What's NOT on My Resume: Michael Psilakis

By Kathleen Squires  |  September 12, 2013

No one starts out on top. Especially in the food business. In this weekly column, chefs and restaurateurs across the country share the stories of their humble beginnings.

Known as the chef who deciphered Greek cuisine for New Yorkers, Michael Psilakis’ mini Aeolian empire includes Kefi (currently closed due to a burst pipe), Fish Tag and three branches of MP Taverna. But in the beginning, it took a couple of unlikely jobs for Psilakis to realize the kitchen was exactly where he belonged.

“When I was 13, I got a job at Carvel and was promoted to manager at the age of 14. This taught me responsibility, customer relations and customer service,” the chef says. What sunk in while he was slinging soft-serve: “That it was important to develop relationships with patrons, because they lay a foundation for a successful business.” His own relationship with food franchises didn’t end with ice cream, however. In college, he applied his customer-relations skills as a waiter at a TGI Fridays, explaining, “I was saving money for law school, and while working in the restaurant business, I discovered that it was better suited for me than law.” He put his tuition money into buying his first restaurant instead. “At first I focused on the business and front-of-the-house aspect," he says. "Then one day, my chef didn't show up to work. I filled in, so I fell into the kitchen by accident. That’s when I knew I was exactly where I should be."