Photo Credit: Ben Brown

Meeting Mike

Meeting Mike for the first time set the stage for an incredible journey ahead, filled with excitement, laughter and indulgence in all things good, and perhaps a bit of business thrown in. My ‘interview’ to join The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional staff took place at Splendor in the Glass, an annual event held at the Hilton. True to its name, the event involves copious amounts of wine. 

I was writing for Examiner [now defunct] at the time, and met [Editorial Director] Bob Barnes the week prior. Bob introduced me to Mike early on at the event, who was already in process of getting ‘splendored’ nevertheless. Our interview wasn’t much more than trying one wine after another, followed by a quick handshake and a “You’re hired!” 

Mike introduced me to [Creative Director] Juanita Aiello as well, and the four of us enjoyed the first of countless festivals together. 

Mike Meeting My +1’s

Living in Las Vegas in my early 20’s and being a food writer was a great combination that led to many fun dates. With industry events going on practically every day, I had the privilege of bringing my “+1” to these extravagant experiences. Naturally, I would introduce them to Mike and the team. Admittedly, I had a new +1 on a fairly regular basis, and Mike had a hard time keeping track of names. He quickly resorted to calling everyone ‘dear’ to avoid any awkward encounters.

The situations weren’t avoided entirely. Mike would sometimes mistakenly reference past events assuming my date was there as well, when it was actually a different person. I’d have to do a bit of damage control, but never anything too severe. It would always result in a good laugh between us afterward. 

Mike Paid for Wine?!?

Life in food journalism has undoubtedly spoiled us forever. When your livelihood is dining at incredible restaurants and attending lavish festivals on a ‘full comp,’ the thought of paying out-of-pocket for the same thing is hard to stomach [for those not in the industry, take satisfaction in knowing your paycheck is a lot higher than ours!]. As Editor-In-Chief, Mike could be classified as a ‘King of Comps.’ I’m not sure if he paid for a single meal in the last 15 years of his life…and hope he didn’t! There was, however, one time where he had to shell out for a glass of wine.

Mike and I attended Taste of the Nation, a legendary fundraiser for No Kid Hungry held at the Palms. Afterward, he took me up to the ‘secret’ afterparty at NOVE Italiano [which has since closed] for all the vendors and industry professionals. And while the opportunity to mix and mingle with some of the city’s biggest chefs was an amazing experience, nobody told Mike that it wasn’t an open bar [as Taste of the Nation is]. The look on his face when he got a bill for his glass of wine—at a happy hour rate, no less—was priceless. He poured the wine out of its crystal glass and into his plastic cup, which he had leftover from the festival, because it had one of our partners’ logos printed on it. I guess this justified the purchase, and at least made it a solid tax write-off. 

My Gratitude for Mike

I owe so much of my food writing career and passion for the industry to Mike, who took me under his wing and showed me the wonders of the restaurant world. Many of my favorite memories from Las Vegas were from the lavish food festivals attended with Mike, who would schmooze with celebrity chefs and industry executives like old friends...because they were! A mentor and friend, Mike has inspired me toward so much, and life has never been the same since meeting him.

Mike lived like a king in his own right, and enjoyed a full and adventurous life. His global travels are remarkable, as are his foreign language skills [he was fluent in Japanese!]. He lived in more countries than I could keep track of, and his career intersected with just about every aspect of hospitality. He started The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional years ago as capstone on his tremendous impact in the F&B world. He managed this publication with remarkable ease, promoting our industry with grandeur style every step of the way. The freedom he granted me and the rest of the staff in our writing has been instrumental in our own professional development. 

Mike’s spirit lives on through all of us who were fortunate enough to know him. I hope to do justice to Mike's mission to move hospitality forward as I continue to contribute to this great magazine.

You're in a better place now Mike, and wherever that is, I'm sure you're enjoying something exquisite, paired with a fine wine. Cheers to you, my friend, and thank you for all that you've done.