Making it: Graham Snyder '99

Those who taught Graham Snyder when he was a Cutthroat back in the late 1990s remember his affable nature, his presence on the basketball court, and his passion for riding fast motorcycles and making good music. If asked, most of his teachers would have assumed that Graham would pursue music. And he did, for many years with a successful band, which took him on the road often. Once Graham started a family, the rock and roll life just didn’t have the same appeal.

Restaurants are in his blood. His father founded and ran a very successful restaurant endeavor for much of Graham’s life. When Graham turned in the guitar for the keys to his own restaurants, he knew a bit about the business he was getting into—but knowing it and doing it are vastly different things. Independent to the core, Graham built his own restaurant group, first by opening a restaurant in West L.A. that became the talk of the town and a leader in the urban farm-to-table movement, Osteria La Buca. When Graham decided to move back to his family’s roots in Yakima, Washington, he opened a number of restaurants that invigorated the food scene there—Icehouse Bar, Cowiche Canyon Kitchen, Restaurant Wahluke, and EZ Tiger, with more on the horizon. For Graham, an important milestone to landing where he is now was when he opened his first restaurant in L.A. in 2004. About that time, he says, “I learned to trust my own instincts.”

As a restauranteur, Graham is involved in every aspect of the business—designing, building, and operating the space, developing the menu alongside chefs he trusts and respects, and instilling the ethos of service among his staff members. Graham, always a warm person, brings that warmth to each endeavor. By all accounts, when you walk into one of Graham’s restaurants, you know you’ll be in good hands.

At this stage in his life, Graham is unwilling to admit that he has “made it.” He says, “Making it… I’ll let you know when I get there!” But for now, Graham says he “has freedom in my future based on my past performance.” And he’s pretty happy with that, but not totally satisfied, because there’s more to do.

Graham recently visited campus with his two children. About the new buildings and the changes on campus, he says, “It makes me proud. The school that was such an important part of my growing up is doing so well.” When we walked by the multiple rooms dedicated to music in Hagenbuch Hall for the Creative Arts and Middle School, Graham (who hasn’t completely given up his guitar) was inspired by the developments and is now looking forward to the day he might enroll his own children in the school. “I carry Ketchum and Sun Valley Community School wherever I go. It’s a patch on my jacket that I’m proud of, a huge part of who I am. My school, my teachers, my friends, my skis, my motorcycle, my youth, and hopefully my future. I hope my kids will be Cutthroats one day.”

Maybe that’s the day Graham will know he’s “made it.”