At a glance, their business strategies are strikingly similar, but don't be fooled. Familiar commitments to fresh, local ingredients, service, playful dishes and inviting atmospheres belie the divergent philosophies of restaurateur brothers Cameron and Rob Lumsden.
While Cameron has firmly established himself as an architect of distinctive Idaho restaurant brands and menus that riff off local ingredients and foreign flavors, Rob's natural inclination is to expand outward, opening Flatbread branches in Bend, Ore., and Salt Lake City (flatbreadpizza.com). Though different, the approaches have enabled the Lumsdens' restaurants to thrive in Boise's competitive restaurant scene
"From a design standpoint, we like neutral colors," said Cameron about his American-fusion restaurant, Fork, which opened in 2011.
This design standpoint pervades every aspect of the restaurant, from his efforts to hide radiators inside "because they're unattractive" to installing the now-telltale Fork sign out front.
At his second Boise restaurant, the Italian-inspired Alavita (alavitaboise.com ), Cameron redeployed Fork's commitment to locally sourced foods with a menu based on seasonal availability and in-house preparation, with four pasta makers working a total of 190 hours per week making all of Alavita's pastas.
"When we're open, somebody's making pasta," he said. "It's really turned into a beast."
When Rob opened his first Flatbread Community Oven--now Flatbread Neapolitan Pizza--with the help of Cameron in 2011, he did so with nearly a dozen years experience at P.F. Chang's in Southern California, where growth became a habit.
"I got excited about what my pedigree has enabled me to do, which is run multiple units," Rob said.
Flatbread has a casual elegance in its approach, with natural colors, comfortable interiors and open kitchens complete with wood-burning pizza ovens turning out dishes that offer gourmet touches and ingredients.
Though he imported P.F. Chang's expansionist philosophy, Rob's experience in Boise has in some ways been a departure from his life in SoCal, where he drove hours every day between home, his son's school and work. Rob now skateboards between his home and Flatbread's flagship location in Bown Crossing.
"We wanted to get out of the rat race of Southern California," he said. "The vision of Flatbread is the exact opposite of what I was doing in Los Angeles."
The Lumsden brothers opened restaurants guided by divergent philosophies but similar methods. One might describe their forays into Boise's food scene as successes, but that's not how the Lumsdens see it.
"I'm not comfortable speaking about success," Rob said. "We're more focused on putting out a quality product."