It took Mike Aguilar, Kitchen Manager at Kelsey’s Steak House, two years to perfect cooking a steak. A short time, really, in his long career. Putting the time into perfecting a steak proves Aguilar’s dedication and passion for the restaurant business.
At the age of eight, Aguilar’s parents moved their family from Mexico to the midwest. Both parents worked in the kitchen at a local Greek family-style restaurant and it was here that Aguilar found his love for the restaurant world. When he was ten years old, Aguilar started helping his parents at the restaurant, bussing tables as customers looked on with smiles.
“My dad was influential. When he brought me here, he was a cook and kind of threw me in there. Since I was a kid I was always involved in restaurants,” said Aguilar.
Over the years, Aguilar has kept a passion for the restaurant industry. After moving to Northwest Indiana, he worked in several kitchens, learning something new with each job. He then found himself at Kelsey's Steak House, where he has been for more than 20 years.
“I enjoy the people. Everybody who eats here comes up to the window and says hello and compliments us on the food,” said Aguilar.
Starting as a grill cook, he worked hard, and within five years he attained the role of kitchen manager. As kitchen manager he is in charge of training new cooks, ensuring quality preparation of the food, food prep for the day, and firing up the grill. Once the doors open, it’s showtime. The steaks hit the grill and Aguilar works his grilling magic.
Offering his own advice on how best to cook a steak Aguilar said, “Don’t flip it too often, especially if it’s a big steak. Don’t start on too high of a flame. Start with a low flame and then work it’s way up.”
Aguilar finds a great deal of satisfaction in his role at Kelsey's Steak House. The team of people surrounding him are like family, and some are even actual family. It has helped to create a unique environment that he enjoys working in.
“Everybody gets along pretty well and helps each other out,” said Aguilar.
At Kelsey's Steak House, Aguilar has helped to create new specials. He takes great pride in the items that have come back as repeats or were added to the regular menu. Two of the more popular items he has created are the Peppercorn Pork Chop and the Santa Fe Chicken. Both have been big hits with customers.
“It feels good when people ask for them again or ask when we’re going to have them again,” said Aguilar.
Having worked in restaurants most of his life, Aguilar knows his way around a kitchen. He understands every aspect and respects the work it takes for a kitchen to run efficiently. This knowledge is something he believes is valuable for anyone looking to work in the restaurant world.
“Don’t stay in one spot. Try to learn everything. Work all sections so you can really understand how the kitchen works. Because if you only work in one spot and not the others, it’s unbalanced. That way you get a sense of what the whole kitchen involves. It’s important for me to know how to put food out but it’s also important to know how to wash dishes. It makes you appreciate what one and the other does. Because they’re both hard work,” he advises.
In his down-time, Aguilar enjoys spending time with his family, going to a movie or out to eat. He makes every effort to avoid the chain restaurants and eats local, giving his support to others in the industry he’s dedicated his life to.
“I think we need to support local. I'm trying to help people who help us,” said Aguilar.
Next time you eat at Kelsey's Steak House be sure to take a minute to go to the window and wave at Aguilar. And maybe try his favorite type of steak, the porterhouse.
For more information, visit Kelsey’s Steakhouse online.
2300 US Hwy 30 Valparaiso, IN 46383
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