Mickey Bakst, Charleston Grill (Charleston, SC)
The first personal interaction I had with Charleston Grill’s Mickey Bakst was when he called me out of the blue on my cell phone a few years ago. And I’d never given him my number. That’s just how it is with Mickey in Charleston, SC, a man known as the unofficial mayor of the city, who has been general manager of the Grill since 2004 and been named a top five maitre’d in the country. These days, you hear his name connected more with his charity work, either through his focus on food insecurity with Feed the Need, the mentor of future hospitality stars with Teach the Need, or through his sober safespace community Ben’s Friends with co-founder Steve Palmer, but as someone who’s still greeting diners at the restaurant front door a few times a week, I knew he had pearls of hospitality wisdom for us. And here, he doesn’t pull any punches in sharing them.