LIDA was created out of a genuine passion for the food and hospitality industry as well as a love for my home, Long Island.
Many restaurateurs say that “it is in your blood” and in my case, it is completely true. The food industry had me hooked by the time I was 13 years old when I started my career folding pizza boxes at a local pizzeria for $2.50 p/ hour. I don’t know what I loved more, the fast pace of the kitchen, the chaos of a busy Saturday night or the hope that I would someday do this all for myself.
Willing to take on any and every position that I was offered, I worked my way through high school and college as a waitress, bartender, bus girl, line cook, chef and eventually a manager. I even tried the “normal” professions. You know the ones that don’t have you work holidays, weekends and long shifts for barely minimum wage and the eternal hope of a good tipper. I had my fair share of success outside the food industry but once this industry has you, it never really leaves you. So to me the obvious next step would be to open a place that I could call my own.
At 23, I begged and borrowed, worked day and night and was able to open one of the first martini lounges on L.I. with great success. I have never forgotten this venue and I probably never will. I learned more in those 4 years than my entire high school and college career combined. From there I began consulting for numerous bars and restaurants across Long Island including an executive dining room at a large corporate bank.
But like many entrepreneurs, the itch to own again never went away.
In 2008 I opened a small café with a childhood friend. Success was immediate but by late 2008, the economy had taken a major hit, a large corporate chain moved in down the block and the 4 month old business simply could not stand the pressure. For the first time in my career, I had to close my doors, face a huge financial loss and even worse, the F word, failure. Ouch.
Both my successes and my failures had opened my eyes and made me realize how much our industry needed a resource that they could trust. A resource that has a hands-on, grass roots approach to solving our local and often exclusive industry challenges. A resource that is comprised of L.I. dining operators who understand how much stronger we are together than apart. We need to know who we can trust and where we can turn for answers to our industry questions in both great times and in tough times.
I was taught as a child that smart people are never afraid to surround themselves by those who are smarter than they. With LIDA, we can use our differences, experiences, knowledge and passions to become stronger. And with a little faith and trust from my colleagues, LIDA will be all that I hope for it.