Steven Pham, the new managing partner at the Seasons 52 restaurant in Orlando, FL, has not only come full circle, he’s come home. He grew up not far from the restaurant, and it’s the location where he began his foodservice career 15 years ago as a food runner.
“I’ve been back here a month,” he said, “and three or four of my former classmates have already come into the restaurant. It’s pretty neat.”
What’s even neater is that Steven’s back in the midst of his close-knit family — his parents, two brothers and a sister. “The hardest thing was being away from my family for three years,” he said of the time he was moving up the ladder and leading restaurants in Houston and Memphis, TN.
When Steven began his career with Seasons 52 in 2003, he was working his way through college and planned to become a dentist. But the pleasures of interacting with guests won him over, and he changed his plans.
He was also influenced by his parents, who were born in Vietnam but immigrated to the United States in 1975 before their children were born — they owned a Vietnamese restaurant for a decade. “Food has always been important to me,” he said. “My parents worked hard at their restaurant and instilled a strong work ethic in us children. It paid off for them, and they are nearing retirement now and really enjoying life.”
Steven treasures the time he and his siblings spent in the kitchen growing up. “Even after long days at their restaurant, my parents would come home and fix a nice dinner every night. It was always Vietnamese food, and my brothers and sister and I would help out. It was a fun family time when we could catch up on each other’s news,” he said.
To this day, Steven and his siblings gather at his parents’ house for a family dinner every Sunday night, so it’s not surprising that he associates food with family and fun. That atmosphere is duplicated at Seasons 52, he said. “I support my team as if they are my family. We spend a lot of time at work, so we should make it a good time. I have an emotional connection with my team members, and that’s a big drive for me.”
Steven said he works a chef shift every now and then. “It’s a good reminder for me of the importance of what’s happening in the kitchen, and I think the team likes it.” He does plenty of cooking at home, too, for his girlfriend and her son. His favorite thing to prepare is the Vietnamese soup known as pho. “I’ve made it multiple times, but I haven’t mastered it yet. It’s still not as good as Mom’s,” he said, “but each time I make it, it’s a little bit better.” He speaks Vietnamese and hopes to make his first trip to Vietnam before long.
Steven loves the seasonal menu for which the brand is named and its embrace of food trends. “Our changing menu keeps team members and guests excited, but we always keep their favorites” such as the Cedar Plank-Roasted Salmon, Wood-Grilled Filet Mignon and Caramelized Grilled Sea Scallops, he said.
He experienced plenty of change himself during his decade and a half with the brand. In the seven years of his first stint at the Seasons 52 in Orlando, he progressed from food runner to server, trainer and bartender, with some kitchen shifts thrown in. He was promoted to service manager at the location in Altamonte Springs, FL, in 2010, then assistant managing partner in Houston, managing partner in Memphis and back to Altamonte Springs as managing partner in 2016.
“I am the backbone of my team,” he said, “and I want to make sure that everyone is happy in their careers. With the flexible hours and good pay, they can raise a family, go to college or send their own kids to college.
“But I’m never satisfied,” he said. “My goal is to be better today than I was yesterday.”