Michael Yoder | Executive chef at Louies Modern, Lake Club, MODERN EVENTS
With years of culinary expertise, Mike Yoder is a star when it comes to creating in the kitchen. Fusing trendy culinary fads with traditional cooking styles, Mike can make any dish powerful to the tastebuds. Here is his story.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY AND HOW DID YOU GET THE POSITION YOU ARE IN NOW?
I’ve been in the foodservice industry for around 22 years, like most chefs I come from humble beginnings. My first position in a restaurant was as a dishwasher/prep cook where I was thrown right into the machine that is “The Business”. After a few years of growth and learning, I ended up at Fred’s Bar and Cafe in Sarasota where quickly I was promoted to Sous Chef. I worked under Executive Chef Darwin Santa Maria, and absorbed all he had to teach me. I stayed with Epicurean Life Group working in all facets of the company from Fred’s, Epicurean Life Catering and Special Events, to Morton’s Market.
I left the group as a Chef de Cuisine that was culinarily well rounded and as a manager that could lead a kitchen. Upon hearing that Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion was opening a location in Sarasota, I decided that would be my next move. I opened up Roy’s Sarasota as a Sous Chef, and after a couple years of very hard work and commitment I was the new Executive Chef Partner of Roy’s in Philadelphia, PA. This was one of the most pivotal points in my career, where I pushed the envelope of what I knew to be cooking, coaching and mentoring. I enjoyed 7 years with Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion working with some of the best chefs in the country from within my concept and beyond.
I spent the next couple years opening up new concepts in Sarasota, like The Blue Rooster or rebirthing established restaurants like The Hub and The Cottage. Then we come full circle to Libby’s Cafe & Bar, which is the past location of Fred’s Cafe, where I began what I consider my culinary path. I was hired as Head Chef for Libby’s Cafe and went on to be Head Chef for Oak and Stone, Louie’s Modern, Modern Events and Lake Club of UTC. I have worked in all concepts of the company since joining Tableseide Group.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT THE HOSPITALITY FIELD?
My field is always changing and I enjoy that. Otherwise I would get bored and just end up moving on to another career. I need to be moving at all times and this allows me to do that, I’m like a shark that would surely die if it stopped swimming. For some reason I am uneasy just staying still, and there is never time for rest in my business. Change is good, work is good, and a successful life needs progressive movement.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO AS A MEMBER OF THE TABLESEIDE TEAM?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TABLESEIDE RESTAURANT GROUP DISH?
I have changed my diet and what I put in my body so much that nothing really applies these days. Although the Buratta is something I do eat about once a week.
WHAT WOULD A CLIENT SAY ABOUT YOU?
I would say they would comment that my commitment to excellence is second to none and that my passion for culinary arts is unsurpassed. I have a unmatched work ethic while staying approachable and fun to be around with a laughter that is infectious to others and keeps all staff upbeat and productive.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED AND WORKED IN THE SARASOTA AREA?
Sarasota has been my home for 34 years, I’m about as close to native it gets without actually being one. I was born in Toledo, Ohio and have moved to Philadelphia, PA (Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion) and worked in 20+ different cities in my life (Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion) but always find myself back in Florida.
How do you find creativity when making a dish?
I keep up on new trends and fads that are most popular while still sticking to the basics that everyone loves and connects with. I read a lot of books, do my research, and of course traveling to enjoy items where they originated. No experience is the same as actually going to another country and trying out local dishes, that just could not be made elsewhere the same. I have tried to be a well rounded chef, taking all my travel experience into mind and building on them with research.
WHAT ARE YOU FAVORITE dishes to prepare?
I don’t have a favorite dish to prepare, but I do enjoy anything that is extremely technical in nature. I love fusing classic and contemporary techniques to make new and never thought of combinations of gastronomica.
Do you have a favorite food or dish?
Hands down Pacific Rim cuisine is my favorite! Be it simple Laver (seaweed) crisps as a snack throughout the day, Pho or Fried noodles two times a week or my all time favorite steamed Dim Sum snacks to get me through the evening while doing excel spreadsheets.
do you have any guilty pleasure meals?
I have two guilty pleasures and that is my mint chocolate chip or pistachio ice cream (I’m not talking that fake pistachio that is nuclear colored with almonds I’m talking the real deal). I’m not a huge sweets person, I’m more a savory or salty kinda guy but there is something about those two that just make my feel happy.