850 White Station
By Jennifer Biggs of The Commercial Appeal
Food & Dining
Everybody loves dear old Dad — but can you get too much of him? No? What if you share a 10-by-10 office with him?
"It's more like a closet," said Anna Blair, who along with her sister, Katherine Riederer, has joined her father, John Vergos, at the Rendezvous.
Even still, like everyone interviewed for this story, the pros of working for Dad in the family restaurant business outweigh the cons by far — and Dad feels the same way.
"I can truly say that these last 10 years, working with my kids, have been the most rewarding of my career," said Dimitri Taras, the patriarch of the clan that runs Jim's Place Grille.
Alex and Michelle Pao, children of Mosa owner Eddie Pao, are energized by him; Eric Vernon at the Bar-B-Q Shop says working with father Frank has created a better relationship between them, and Jonathan and Pepe Magallanes at Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana are a true team.
Here are their stories.
Eddie Pao was a filmmaker in Taiwan for 12 years, and he came to Memphis to join his sister Cindy so he could work on his English; he planned to return within a year.
But a year later, he, Cindy and brother Alfred opened Formosa. At one time there were three locations; the one remaining now was sold to the longtime chef and is no longer in the Pao family.
In 2004, Eddie opened Mosa in Germantown; the fast-casual restaurant featured some Formosa items but many other dishes, too.
"I think it says so much about his talent that he could go from only knowing Chinese food to serving other Asian cuisines," said son Alex Pao, 32. "People tell us all the time that his pad Thai is the best they've ever tasted."
The creativity that led Eddie to filmmaking is unleashed in his kitchen.
"He is always pushing, and he has a passion and a joy for food and what he does," said Michelle Pao Levine, 40. "He makes over 22 sauces himself, things that he comes up with.
"In the Asian culture, respect for your elders is a big deal, but with him, it's just so easy. It's an honor to be with him every day. It's so important for him that we learn from others — he's always taught us that — and we learn the most from him."
"It's good to learn from others," Eddie said. "But then you put in your own ideas and make it better. I tell them that, and that is what I have always done. And I tell all of the other kids who work here for me the same thing."
Michelle is a big fan of how he works.
"He listens to us, and if we convince him we should do something, he'll say, 'OK, I'll support you, even if it's not the best choice,'" she said. "He won't say it's a bad choice, just not the best one. But knowing that we have his support means everything."
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