A Trip Down Memory Lane with Chef Michael Manno
In September of 2001, I was hired by Chef Findlay to be a daytime Sous Chef and Tournant at 302 West Restaurant in Geneva, IL. Chef Findlay and his wife Catherine were innovators and luminaries in the restaurant world. Their naturally all-inclusive restaurant was a fine dining gem in the western suburbs of Chicago, on par with the fine dining establishments in the big city. By the time I joined the talented team, they had already been open for 25 years and earned all the accolades of the day and were viewed as a gastronomic institution by many.
The restaurant always attracted the best cooks from the area, even drawing cooks from the CIA and Johnson and Whales. The world of product development chefs is to be thankful for Findlay's service leadership as they helped hone and empower Chefs Jeremy Lycan (pictured above) and Christopher Kline from Tyson.
Chef and Catherine always looked after the staff like their own children and took the time to really get to know the dreams and aspirations of their team and were able to authentically fold those energies into the restaurant.
Chef Manno with Chef Findlay at 302 West circa 2001
Oil painting of Chef Manno by artist and service staffer Brian Busch
Chef Manno calling in the fish order
We had many artists and creatives on staff that chose the restaurant because of the flexibility of the hours but especially since they loved the work environment. Easily the most inclusive work environment of my career. It was because the owners saw the greatness and dignity of everyone. What was amazing is that we all learned to embrace the vast connection of the arts to the restaurant's culture.
Their strict commitment to people, great products and high-end service made for a fun and high-performing environment full of all the juxtapositions in America's great restaurants.
Early morning Artic Char butchery
I will never forget how Chef Findlay leveled the playing field with his chefs related to the creative process while maintaining a measured and stoic leadership that gave the cooks the space to cook as best as possible.
No single work experience prepared me for the world I work in today.
- Chef Michael Manno
P.S. 302 West Restaurant appeared on Check Please, a popular show in Chicagoland to this day.
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