BOLTON LANDING, NY. (NEWS10) – For Buddy Foy Jr. and his family, it’s all in the family business. For the last 25 years, that business has been a trio of restaurants owned by him, his parents and his brother, all in Bolton Landing. But another part of the family business trades in the wine glasses for camera lenses.
The Foy family’s trio of lakeside restaurants has taken the same long road as any restaurant through the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the family released the pilot episode of “Foy Rush,” a web series that uses footage taken from the very start of the pandemic, as the family adapted to shutting doors, putting up chairs and learning how to serve curbside.
It’s not the family’s first time on camera. In 2020, they starred in “Summer Rush,” a Food Network miniseries chronicling what goes into a summer season across the three restaurants. Buddy Jr. says the gap between rushes “Summer” and “Foy” comes down to the tone.
“This was more of a sobering filming,” Buddy Jr. said. “We’re trying to be inspired by the fact that we’re filming, but being inspired energetically and happily isn’t easy when you’re going through a pandemic and lives are dying.”
The first two episodes, out now on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, depict the early days following the quarantine and shutdown orders of March 2020. Episode 1 shows Buddy Jr. speaking with his wife, parents and brother at the dawn of quarantine, voicing their fears and trying to line up what the list of challenges ahead actually looks like.
“For the first time in 25 years I don’t know if I’m going to make it through,” says Cate Foy, Buddy Jr.’s mother and the owner of Cate’s Italian Garden, in the first episode. “I mean, 25 years of business, and this is how I end it?”
That footage, and every other glimpse of the family’s hard year, is authentic, from setting out tables for outdoor dining to putting up signs advertising curbside pickup. Buddy Jr. describes himself as a “content freak,” and says that working with the Food Network last year gave him the itch to do more.
After some worry over how the show would portray Bolton Landing and the Foys, Buddy Jr. came out of that cooperation hooked on the idea of documenting and producing video. When the coronavirus pandemic came along, he made his move.
“I knew it would be historical,” he said. “I knew it would be monumental. But I didn’t know it would be elongated. That we’d still be dealing with it a year and a half later.”
The pandemic was elongated so far beyond Buddy Jr.’s expectations, in fact, that his original plan for a five-episode video series he could one day show his grandchildren has instead turned into a 50-episode first season, with plans already on the way for season 2. The first 17 of those episodes are ready to launch, with editing ongoing thanks to Contact Capture Co., a west coast-based production company Foy got to come and travel east at the start of the pandemic.
At the start, the series was largely self-funded. Episode 1 cites the website plateprep.com as a sponsor, but the website isn’t yet up. Now, Albany-based construction firm Marini Homes is sponsoring the show, helping it get through to the final stretch.
Plating a different dish
Putting the cameras on the family for a second time was very different than during “Summer Rush,” which would sometimes accent moments of high tension between family members and staff. Foy describes talking through the pandemic’s puzzles for “Foy Rush” as a therapeutic experience, prompting them to talk through every decision along the way.
That’s part of the reason producing “Foy Rush” made the most sense as a web series. Buddy Jr. said the show was pitched to a couple networks, and that one was very interested but wanted to change the direction. The network’s ideas would have changed the new show into something more like the first one, and that didn’t gel with the gravity of the decisions the Foy family was in the midst of making.
Those decisions were immediately complicated. Cate Foy has preconditions for cancer, marking her as immunocompromised and especially susceptible to coronavirus. Keeping her and Buddy Sr. safe was a priority for both their private lives and how much they showed up in the series.
In episode 2, Buddy Sr. shows up with signs advertising curbside pickup at Cate’s Italian Garden. He talks more than once about having to keep his wife safe. Buddy Jr. recounts that his parents spent time dishwashing in their restaurant, helping out at crucially understaffed times while also staying safely away from public exposure. They phase out of onscreen appearances after the first few episodes.
“It’s stressful, because how do we keep them involved, but not get them exposed?” Foy said. “I think the biggest struggle we might capture is not being around people; the excitement, the fireworks of being around customers.”
North to south
Those fireworks may fly again starting in season 2. The first 15 or so episodes of “Foy Rush” will center on the three Lake George restaurants, and then pivot to the family’s new venture – their expansion south, into Florida.
Buddy Jr. has been spending more time in the Sunshine State this year, but originally the family had hoped to open their fifth restaurant somewhere in New York. The first episode of the miniseries wastes no time in highlighting the confusion many have felt from changing rules throughout the pandemic – and those changes were exactly why it was Florida, already the home of the family’s fourth restaurant, where the new venture landed.
“We saw Florida say, ‘Hey, we’re open for business, every job is essential,'” Buddy Jr. recounts.
Their first Florida restaurant opened on Anna Maria Island in December 2019. The new one – planned mid-pandemic, with the family masking up to fly and see properties – is in Sarasota. Opening that location up is proving difficult. At this point, Buddy Jr. is ready to move all of the tables, chairs and silverware from Chateau on the Lake to Florida himself if it will get things moving.
“It’s harder to open this current location now than it was during COVID,” he said. “Tables, chairs, wine glasses, plates; I can’t get anything.”
A struggle still simmering
Buddy Jr. says that at the end of the day, one of his main goals with “Foy Rush” is to show that it’s not just the soon-to-be 5 open family restaurants that have suffered through the pandemic. It’s not even all restaurants.
“Our sponsor, Marini Homes, is dealing with it, too,” he said. “They’re struggling with supplies. It’s all businesses.”
During the first episode, Jesse Foy – Buddy Jr.’s brother and the owner of Diamond Point Grille – brings up unemployment, and the prospect that workers might not want to return when they can. Looking back, Buddy Jr. says it’s funny how much that comment predicted about the state of restaurants in 2021, where keeping enough staff is harder than ever.
Foy also says that he and other restaurant owners have been hurt by Yelp, Google and other services that allow customers to review restaurants. He says a few bad reviews, reacting too harshly to mask requirements or understaffed circumstances, have significantly hurt business for some; and he hasn’t been immune.
“The industry was down, and the ecosystem around the industry kicked us when we were down,” he said. “The associations didn’t help us. They could have lobbied for places like Yelp and Trip Advisor to freeze their stars.”
Meanwhile, “Foy Rush” is part of the Foy Network, a new media enterprise that Buddy Jr. plans to take further than both his New York and Florida ventures.
Assuming community response is positive and the network grows a following, the Foy Network’s future could pass things to the next generation. In addition to a possible season 3 of “Foy Rush,” Buddy Jr. sees a future in a show where young people have real, sometimes political conversations with each other out in the world, using food as connective tissue. He also envisions featuring a cooking show.
Buddy Jr.’s last big takeaway from filming “Foy Rush” is one he says the cameras didn’t always capture, because he wanted to keep them out of customers’ faces as much as possible. Despite the darkness he and his industry have faced at times, he says the clientele at The Chateau on the Lake and the other family restaurants were respectful and kind to each other, even at a time of great uncertainty.
“It was really inspirational, and it kind of gave us all hope that we’re going to get through this.”