Choose Your Team
Event Planning

Have You Met?

Successful and nationally known restaurateur. His career includes experience with some of the country’s finest restaurants and restaurant companies. Originally a professional musician in Wisconsin, Kostroski made the transition to restaurants in the late 1970s.
His introduction to the restaurant business came as the beverage and entertainment manager for the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and the St. James Hotel in Red Wing, Minn. While at the St. James Hotel, Kostroski participated in the restoration of this historic hotel property.
In 1980, Kostroski teamed with Restaurant Resource Group, Inc. (RRG) and helped plan the 1981 opening of the Twin Cities’ first Northern Italian restaurant, Pronto Ristorante. Kostroski also was co-creator of Figlio’s, the Italian bistro that opened in 1984 in the Uptown area of Minneapolis.
Kostroski and partner Robin Getman created InterACT Group, a management, consulting and training firm in 1986. Through InterACT, Kostroski consulted with John Dayton and Stephan Pyles on the 1987 opening of Tejas and Goodfellow’s restaurants in Minneapolis. In 1990, Kostroski became a partner with Routh Street Investments-North (RSI-North), the company in charge of operating the two restaurants. In the fall of 1994, Kostroski again teamed with Dayton and Mark Haugen to form Cuisine Concepts.
In addition to his extensive business experience, Kostroski is active in numerous trade and legislative organizations. He has chaired the Joint Legislative Committee for the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association, which sets legislative policy for the hospitality industry in Minnesota. He was a 14-year member of the board and past president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association (MRA), and has chaired the MRA’s Communications, Joint Education and Membership Committees.
Kostroski has served on the board of directors of the Upper Midwest Hospitality Association and is a key contact for the National Restaurant Association.
A highly successful fund-raiser, he has served on the board of directors for Share Our Strength (SOS), a national organization of chefs and restaurateurs that support regional, national and international hunger relief agencies. He has served on the national board of the End Hunger Network, which was founded in 1983 by Jeff Bridges, and has chaired the Minnesota Taste of the Nation, which raised more than $1 million in the initial 10 years for hunger relief. Locally, he has served as a member of the board for the Second Harvest St. Paul Food Bank.
In 1992, Kostroski chaired the Restaurant Committee for the Super Bowl XXVI Task Force, as well as creating and producing the first Taste of the NFL, an annual event that brings top chefs and alumni players from each of the NFL cities to the Super Bowl host city for a fun-filled, food-sampling gala.

To date, in excess of $6 million dollars has been raised for hunger relief through the Taste of The NFL event, held in the host city of the Super Bowl.

Going back to when you first started with your organization to now, what has been your proudest accomplishment?

"I played music until the late 70's until I got very serious about the restaurant business in 1981, and in 1984 I got involved in Uptown area of my community - a kind of Rush Street, Chicago type atmosphere.  I then started the Jazz Fest in June, 1985.  Wanted to add a "cause" for this event so we went to the "Joyce Emergency Food Bank" and asked them if they would like to be the recipient of the Jazz Fest.  Of course they were very happy to be part of this.  The Jazz Fest was very successful and raised thousands of dollars.  So this evolved into our being part of SOS/Taste of the Nation.  Then when the Super Bowl was announced in 1992, to be held in our city, the Taste of the NFL was founded.  At the time there were 28 NFL teams.  At our first event we sold 1000 tickets at $75.00 and sold out very quickly.  All proceeds went to  hunger relief.  Now in our 16th year, tickets sell for $500 each and sell out just as quickly."

"Someone told me that when you see someone with tickets in their hand and you know they are being scalped, 'don't be angry just know that you have arrived'.  We now know we have arrived."

Keys to Success of the Taste of the NFL:

"It is a high end ticket, where executives can bring their clients, wives and familie and enjoy great food and wine.  By the Styx will be playing this year.  We have had some great bands perform at our event including the Beach Boys and REO."  It is an upscale event for a great cause!

The best thing to come out of this event:

Raises awareness of the cause for feeding the hungry.  "Hunger is there, but we don't stress, gloom and doom at the event.  It is a party with a purpose.  Almost "Robin Hood" like, except people are giving willingly.  Hunger is an invisible disease it causes bad health, bad relationships and more.

Real Passion!

"Get involved in something that means something to you.  Don't wait until a disaster happens and then let it grow."

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

"I get to spend a lot of time at different events.  Speaking, my theme is,  "Giving is Good Business".  Work in tandem with your professional career, be who you are, use integrity, and be involved in the community - Be happy with who you are and if you are successful, then you can choose to do what you want with your success.  Success affords you the opportunity to become involved, and, lastly, choose something that is of interest to you and let it grow into something you can be passionate about!"

Do you have a mentor, someone who has been there to guide you or consult with you when you needed their input?

Personal Mentor:  My Mother, she is the inspiration for doing good.  She clerked behind a counter at a drugstore in Steven's Point, Wisconsin and I was always hearing from her and she would say, 'well, you know Mrs.........., she just got sick, or she fell down or someone in her family passed away, so I am going to take some bread to her'.  She was always doing something for someone!"

"Imagine your funeral (if you could view your funeral).  What would people be saying?  One gentleman who used to stop in at the drugstore where my Mother worked talked to me and told me that he used to buy cigarettes from her at the drugstore, but had quit for over 5 years, but still stopped in to visit with my Mother to have a conversation with her.  I quietly dedicated the Taste of the NFL to her.  She passed away in 1992, a week before the 1st Taste of the NFL."


"Be an individual that brings out the best of those around you."

What is your greatest strength(s), that makes you such an asset to your organization?

"I try to be a better listener than talker.  Don't hear with your ears, you listen with your ears."

Other mentors in your life?

"I am really blessed to have  partners including Robin Getman, who believe in the same things I do. John Dayton (Dayton Hudson Family) got involved in the 80's.  He has a philanthropic mindset.  John is the guy I like to blame for giving me such a deep "spark", showing  the importance of saying yes in the world of business and building a successful business in the community you live."

"My other partner, Mark Haugen, is a culinary genius, but is also a very deeply principled, very giving, behind the scenes individual."

"I am fortunate to be have my partners be ambitions, want our restaurant business to be successful and have our businesses be involved in the community -  tied to the community."

"We will gave as long as we don't become a charity!"

Goals for your Organization(s)?

Restaurant Business: "Keep business strong, grow at a good pace."

Taste of the NFL:  "Effectively, methodically grow this event to have more affect on families in need."


"Statistics - What will happen behind those numbers?  Involve more people in the community to carry on the work, help more people."

"Challenge - What do we do next."

"Be Impactful - In Phoenix at a 'Grip and Grin' check presentation, the director of the Food Bank, said she wanted me to meet someone and she introduced me to a women and her small son (7 years old) and the son said to me, 'My Mom told me that because of what you did, we are able to have better meals.'  That gave me a very special feeling."

BY:  Ginny Fujino with words, passionately provided by Wayne Kostroski!!