What started as a summer in a food truck seven years ago has finally landed Gena Burghoff and Chris Lockhart in their own restaurant on Red Lodge's main strip.
The couple, along with chef Danny Mowatt, plan to open PREROGATIvE Kitchen in March in the old City Bakery building at 104 S. Broadway Ave., in the heart of Red Lodge's downtown district.
"We're super excited about having our own place," Burghoff said.
Lockhart, a chef, is originally from England and settled in the Red Lodge area after meeting and marrying Burghoff, who is from Powell, Wyoming. In 2011, the couple set up shop with The Local Yokel food truck, which they parked in the Lights on Broadway parking lot.
They served sliders and sides five days a week. On their days off, they'd drive around the region, finding and buying local meat, bread and other ingredients.
Their passion for locally sourced food led them to Dean, 10 miles west of Fishtail, where they operated Montana Jacks, the Stillwater Valley restaurant once owned by renowned zookeeper Jack Hanna.
The restaurant specialized in local fare, and the couple ran the joint for three years. It was satisfying work, but the short summers and the relatively remote location made it a hard job.
In early 2016, Lockhart and Burghoff were approached by investors Alexia and David Leuschen, owners of Switchback Ranch. The Leuschens were opening a new restaurant called Ox Pasture at 7 N. Broadway in downtown Red Lodge that would showcase up-and-coming chefs from the area by rotating them through the restaurant.
They wanted to start with Lockhart; he and Burghoff jumped at the opportunity.
"We got to be first. We had a brand new kitchen to work in," she said. "The space is beautiful."
The season they spent at Ox Pasture in 2017 was a great experience. But they were ready to have their own place.
"There's nothing like owning your own," Berghoff said.
The couple, along with Mowatt, went all in late last year and bought the City Bakery building on South Broadway and launched a GoFundMe page to help garner the cash they need to refinish their new restaurant.
A wall in the new restaurant, bedecked with muffin tins and bread pans along with the old City Bakery neon sign, pays homage to the old bakery, which was a Red Lodge staple for 100 years.
So far, they've reached half their GoFundMe goal, raising $33,485 of $65,000 in the past three months.
In an effort to show their gratitude to the community, on the first Wednesday of every month the restaurant will sponsor a nonprofit night, serving up meals at cost and donating the proceeds to a different organization every month.
Like with their previous ventures, PREROGATIvE Kitchen will showcase locally sourced ingredients and a diverse menu.
"We've always served what we wanted to eat," Lockhart said.