5 Questions with...Billy Dec


5 Questions with...Billy Dec

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guest ... one of the nations premier and most popular dining and entertainment entrepreneurs -- however, our guest this week is more than that ... he's become a city leader for his 24/7 philanthropic work helping those in need around the world ... plus, his venues around the city continue to attract the biggest names in both sports and entertainment a Chicago native who continues to give our city a good name, here are 5 Questions with ... BILLY DEC!

BIO: Billy Dec is an Emmy Award Winning Entertainment TV Host and CEO ... Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, Chicago's premier restaurant and entertainment development company, specializing in the creation, marketing and management of some of the city's top venues including Rockit Bar and Grill, Rockit Wrigley, The Underground and most recently his New Asian restaurant Sunda.

Dec's educational background includes the University of Illinois where he majored in EconomicsPre-Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law & the Harvard Business School. He has received numerous awards including Operator of the Year from the Nightclub & Bar Conference, Excellence in Business Award from the State of Illinois, the Asian American Hall of Fame Award, The Byrne Piven Community Service Award and the Cook County States Attorneys Asian Pacific American Community Leadership Award and Chicago-Kent College of Law Alumni Professional Achievement Award.

Dec is also actively involved in various committees and boards for non-profit organizations in Chicago, including: American Cancer Society; Make-A-Wish Foundation; After School Matters; the formerly held Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee, where he served as Director of Cultural Relations; and Lookingglass Theatre Company. Billy also enjoys participating annually in Mayor Daleys Chicago Public Schools Principal for a Day.

Dec writes his own blog on www.BillyDec.com about Chicago and its culturally rich entertainment landscape, where his contact info, press pages and upcoming events calendar are also posted, along with his much talked about www.twitter.combillydec & www.facebook.combillydec.

1) CSNChicago.com: Billy, thanks for taking time out of your always-hectic schedule to spend a few minutes answering the 5 Questions we have for you today. Lets get right to it ... your success story is off-the-charts impressive as you have grown your brand to levels that other business entrepreneurs can only dream about. Outside of your own personal drive and vision, what would you say has been the single most important element to the overall success of your business ventures?

Dec: Finding great partners, managers, employees...who share the same passion, ethics, drive, commitment, vision ... has really been the key for our successful growth thus far. Granted, that has taken a lot of personal drive to figure out, work for & develop, but our team is the most important part of our success. Not me, trends, location, celebrity, pricing, design, recipes or any one person or one thing out there. And by the way, for those that think that is a B.S. easy answer that I'm just throwing out there to be politically warm fuzzy & swell, try building a well-working team of 500 primarily young aggressive adults in one of the most cut- throat, high-pressured industries with the highest expectations from consumers in the middle of the worst recession we have ever seen.

2) CSNChicago.com: Youve received countless honors for both your business and philanthropic efforts, including recognition from President Obama. Some truly amazing accomplishments in your not even decade-old career. However, there's one accomplishment in particular that is very intriguing to us and thats your Emmy-winning documentary, Journey to Sunda. Tell us what prompted you to take that voyage to Asia and specifically how it influenced you to open up one of Chicago's most popular new eateries, Sunda.

Dec: We knew we wanted to open a unique Asian concept before the travel. In fact, all the travel through Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore was strategically planned to insure we were able to discover new things that didn't really exist in Chicago yet, so that it would be unique in food, presentation, culture, philosophy, design & more. As we have always prided ourselves on being innovators & filling voids in the entertainment & hospitality scene in what we think is the greatest city in the world Chicago, the video just naturally evolved out of our love for entertaining and telling the story.

I first compiled my travel pics into a book, then responded to requests for a copy of my book by making and gifting a thousand of them to friends and customers, then responded to even more requests to see the story of our discovery through word of mouth. So I compiled it all into a mini travel doc that I posted to the internet called "Journey to Sunda! It was a hit, it filled a void, it was innovative and a great story. Tomorrow morning, I actually leave for Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand... as the Journey never ends. Follow that story on my Twitter & Facebook as I love sharing in real time now!

3) CSNChicago.com: As we all well know, Chicago is no doubt one of the worlds premier and diverse cultural gems. In your opinion, what makes Chicago and its citizens unique when compared to, lets say, New York or LA for example?

Dec: When I was Director of Cultural Relations for the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee, I asked 50 celebrity friends a very similar question on camera and aired one a day each day leading up to the official decision in Copenhagen (all on www.aChicagoThing.com ... a must see ...they are so good)! I agree with them when most shared how Chicagoans were a very unique & desirable mix of personable, reasonable, hardworking, honest, diverse, sports loving, food savvy, proud, sophisticated, hospitable, cosmopolitan, grounded... people from all different backgrounds who just love their community.

4) CSNChicago.com: In addition to everything else you have going on, you have been featured lately as an actor in several movies and TV series. Is this a new direction you see yourself focusing on even more in the years to come or is it more of a side hobby for you?

Dec: Part of me wants to say acting is a hobby because I kind of just picked it up & I love it. The other part of me says its still business as we always look to entertain in new ways at Rockit Ranch, which acting ultimately is, and I love what I do here no matter what it is!

I really haven't thought about it enough, I guess? I mean, its such an amazing experience to be on a huge set like "Entourage" or "Nightmare on Elm Street"...or a small stage pretending to be someone else. I will say, having hosted TV shows NBC & Metromix in the past, it has given me a lot of confidence in getting in front of the camera to entertain in whatever capacity. So I guess we'll just have to see. Here is my reel if want to see some of my past stuff!

5) CSNChicago.com: For any young entrepreneurs out there aspiring to be a Billy Dec one day, what would you consider to be the three most important steps in becoming a success in business -- and life for that matter?

Dec: Hmmmm...here is a link to some lessons my dad taught me before he passed away. Maybe this will help.

BONUS QUESTION! CSNChicago.com: This will definitely be an easy one. Are there any upcoming Rockit Ranch Production events or charitable functions you can share with CSNChicago.com readers? Tell us, we want to hear about them!

Dec: We allllllwaaaaays have stuff going on! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook to be the first to hear the invites announced and to be connected to all of the goodness as it happens!


Billy Dec Official Website

Rockit Ranch Productions Official Website

Rockit Bar and Grill

The Underground

Sunda New Asian

Billy Dec on Facebook

Billy Dec on Twitter

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.