Growing up in Upstate New York, I had the occasion to attend a lot of events that were held in restaurants and hotels (Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, anniversaries, etc.). I would often wonder what it would be like to work in the hotel/restaurant industry.
My very first job (thanks to a referral from my steady girlfriend’s dad to the hotel owner) was for a bellman’s position at a nearby hotel, The Tappan Zee Motor Inn, when I was 15 years old. Not only did I carry luggage, I did a variety of other things including delivering room service trays, bussing tables in the dining room, babysitting guests’ children, and sometimes caring for the guests’ pets.
Most of my early summer and after school positions through college were either in the hotel or restaurant business. You name it, I did it all … from pot washer to assistant to chef to front desk clerk, and all before I was 20 years old!
My passion led me to pursue a degree in Hotel/Restaurant and Institutional Management at the State University of New York in Delhi, New York. I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in May 1971 and headed to Orlando, Florida (prior to Walt Disney World opening) where I knew hotel management jobs would be plentiful! I was right.
Even though my career path took me from hotel management to multi-family housing to real estate to publishing, I appreciate any time that I see a restaurant or hotel providing an exceptional customer experience!
Such is the case with this month’s cover honoree, Mr. Phil Mitchell of Phil and Derek’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar!
Phil’s passion for the culinary arts began when he was still a child. “The appeal started with my mother,” he recalls. “She ran a weekend business making special dinners for small black businesses in the community of Third Ward. She and my dad would prepare dinners for the business owners and I would help my dad deliver them. I would watch my mother cook and taste the different Southern foods that she was preparing for the business owners. Not only was my mother cooking on weekends, she was also cooking for 15-20 people a day at her house. She was cooking in bulk. I grew up seeing nothing but big pots and cast iron skillets, daily. From there I have just been in the restaurant business all my life.”
I know you will enjoy Phil’s story. Also, if you happen to be hungry and you are in Houston, visit Phil and Derek’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar located in Midtown Houston at 1701 Webster Street.
It’s time to let you get started enjoying this month’s issue.