Fair-skinned Flato was bestowed his nickname soon after his co-workers noticed how quickly his cheeks bloomed near the hot kitchen equipment. It’s a heat he has enjoyed since his days in Carolyn Senac’s ProStart® class at Mandeville High School.
“In high school, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do [as a career],” Flato confessed. “But then I took ProStart and really enjoyed it. I realized I wanted to be a chef.”
ProStart is a nationwide, two-year program high school program that unites the classroom and industry to develop the best and bright talent into tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice leaders. The LouisianaRestaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) administers the program in Louisiana, where it is currently offered in 50 schools.
After graduating from Mandeville High in 2005, Flato attended both Delgado Community College and the John Folse CulinaryInstitute at Nicholls State University, graduating from the latter in 2010. In 2009, he spent five months in Ecully, France at the Institute Paul Bocuse obtaining his Worldwide Alliance Certificate in Culinary Arts.
Flato has worked at a number of fine dining establishments, including Blue Hill Restaurant in New York as a culinary stage, Etoile in Covington and Longbranch in Abita Springs. He was hired by M Bistro at the Ritz in September 2010 and has quickly risen through the ranks. He began as Cook 2 and was recently promoted to Cook 1, with the responsibility of all the line cooks. He ensures dishes are executed properly, consistently and within standard times; he also expedites dinner service. This is no small feat—M Bistro’s kitchen prepares food not only for the restaurant, but also in-room dining for the 757- room hotel, and the Jeremy Davenport Lounge.
“Thursday nights are packed,” said Flato, when asked what was the restaurant’s busiest night. “Jeremy draws a great crowd.” He, along with Executive Chef Vinny Russo and Chef de cuisine Emily Dilport, serve great food into the wee hours.
Working for a corporate hotel brings great advantages. “The environment is very structured and there is a management program, with room for advancement, even to other cities and countries within the Ritz family,” said Flato.
There are also ample opportunities to mingle with guests. The Ritz offers seasonal and fun food promotions: Crawfish Concierge in the spring, where guests are shown the proper way to peel and eat boiled crawfish; an Oyster Butler, who shucks fresh bivalves and summer’s Snoball Sommelier—need we say more?
Flato wishes to one day own his own small Cajun restaurant. “There’s a lot of overhead in fine dining.” He also leaves a message for current ProStart students who may be questioning whether they want to make the culinary arts a full-time career.
“If you truly have a passion, go for it.”