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Cecil County Life

Q & A Chef Bob Steele of the Backfin Blues Bar & Grill

Jan 07, 2015 06:01PM ● By Kerigan Butt

Courtesy photo Bob Steele, president and chef of the Backfin Blues Bar & Grill in Port Deposit.

Bob Steele is a busy man. As the president and chef of the Backfin Blues Bar & Grill, he supervises an award-winning menu, coordinates special events at the restaurant and caters to a diverse array of places and people. When he's not behind the desk or near the grill, he is the vice president of the Port Deposit Chamber of Commerce, where he and other members are passionate about bringing to new businesses to the town. Recently, he spoke with Cecil County Lifethe beautification of Port Deposit, what it takes to run a successful business, and his favorite dinner guests.

You are vice president of the Port Deposit Chamber of Commerce. Talk a little about the goals you and your fellow members have for bringing new businesses to Port Deposit.

The goals are to help build commerce and build the membership. I think the chamber has a solid core of membership, a diverse group that I think are about to help the town increase sustainability, as well as create revenue for the beautification of the town, which include new sidewalks and ramps, art murals, and a welcoming sign on the north side of town near the railroad tracks. There was also a fundraiser at the Carriage House to raise money to restore the original fountain in town. There's a lot of drive now and it's picking up a lot of speed.

As the advertisement says, the secret is out about the Backfin Blues Bar & Grill, and it has been since it first opened in 2004. You've owned it since 2007.  Is there a secret to running a successful restaurant?  

It's letting the customers be aware of how much we appreciate their patronage. We're absolutely nothing without them. Although we may have become a branded restaurant after eight years, we're still looking to improve that. We have customers who live beyond an 18-mile radius of our restaurant who know us well, and yet we have people who love around the block who aren't yet aware of us. I will say this, however: We're unique enough to the point where if you try us once, you'll definitely want to come back.

The Backfin Blues Bar & Grill is not the only example of a good restaurant in Port Deposit. There is a diversity of tastes for every palate. How do you and other restaurant owners turn competition into togetherness, in recognizing that there is power in numbers and in diversity?

Two weeks ago, I met with the owners of the restaurants as a group, to encourage all of them to jump on board and develop the same ideas, in an effort to unite Port Deposit as a destination place. It's important for all of us to become partners in making Point Deposit a destination for food and entertainment.

When did you first develop the love and appreciation for fine cooking, and where did that passion lead you?

I started back in 1978 as a dishwasher, and had friends and acquaintances who were cooking, so it was my goal to get into the kitchen with my friends. By the time I was 16, I was the kitchen manager for a franchise restaurant.  I had worked with other chefs and picked up the business naturally.  I've also worked in sales for 14 years, so I was in touch with many chefs in the area.  My love of cooking and running a a restaurant also came from being athletic and into sports when I was younger. Being a chef and owner of a restaurant is somewhat a similar challenge to competing in sports. It's a tough, highly demanding, and it's always been my nature to be in that environment.  

What is your favorite spot in Cecil County?

I have two.  Port Deposit, with its sunsets. I also like Elk Manor Farm on Turkey Point, on the cliff overlooking the Bay.

What guests, living or not, would you like to invite to your table?

Chef Gordon Ramsay, because he's passionate about both food and the restaurant business.  I would also like to invite whoever the current President of the United States is at the time, or a high-ranking figure like that.

What food is always in your refrigerator?

I would say that you'll always find some type of cheese.  There's always a grain mustard there, as well as garlic, and a nice fine cut of meat, such as a Berkshire pork. My girlfriend always laughs at me because I always have some kind of pork in the refrigerator.

To learn more about Port Deposit events and activities, visit

For information about the Port Deposit Chamber of Commerce, visit

To check out menus and events at the Backfin Blues Bar & Grill, visit

・ Richard L. Gaw

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