Zephaniah “Zeph” Leaton is the executive chef at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, a privately owned casino resort about 15 minutes south of Iowa City. “As the executive chef, I oversee the operations of each restaurant [Ruthie’s Steak & Seafood, 22 & Vine Robert’s Buffet, Draft Day Sports Lounge, Café at 22 & Vine and Clock Garden Café] plus our Banquets team. Tastes change and it is my responsibility, along with our Chefs D ’Cuisine, to continually brainstorm and serve creative and exciting dishes.” Learn about Zephaniah “Zeph” Leaton…
Hometown: Frytown, Iowa
First job: Dishwasher
Favorite ways to spend your free time in IA: Enjoying the outdoors with family, playing music and golfing at the best course in the state, Blue Top Ridge.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Becoming executive chef of Riverside Casino & Golf Resort at just 27 years old. For a man who came from a modest upbringing, I had to rely on my work ethic and natural talent to achieve my goals. I pushed myself for years through high school and worked multiple jobs to support my young family and reach this milestone!
The biggest obstacle you overcame: LIFE. Every day there are new obstacles to overcome, and they all form who you are. The size of each obstacle doesn’t matter; it is that you persevered through it.
Someone who inspires you and why: My kids. From the time my wife and I had our daughter right out of high school and then my son in 2007, they have inspired me to be the best version of myself that I can be. I’m proud every day to be lucky enough to be their dad and watch them take on the world!
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Try every day to do better than the last. Spend more time listening and watching than anything else; you can learn from anyone in any situation if you train yourself to first listen and watch. Success is a direct result of the effort invested, so be invested in yourself by being your biggest fan. You can do anything if you allow yourself to believe you can.
Favorite quote: “Hit the pace car!” –Robert Duvall in Days of Thunder
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I’ve fallen off of a barn roof backward on concrete when I was 5. I was stabbed in the head (accidentally) by a screwdriver when I was 8 and hit by a truck going 60 miles an hour on an ATV when I was 17. I’m still here, though!
What makes someone fabulous: Believing in yourself and not being afraid to be different.