If you’ve worked the graveyard shift at a Chico restaurant for any period of time, you know Zack Hyson. When that oven smells like gas or your refrigerator isn’t frigid, you can’t wait till the morning to get it fixed. You need someone now, and the “Z” in Z Enterprises is the man available now. In 20 years of repairing, building and maintaining restaurant equipment in Chico, Zack has worked on just about every piece of such machinery in town, becoming as visible as regular employees at many businesses. His many areas of expertise—mechanical, refrigeration, electrical and welding—keep this Ohio native and father of four busy. We caught up with him at one of his regular stops, California Pasta Productions.
How did you get started fixing restaurant stuff?
When I worked at Oy Vey, Scott Schulman [former Oy Vey Bagel owner who currently co-owns Brooklyn Bridge Bagel Works] showed me how many things can go wrong in a restaurant.
In addition to fixing broken stuff, you help restaurants get started and with continued maintenance. What’s been your biggest job?
I’ve done quite a few restaurants: I maintain Tres Hombres, Cal. Pasta, Christian Michaels…
Where’d you learn how to fix things?
I’m self-taught. Also, [I worked with] Stan McCutchin. He’s this little old guy—used to run downtown. He worked for nothing. Everyone was using him to death.
What’s the call you dread getting?
Walk-in freezer’s down. There’s thousands of dollars of food in there. [California Pasta] left the freezer door open all night—so, I’m just waiting…
Is there any time you’re not on-call?
When I don’t feel like it [laughs]. I do see myself as 24 hours a day.
Business is kickin’ ass. … I didn’t have good luck collecting from home owners, but with businesses a lot more money comes in every day. If it’s working [it used to be] you don’t hear from them, but now I have a lot of people saying, “You tell us what we should do.” That’s more money. Those are my good customers.
What’s your favorite tool?
Plasma cutter. Plasma is this fourth state of matter—superheated gases. It cuts through any metal like a razor.
Can you fix my cat?