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INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW MCQUILKIN, RAMMYS 2018 MANAGER OF THE YEAR FINALIST

April 16, 2018

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) presents Matthew McQuilkin, Director of Operations of Pizzeria Paradiso. He is nominated for the Manager of the Year award for the 2018 RAMMY Awards Gala on June 10. The Manager of the Year award goes to a non-owner manager or general manager in the food service industry who displays the highest level of professionalism and leadership. This person must be an inspiration and mentor to all his/her co-workers displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic and a positive image.‚Äč

Name // Title // Bio Matthew McQuilkin, Director of Operations, Pizzeria Paradiso
Matthew McQuilkin is a graduate of American University with a BA in Law and Society. He started working at the original Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont Circle in 2006, where he was a server in the 36-seat row house restaurant while attending AU. After graduation, he decided that the restaurant world was where his true passion was, so instead of pursuing law school, he became part of the Paradiso management team. He's been fortunate to grow with the company over the past 11 years and now oversees all locations.

What is the hardest part about being the GM of a restaurant? The most challenging part of being the GM of restaurant is maneuvering the daily challenges of wearing all of the hats one could imagine. You start your day with a plan to accomplish and execute what needs to get done while hurdling the obstacles that are not planned ranging from staffing issues to exploding water pipes. Above it all you must maintain a cool, calm and collected demeanor because you are the leader of the staff and your emotions and energy trickle down to every position in the restaurant. If you are on edge, so is your staff, which affects the service and operation of the restaurant, and ultimately the customer experience.

…and the most rewarding part? For me the most rewarding part of my job is when I hear from new staff members and ones that are no longer working with us that Pizzeria Paradiso is the best place they have ever worked. While creating a positive experience for our guests is the end goal, I do not believe that is truly possible without a great working environment for your staff.  Happy staff equals happy customers.

How are you influenced by the neighborhood you are located in? Our restaurants are located in many different neighborhoods, but we started in Dupont Circle in 1991. I have fond memories of local neighbors coming into our original, tiny P St location for their regular to-go orders or weekly pizza fix and seeing smiling faces. We have always been a neighborhood destination, where we remember your name and your regular order. I like to think that every location we build maintains that feeling and sense of community, whether it be in Georgetown, Old Town, or our most recent opening in Hyattsville.

How did you get started in the business? What was your first job in the industry and what did you learn from it? I have always had a passion for food ever since I was young. I started bussing tables at a local seafood restaurant when I was 16 years old in Maine where I grew up. I have always loved the vibe and energy of restaurants.

Where do you see yourself in five years? This is always a tough question for me because I’m a “live-in the now” kind of person, but I have really invested myself into Pizzeria Paradiso and I see my future here.  This restaurant has been around for 26 years and I’ve ONLY been here for 11 of those years.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Do what you are passionate about. I have a passion for people, great food and hard work that is still fun.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I’m a big lover of cheese and I have dabbled in making my own. If I decide to slow down I see myself living on a farm making sheep’s milk cheese.

What is your favorite ingredient? Garlic and onions, I put them in everything I make. I feel like when I eat things without them it seems incomplete.

What insider foodie tip do you have for diners? One thing that I have always loved about having a restaurant schedule is that I get to dine in off peak times.  I feel like I always have a more enjoyable experience in restaurants when I go on a Monday or Tuesday, it’s much more leisurely.

You’re hosting a dream dinner party.  What three people would be at your table? Julia Child, Oscar Wilde, and Frida Kahlo

It’s the last meal of your life  - what’s on your plate? Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and strawberry rhubarb pie.

What are your pet peeves? Inefficiency is my biggest pet peeve, do as much as you can in one go.

What is your favorite way to give back to the community? I think two ways that I love to give back to the community is getting involved in causes that you are passionate about and patronizing local, small businesses.

Why do you love working in restaurants? I love the people that work in restaurants. They are passionate, fun-loving, hardworking people that you can rely on.