Nobody ever has to ask “Do you want fries with that?” at the Boise Fry Company. The fries are why they’re there.
In the case of Bradlee Walker, 34, he’s climbed the ladder from fry associate to CEO as co-owner Blake Lingle has transitioned out of the day-to-day business operations. He’s taken charge at a company known for offering six kinds of potatoes in four different cuts, served with a variety of sauces, flavored salts, and other toppings. (And yes, you can get a burger with that.)
Originally studying to be a radiologist, Walker worked in the restaurant industry for a number of years before joining Boise Fry Company, which changed his life direction. “I’m a firm believer that sometimes you just grow where you’re planted,” he says. “When I finished that semester, I stopped with school.”
As CEO, Walker is now making decisions such as how to expand. With three corporate stores and two franchises in the Treasure Valley and Portland, the company is currently working on opening a new location in downtown Nampa, across the street from the new library. “It fits our culture and our vibe,” he says.
Walker is looking to expand in more areas than geography, creating new burger toppings, salts, and sauces. “We want to add things, stay ahead of the trends, and set the trends,” he says. The company uses local ingredients when possible – even to its own beer with its own sweet potatoes in it – and looks for ways to cater to different customers.
For example, the company recently added a turkey burger, as well as a black bean and quinoa burger for the gluten-free crowd. “We see it all, and we cater to it all,” Walker says. “We always consider vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free,” particularly so accommodating dietary restrictions doesn’t tie up employees during crunch times.
The company also works to treat its employees well, offering paid vacation to employees working 20 or more hours a week and health insurance, as well as gifts to celebrate employees’ anniversaries with the company. “We are an employee-first company, and we model every policy and decision around that,” Walker says.
Outside the kitchen, Walker is primarily spending time with his 10-month-old daughter. “I’m such a homebody these days,” he says. “We have three dogs and we go to the park for hours on end.” He’s also getting into gardening, in preparation for teaching it to his daughter. “We have to create those habits before we can pass them on.”
Having his daughter has encouraged Walker to rearrange his priorities. “As a younger Brad, I wanted to put my head down and work hard enough for advancement,” Walker says. “I wish I could go back in time and tell the younger Brad, spend more time with your wife and on life. Enjoy what comes.”
Most memorable airplane trip: “The first time I flew with my wife. We hit some turbulence and she thought she was going to die, she was so scared. And I had to act calm even though I was scared.”