It’s really easy to have love and admiration for someone like Mike Lata. I would be surprised to learn that the guy had any enemies and if he did, it would be because the other person was probably jealous. The guy is just that genuinely nice. And sweet. And cute. And talented.
Don’t take my word. Ask his closest friends–mostly amazing chefs and culinary leaders that span the country. Or his fiance Emily who is just as cute, sweet and nice as he is. If that’s not enough look at his accolades starting with his James Beard Award, his wall of articles and distinctions and his billboards/bus wraps featuring his beaming smile and argyle sweater. But if all else fails, go to his restaurant FIG. It is one of the best in Charleston and one of the hardest to score a reservation even if you want to sit at the bar.
But I am not writing this blog to tell you stuff you might know, it is to share with you some other really special things about Mike that have meant the world to me. Mike is someone I consider a close friend and even though we don’t talk or see each other a ton, when we do get together it is solid, meaningful, and very memorable. We have been through a ton of things and life events together and as we like to tell each other, we sort of “grew up together”. Not that we were kids when we first met 10+ years ago. We just have both totally come into our own–become who we have been destined to be. It does sound cheesy but to him and I, it makes sense.
Mike is one of the first talented and influential chefs I had ever met. Sure I had met some chefs before him, but when we met I knew very little about food. He quickly changed all of that and introduced me to farmers and producers, had me eating meat even though I was a vegetarian, and shared with me the importance of supporting local. I knew the first time I met him that he would have a major impact on me and the city I dearly love.
I have had some of my best meals with him and by him and I have NEVER had a bad thing to eat of his. I think he and his partner Adam have formed one of the best service teams in the city and some of my favorite “industry” friends work at FIG. He has done it right and I am proud to see how he much he has grown and what he has accomplished.
We have had some fun and crazy times together. Too many and too crazy to mention but I have loved every single one and appreciate his ability to not take life too serious and live life to its fullest. But I promise you this, I will never get on a golf cart with him again no matter what circumstance.
But this letter is more about how he has helped me grow. He of course was one of the first signed on supporters of the Festival and has really help me navigate the ins and outs of the industry. He has called me out on some key mistakes and provided advice on how to make things better. He has never judged or held a grudge and always lovingly supports me and my efforts.
Best of all, Mike has been a mentor whether he knows it or not. He has continued to get better, surrounded himself with the best of the best, has a balanced life with a family and healthy hobbies (like golf, right Andy and Michael?), and is living out his dream. It will be so exciting to walk through The Ordinary in a week or so and really see Mike’s love, passion and heart seep out of the walls and the kitchen. It inspires me and has me reflect more on what I am building, doing and dreaming about.
So thanks Mike for being such a great friend, supporter, mentor, dreamer. I cherish the times we have spent growing up together and cannot wait to the next 10+ years of good times, good friends and good food together.
The world is your oyster,