The 14-year-old Simms opted to work at a golf course, but he unsurprisingly ended up at the snack stand, where he says he fell in love with feeding people. “I was like, oh, my god, I get to make people happy by feeding them. And so, I would have to say that was the summer I realized I like this.”
Simms ended up in college for hospitality at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. At Cornell, the San Fernando Valley native learned he wasn’t fond of New York winters, but still considered staying and went to investigate the life of his friends who were working on Wall Street.
“I spent a weekend with them and never saw them because they were sleeping at their desks—it sealed the deal; I wasn’t going to be in finance,” he says. “I needed to work with teams and feed people and create a celebratory environment for guests.”
So, after college, Simms came home to sunny Southern California, returning with ambitions to build his own restaurant family.
The Family You Love
At Lazy Dog—which Simms founded in 2003 with his father after a few years at P.F. Chang’s and a few years at the family’s restaurant, Mimi’s—the family you love is a guiding principle. For those working under The Lazy Dog Way, it means to simply treat others with trust and respect and to put the team and guest’s needs before your own.
The first person that Simms and his father brought into the Lazy Dog family was the company’s executive chef, Gabe Caliendo. Caliendo came to Lazy Dog from The Ritz-Carlton because Simms wanted someone who truly knew quality and had a vast knowledge of cuisine. The Lazy Dog menu started with all of Simms’ favorite foods, plus some “approachable innovation.” That innovation is part of what keeps Lazy Dog fresh—and growing—more than a decade later. Simms builds this part of the menu through his own experiences dining out, what he calls the R&D.