Rock or Classical?

Ray Villaman: Classic rock.

49. Board game or video game?

Ray Villaman: Both!

50. Rain or sunshine?

Ray Villaman: Sunshine.

Read more from the Real Talk with Restaurateurs blog series.

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