At this year’s Come Grow With Us (Friday, September 15), Liberty’s Kitchen will honor Jeff Gulotta with the 2017 Youth Advocate Award. Jeff and his brother Michael are co-owners of the award-winning MoPho and Maypop restaurants here in New Orleans. Before starting his own restaurants, Jeff worked at Restaurant August, Besh Steak at Harrah’s New Orleans, and many other restaurants in the city.
We are honoring Jeff because he continuously works with Liberty’s Kitchen to shape the “next face of the New Orleans restaurant industry,” which is a vibrant industry that means a lot to him. He is always looking for ways to give back to his community, and luckily, he found an opportunity through Liberty’s Kitchen.
Busy with his many restaurants and other ventures, Jeff also participates in the LK Youth Development Program by meeting with trainees during their fourth week of the program. Today, I was fortunate enough to join Jeff and the trainees at MoPho, the first of Jeff’s Southeast Asian restaurants. During the meeting, Jeff talked about his 25 years in the restaurant industry, how he worked every job from dishwasher up to owner, and how each trainee can also find success in the industry.
He spoke about the “big picture” of working at any job, how it is a way to make a living and support yourself so that you can also enjoy life. In order to get to that point, it is important to work hard at your job and improve your skill-set, and that starts with showing up to work and consistently proving your value to your employer. Liberty’s Kitchen gives its trainees the basic skills so they can get their “foot in the door,” but then it is up to every individual to grow from there and increase their value as an employee.
As a restaurant owner, Jeff pointed out all of the costs that contribute to maintaining a successful business. Employees must do their work well in order to be worth the cost of paying them. To do so, Jeff discussed the importance of time management; instead of seeing every free moment as a chance to take a break, you can see it as an opportunity to develop a new skill. Everyone can set “little goals that you can hit every day,” and that will make you attractive to an employer and contribute to a successful career. For people with a strong work ethic, there is so much potential in the restaurant industry, especially in New Orleans.
It’s always a pleasure to work with people who share our goal of supporting New Orleans youth to achieve their vision of success, and that’s why we are honoring Jeff with the Youth Advocate Award.
Jeff’s restaurants will also participate in our Come Grow With Us: Chef Showdown celebration. Maypop’s serving up Whole Roasted Eggplant with Goat Feta and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette & MOPHO’s bringing Khoa Soi, coconut braised chicken, and peach sambal.