Hailing from Buffalo Gap, Texas, we can’t wait for you to meet Lisa Perini. Lisa and her husband Tom are the owners and operators of Perini Ranch Steakhouse. Together they have created one of the most beautiful dining destinations on their working ranch in West Texas. Keep reading to hear more from Lisa and how this “Barbecue Wife” is loving and living life to the fullest.
Name: Lisa Perini
Restaurant: Perini Ranch Steakhouse
Tell me a little bit about where you are from and where you grew up? I grew up on a dairy farm in the low country of South Carolina where hard work was taught at an early age. I graduated from Clemson University (GO TIGERS) and moved to Dallas following graduation. The great state of Texas has been home ever since.
What did your parents do? What influence did they have on you in becoming the woman you are today? As a teenager, I watched my parents go through a divorce. My father (now deceased) had an entrepreneurial spirit but sometimes had a hard time getting all the parts to come to together. He taught me to always dream big. My mom worked very hard to provide for us. My grandparents, running the dairy business, were my role models and instilled in me the value of work and the love of land and agriculture.
What were you like as a child? I was one of those kids that was pretty grown up by about age 5. I dreamed of businesses to open and loved projects. What did you want to be when you grew up? A lawyer, for about a semester, then I knew business was the calling, but didn’t know what that would evolve into.
Perini Ranch is quite the story and has quite the history. Tell me a little bit about the business. How did it get started and what makes it such a special place? My husband, Tom, is a rancher turned hospitality entrepreneur and it all started with our chuck wagon. For the first ten years, he would cater large events and provide ranch-style meals. After much success, Tom opened Perini Ranch Steakhouse in 1983 and thought that transitioning it into a restaurant would be a piece of cake… Not so much. Tom and I dated for a long time and during our courtship, I gradually became involved in the business. Tom’s passion and mission just kept pulling me in. It is a very special place.
What makes Perini Ranch Steakhouse so unique is the amazing town of Buffalo Gap. The steakhouse sits on a working ranch, and you don’t just visit Perini Ranch because you are hungry. We have created the ultimate West Texas dining experience. It is the perfect definition of a “destination restaurant.”
What do you think people might not know about the day in the life of Lisa Perini and your role in the family business? As part of our entrepreneurial spirit, we all roll up our sleeves and get the job done. If it needs to get done, you do it! I am a master juggler and spend a lot of time making sure everyone is well taken care of with keeping all the balls in the air. In a dream world, and hopefully sometime soon, I would like to start working on recipe development. It is a craft I am eager to master!
How did you meet your husband? Tom and I both were serving on the board of a local non-profit and both were recently single. I think the best part of our relationship now is that we’re best friends. I truly believe all good relationships have a strong foundation of friendship. And, who thought you could work with your spouse? Not me. But, it’s worked – we each have our areas of expertise and we respect those boundaries.
What is the best thing about being in the restaurant/hospitality business? What we love the most about the steakhouse is that it’s not just a restaurant, it’s an experience. No one comes here because they are hungry. They drive past many restaurants, and typically plan way in advance, to celebrate a great occasion at Perini Ranch Steakhouse. We’re really proud to host these celebrations and be part of our customers lives.
What is the worst thing about being in the business? Everyone in this business knows about all the usual day-to-day struggles, but in our case, we live here at the ranch. So, I like to say, the good news is “we live here at the ranch” and the bad news is “we live here at the ranch,” and it’s really hard to clock out. Tom and I make sure that when we do leave the ranch, we leave work behind us and focus on taking time away.
How do you maintain your sanity with being a busy restaurateur? TRAVEL, WINE AND DEAR FRIENDS. Preferably together. The restaurant business can be one of the most exhausting businesses to be in. Surround yourself with people smarter than you and build a loyal team! It takes a village and I feel very grateful for our village.
What do you do for fun? Tom and I love to travel. I had always dreamed of going places but my family didn’t have those resources. For several years now, Tom has bribed me with travel and it has worked so far.
If you were going to give one piece of advice to a young person who wanted to get into the business of barbecue or just "food" in general, what would that be? Go to work for someone and make sure that this crazy lifestyle is what you want. It’s a lifestyle, not a job.
