Local chef transforms historic train depot

Joseph Standley’s new restaurant make dreams become reality for Jacksonville native

by Eric A Thomas

With a decade of culinary experience under his belt working throughout Chicago, one Jacksonville native got an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up.

A 2011 Routt Catholic High School graduate, Joseph Standley took the path less traveled when deciding what to do upon graduation. “By my junior year, I had decided a traditional 9-to-5 job didn’t fit my personality. I wanted to do something that was creative, and use my hands,” states Standley.

Growing up during the boom of all the food shows, the idea of cooking really had his attention. Shows such as “Chopped,” “Top Chef” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” brought notoriety and respect to the position of chef – a profession that wouldn’t go away anytime soon.

Standley was also influenced by his family. His father’s side of the family is quite large, and it was nothing to have a holiday meal for 30 or more people.

As Standley became older, he started showing more interest and would lend a hand in the kitchen in any way he could. He attended Kendall College, where he majored in their culinary arts program. After he received his associate degree, he transferred into the hospitality management program. Employment opportunities began presenting themselves, so he left the program early.

“When the pandemic hit, opportunities to use my talents became less and less. I was out of work for six weeks and when it was safe for me to travel home, I did, and took that time to really sort things out,” he remarks.

After being in Jacksonville and talking with family and friends, he realized that what he really wanted to do was work for himself. The chance to buy an existing restaurant and do just that presented itself at the right time.

Lonzerotti’s, located at 600 E. State St. in the old train depot, was established in 1987 as an Italian restaurant. It closed in January 2021 and Standley purchased it a bit later in July. “I grew up enjoying that restaurant and had to think deeply on the decision to change it. Ultimately it was the best way to make my dream a reality,” he adds.

He decided to create a completely different restaurant that will feature a contemporary American menu with a strong focus on seasonality. He plans to use many local products as well. Standley has been working to make improvements to the dining room and bar area, including new paint, new floors and a few added surprises. His time working at The Drinking Bird in Chicago influenced his knowledge of wine and spirits.

Along with these changes will be a name change. The guiding philosophy he wants all staff to have is pride and with a nod to his late uncle Richard, former chef at Smith & Wollensky in Chicago, the name of the new restaurant will be Proud Richard’s.

“I understand the restaurant industry may not be the end-all, be-all for a lot of people, but we should take pride in the people we work with, the people we serve in the community we are a part of,” he says.

Standley, in addition to being the owner, will serve as head chef. He plans on preparing food every day but also wants to spend time greeting guests and helping the team in any way he can. Seating capacity will be around 100 people indoors.

The overall planning and renovations are continuing, so an exact opening date has not been announced. However, Standley hopes to open in October.

“I’ve seen many restaurants rush through the opening process and pay for it down the road. I owe it to this building and the former business to take my time and get it right,” Standley concludes.

To start, Proud Richard’s will have the following hours: Monday, closed; Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 4 to 8 p.m. The last seating or reservation will always be an hour before the kitchen closes. In the future, Standley hopes to expand the hours to include weekday lunch and possibly brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

To follow the progress and to learn about their opening date, follow Proud Richard’s on Facebook and Instagram. Many of the former staff have been retained, but Standley is still accepting applications for hosts, cooks, dishwashers, part-time bartenders and part-time servers. All inquiries can contact him through Messenger on either his personal Facebook page or Proud Richard’s page. People can also contact him at 217-243-7151 and leave a name, contact information and the position for which you would like to apply.

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