Steve Oldham fulfilled every returned missionary's dream: He brought the culture of his mission back home with him. Now, he is the CEO of Tucanos Brazilian Grill.
"Somebody had to do it," Oldham said.
After serving a mission in Curitiba, Brazil, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oldham received an accounting degree from Brigham Young University and eventually moved to Sao Paulo with his family to work. He started out with Price Waterhouse Coopers but changed jobs to work for PepsiCo, an international food and beverage company that at one time operated restaurants.
He's stayed in the restaurant business ever since.
"I never would have got here if it weren't for people in Brazil showing me what they do in their restaurants," Oldham said.
Oldham returned to the United States after 18 months in Brazil. He and a friend left PepsiCo to found Rodizio Grill. Eventually, Oldham left and opened the first Tucanos restaurant in Provo with another friend. After success there, he opened one in Albuquerque, N.M., and another recently in Salt Lake City.
The restaurant features an all-you-can-eat Brazilian churrasco (grilled meats, seafood, vegetables and pineapple). Each customer's waiter will offer everything from top sirloin to chicken hearts, but some of the more unique meats found in Brazil may not be found at Tucanos.
"Whenever authentic conflicts with good, we always opt for good," Oldham said with a laugh.
Inside the restaurant, there seem to be no angles it's all swirls and curves with the purpose of attracting the "festive, Rio de Janeiro aspect of Brazil," Oldham said. While in Brazil on his mission, Oldham gained a "love of the culture," which he strives to highlight at Tucanos. He still visits Brazil including a trip with his wife to the Curitiba Temple dedication and finds ways to improve the restaurant.
"We've tried to create a fun and festive, upscale atmosphere," Oldham said.
The "fun and festive" aspects coupled with the "upscale" ambiance are how Oldham came to name the restaurant. "Tucano" in Portuguese means toucan, a bird with a formal black and white body coupled with a large, colorful beak.
Oldham is an entrepreneur with a zeal for one-on-one interaction. He wants his employees to feel the same.
"Everything happens one meal at a time with one guest and one server and every time it's gotta be right," Oldham said. "It comes down to an individual experience."
He still carries around the first training manual he created when Tucanos kicked off. The small, well-worn pamphlet contains governing principles, a credo and fundamentals, some of which include being "honest, teachable, hard working" and having "joy and happiness."
One of Oldham's principles is stewardship, something he tries to instill in everyone from the managers to the servers.
"Stewardship is a unique principle," Oldham said. "It's ownership with accountability. (Others) may say ownership, but we want (our employees) to own it and be accountable."
Oldham has plans for more Tucanos restaurants throughout the Mountain West.