What's next for Lisa Perini? If you could do something outside of the restaurant/hospitality business, what would that be? When we got married, we made a pledge that there would be one Perini Ranch Steakhouse, but we would work every day to make it better, and that’s held true. We’ve grown by opening other businesses that are all about our brand and hospitality - lodging, a retail store, a coffee shop, an event business, and more! So, it’s never dull at Perini Ranch Steakhouse.
When you actually get the chance...what do you do for fun with girlfriends or a "Night Out?" The best night out with friends is meeting at someone’s house for drinks and hors d’oeuvres and catching up on family, friends, etc.
When you have guests in town are there any local restaurants, shops, or favorite attractions you like to direct them to? Well, of course the Perini Ranch Country Market – a little retail experience focusing on the kitchen, garden, dogs and vintage kid toys. All the things we love! And, The Gap Café – our new coffee shop. We have partnered with a lovely young lady who is a pastry chef and we’re really proud of what we’re selling. Hot breakfast and lunches coming soon (yeah, recipe development!).
Favorite Musician? Crazy – I love Tony Bennett. And, a contrast to that, Texas music sensation, Aaron Watson is our neighbor and friend here in Buffalo Gap — when he worked here at the steakhouse as a waiter (many years ago) and wanted weekends off to sing, we were skeptical. Shows we don’t know much about music!
If you were to empty out your purse on the table right now, what would we find? A wallet, checkbook, 2 phone charges, 5 kinds of lipstick, 10 pens, receipts from last week’s catering, a temperature gauge, and a big set of keys.
Any upcoming events, you would like to share happening on the ranch? Let’s see – we do have a new book coming out Perini Ranch Steakhouse: Stories and Recipes for Real Texas Food. I’m really excited about the upcoming launch. Our first book came out 19 years ago and it was a really hard project. At that time, no recipes were really in writing here, and we had no idea what we were doing. I famously told Tom that if there were ever to be a new book, there would have to be a new woman – it was truly the hardest thing I’d ever done. Well, I obviously retracted that statement and with our incredible team of Cheryl Alters Jamison as writer and Wyatt McSpadden as photographer, it was such a fun experience. I tell everyone I’ve had more fun at work this year than in a long time!
Is there a local or national charitable cause that you support and would like more people to be aware of? Well, because Tom and I met while serving on the board of the Ben Richey Boys Ranch in Abilene, it’s near and dear to our heart. Also, we love animals and our dogs are such an important part of our world – we have two basset hounds – Gus and Jett. We avidly support several animal rescue projects as well.
We end each interview with a piece we can share from your kitchen to the reader’s home kitchen. Think of it as sharing a recipe card from one good friend to another. What is a favorite recipe you like to share from your home kitchen when you are entertaining with friends and family? Since I grew up in South Carolina, I love to make Shrimp & Grits for friends. There are many variations on this recipe, and I rarely order it when I’m out to dinner, because I believe this is the way it should be! Tom’s done a good job of adopting my Southern food favorites – he now loves boiled peanuts as much as I do!
Lisa Perini’s Shrimp & Grits
For the grits:
4 cups chicken stock
¾ cup half and half
1 teaspoon salt
Bring to a boil and gradually whisk in 1 cup regular grits- we use Geechie Boy Grits, Edisto Island, SC. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or so until thickened.
¾ cup cheddar cheese
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon hot sauce (Crystal, preferred)
Let simmer at very low heat.
For The Shrimp:
Cook 6 bacon slices in a large skillet until crisp, cool, and rough chop. In the bacon drippings saute 1 cup sliced mushrooms. Add ½ cup green onion and a couple of cloves of garlic (minced) and 1 pound 26/30 count shrimp, when the mushrooms are ready. Stir in ½ cup chicken broth, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and a little more hot sauce if you like. The shrimp will cook in 2-3 minutes. Serves 4.
Serve this shrimp mixture over the grits and it’s a perfect dinner. Might add a loaf of crusty bread and a great bottle of Chablis.
I know what I’m serving for my next dinner party! Thank you Lisa for such a lovely chat. I encourage you all to make a plan to put Perini Ranch on your “bucket list” of travel destinations, and make sure you Click Here to secure your copy of newest cookbook available soon. Its a beauty!
Till next time!
Catherine Stiles aka “Barbecue Wife”
P.S. If you have a “Barbecue Wife” we need to meet, drop us an email at email@example.com