Photo Credit: Elaine and Scott Harris

Acclaimed writer and speaker Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Those words ring true in regards to a very special person, John Michael Fryer. We called him Mike. He was our publisher and mentor, but more importantly, one of our dearest friends. 

Our friendship on this earthly plain was abruptly cut short several weeks ago, as we learned our dear friend had passed away. When someone you love and admire leaves your life it stings like a bitter winter wind. A vacant, empty void of sorts fills the once warm familiar place that person inhabited with their memories, laughter and presence. Several weeks ago those uncomfortable feelings came flooding in unexpectedly as our dear friend and mentor John Michael Fryer left this realm in a much unexpected manner.

Being with him several months ago, we laughed, ate great food and enjoyed several margaritas in a festive mode at the opening of El Dorado Cantina in Tivoli Village. But as the isolation measures were put in place throughout the world, we communicated with Mike via text and phone calls as our only way to check in with someone who lived alone and could use a bit of cheer and conversation. All of a sudden those texts and phone calls came to an end, when Mike ended up going into the hospital with extraordinary pain never to return to us again. We now longingly gaze at the photos and a catalog of remembrances while wishing we could once again be in his gracious and warm presence.

Years ago, as a newbie to the food and wine writing scene, we had created the website Cuisineist.com. As we were learning more about the Las Vegas Food and Beverage scene, we met Mike at an event. He instantly engaged us with his endearing smile, and warm convivial manner. We continued to run across Mike at various events with his photographer brother, George. As curious fledglings on the food scene, we inquired on their obvious mission. He told us about his then budding publication Fork and Pour, a magazine of which he eventually gave us the opportunity to contribute several articles. Through the ensuing years, we continued our writing as monthly contributors for The Las Vegas Food and Beverage Professional magazine and the Southern California version of the magazine. The publications flourished under Mike’s steady, consistent dedicated passion for the hospitality industry

We shared many wonderful meals, wine tastings, events and sake tastings and attended countless soirees with Mike as a friend, colleague and teacher. He introduced us to astute restaurateurs, mixologists, vintners and world-class chefs as his friends and professionals in the field. When attending the many events alongside Mike, we instantly felt at ease and ready to have an enjoyable time: his witty sense of humor kept us giggling, his disarming demeanor erased any situational difficulties and his business knowledge and intelligence kept us engaged and eager to learn more about the industry.

Mike exuded a love of life that is rare in a day riddled with cynicism and ego. His enthusiasm for the hospitality industry was evident in every issue of The Las Vegas Food and Beverage Professional. Not only did he gather the most excellent writers, industry professionals and leaders within the Las Vegas community, he also had many, many years of international experience where he opened and managed restaurants for large corporations. He moved through his career and family life with grace and integrity, building long-lasting relationships both personally and professionally.

We have well over a decade and a half of Mike Fryer stories, and they all make us smile. It seems like Scott and Mike may have gone back further than that. On many occasions we would meet at BJ’s Brewhouse (so Mike could deliver the current issue to management and share some with us to distribute as well). During one of these such meetings Mike opened up a long forgotten envelope of pictures from Angeles City in the Philippines that he wanted to share with us. We enjoyed seeing images of young Mike Fryer as he opened many renowned international dining venues. Scott noticed the date and time stamp on the pictures and realized they were both there at the exact same time! Continuing to look through the pictures, Mike and Scott frequented many of the same bars and restaurants. Laughing and joking as only Mike could do, we all surmised that it was highly possible they were in the same place as the exact same time. Who would have thought that 25 years later they would meet again in Las Vegas, work together, and become close friends? It must have been meant to be. 

Someone once said, “If you have nothing in life but a good friend, you are rich.” Mike made us sense we were the luckiest people on earth when we were with him. He lived in the moment, relishing the delight around him. We never heard him speak an ill word of anyone. Mike was the person that we hope we can emulate in the years to follow. His wit, charm and love of life blanketed us with a warmth and kindness that we will treasure. We will forever miss you, Mike Fryer, as not only have we lost a beloved friend, but a great friend to the hospitality industry.