Published Monthly at the Lake of the Ozarks
LAKE OF THE OZARKS
Local Restaurateur a Racing Legend
by Darrel Willman
The earliest memory he has of racing is when at the age of five or six he heard his Dad and Uncle mention “losing the rear end” in the car coming home from the racetrack. Since he was sitting in the back seat, young Dorsey Schroeder was understandably upset with the idea.
“ I remember my Dad and uncle talking about we’re going to lose the rear end before we get home. At that age, the rear end was where I was sitting. So I’m thinking the back of the car is going.” Dorsey says.
In and around the home as he grew up the senior Schroeder’s racecar life was natural and normal for Dorsey and so by the time his father retired when he was 15, Dorsey was already building cars.
“My Dad was a car dealer and so I was always around cars and he brought me up ‘hands on’ -- he gave me my first car when I was fourteen, but it was wrecked, it was one that he took in trade. But it was a sports car-- and he said ‘All right, you have two years to fix that. That’s going to be your car when you’re sixteen. I’ll pay for all of the parts and pieces, but you’re doing the work.’ “ he explains.
Dorsey Schroeder may well be the most accessible “celebrity” living at the Lake. He is famous for the successful race car driving career that spanned more than three decades and covered NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Grand-Am, American Le Mans and Trans-Am racing series to name a few.
Online references say “Dorsey competed a number of seasons in the Trans-Am series, winning the championship in 1989. He also competed in a number of Grand-Am and American Le Mans series events, at one point competing for Dave Maraj’s Champion Racing team that won the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans. He was also known as a NASCAR “road course ringer”, who made a few starts substituting for less-qualified drivers at Sears Point Raceway and Watkins Glen International. He is currently a color analyst for Speed Channel’s television broadcast of the Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series.”
Dorsey says he grew up with racing and has lived and worked in it for close to forty years. He’s a native of St. Louis suburb Kirkwood, Missouri, but now has homes at the Lake and in Little Torch Key Florida where he and his wife Kim spend their winters.
After retiring from racing-- he says he’d pretty much just ‘had it’ --Dorsey bought and renovated the property that’s now known as “Dorsey’s Pit Stop”.
“I got to drive race cars for thirty-two years. I had done all of the things that you can do. It was like Groundhog Day. Every day that I woke up I was re-doing the same things I had been doing for 32 years. I couldn’t win anything that I hadn’t won before. The thrill was gone.” Dorsey said.
Despite having to replace virtually everything inside the business, and re-build the structure not once, but twice, Dorsey loves cooking and the “Pit Stop”, and can’t imagine leaving. How did a racecar driver come to cooking? He says that was a life-long dream.
“The restaurant was something that all my life I wanted to do. I’ve been out on my own and cooking since I was about 15 years old,” said Dorsey explaining. “All of the families end up staying at the race track. You end up pretty much living at a track. Everybody lived in motor homes and coaches and stuff like that. So, cooking is something that runs with racing, a lot of racers cook. They end up with no other choice-- you know you can only eat so much race track food.”
The Lake was a natural place for Dorsey to put on the Chef’s hat-- he and his wide Kim built their home on the Lake in 1989. He said, “When I was racing I was travelling all the time. I had come with my parents to the Lake when I was a young boy. In 1989 I started building my house down at the Lake. We moved in full-time in 1990 and found it the perfect central location.”
But restaurant ownership is a bit more than a backyard barbeque, and Dorsey quickly learned that cooking for friends and family was easier than running his own place at the Lake.
“We opened the Pitstop in 2001,” he said, “and that was the first year in 32 years that I didn’t attend a single race. It was kind of a rude awakening for me. I had never been out of that racing environment. I grew up in racing, and all of a sudden here I am, and I’m trying to conduct a business outside of the racing life and quite frankly it wasn’t any fun at all. Luckily for me, the very next year, Speed called me up and said they had a deal for me. When I got back to the race track, I realized how totally I belonged there. I don’t fit in anywhere else as well.”
The Speed Network, which is owned by Fox Sports, has been Schroeder’s way back into racing since retirement, as well as providing the ex-racer the income he needs to maintain two residences and the ‘Snowbird’ lifestyle. But in-season he’s either on the television broadcasting a race, or seven days a week at Dorsey’s PitStop-- there’s no rest in the summer months for him or Kim.
“ Hopefully at the end of this year, I get a contract renewal for two or three more years [on Speed],” Dorsey said laughing. “Then I can eat for two or three more years.”
“The restaurant-- we’ve expanded and put our money into it, but Kim and I have never taken any money out of it. She essentially works for free for the entire six months so that we can live the other six months in the Florida Keys and not have to work,” Schroeder explained.
“We live 27 miles from Key West, so when the restaurant closes in the winter we move to Florida and live there till April when it’s time to come back and do the restaurant.”
The last couple of years have been difficult ones for the Schroeders with the economic conditions, the addition of so many restaurants at the Lake, and the cold spell Florida suffered. He and Kim both took jobs during the Winter months in Florida, a turn that worked into a big plus for Dorsey.
“ I worked as a chef in one of the bigger nicer seafood places [in Florida] and I learned a bunch of things. I was working with mostly Russian chefs and they taught me a lot. They use a lot of different spices and techniques, that I had never seen before. So after working with them for six months, I came back from the Keys and said ‘OK, Kim let’s try a big seafood menu and see what happens’. Well, it took off like mad and now it’s still going, we are really doing good with seafood stuff.”
Like all labors of love, the restaurant for them is a place to put their cash and free time into. But, Dorsey says, the place is starting to come back from the rough times, and they enjoy the work despite the hardships.
“The restaurant now is in the best shape it’s ever been in,” he says emphatically. “I have a lot of pride in that restaurant. Since 2001 we’ve poured our love and money into it to make it what it is today. We love the place-- but it’s a lot of work. It looks now like it’s starting to come back around. The reality of a waterfront restaurant is you’re going to be open for five months. Nobody goes down on the water in the winter. You have five months to make your money and 12 months of bills to pay.”
“The place is good. We’ve cleaned and remodeled inside. I pride myself on having the cleanest restaurant on the water with the best food. For a family friendly restaurant, I want it to be without question the best food we can make available with a friendly atmosphere.”
Dorsey’s PitStop is located at the end of Lake Road 54-56 (Hospital corner) or at the 20.5 Mile Marker by water. They’re open seven days a week from 11 am to 10 pm, later on the weekends when they feature live entertainment. Stop by and say hello to Dorsey and Kim and the staff.