Francis Biondi is a Renaissance man — server at The Capital Grille, a sommelier and connoisseur of fine food and wine, inventive home cook, MasterChef contestant, professional golfer and world traveler.
Of his many interests, food and golf are his main passions, and he’s grateful that his flexible schedule at The Capital Grille restaurant in Orlando, FL, where he has worked for almost two years, allows him to indulge them both.
Earlier this year, he spent almost three months in Europe competing in five golf tournaments on the Alps Tour, a developmental professional tour, during which he was ranked in the top 2,000 professional players in the world. He hopes to advance to the European Tour, with his sights ultimately set on the PGA Tour.
He wouldn’t be able to compete all over the world if not for his job. “It’s not often you find an employer willing to work with a schedule like mine,” Francis said. “I enjoy my foodservice career, but my managers know that my second passion — golf — requires me to take time off and travel. I feel blessed that they are helping me pursue my golf dreams.”
Managing Partner Mario Caraballo is happy to help. “At The Capital Grille, we aren’t in the business of losing great people,” he said, “so if I’m able to be flexible with the scheduling needs of my team and the dreams and passions they pursue outside the restaurant, I will. Francis is valued each moment he steps foot in our restaurant, and the same goes for the rest of my team.”
Francis fell for golf when he was a toddler, swinging a plastic toy club and hitting balls around the house. He began playing at 4 and competed during high school. He also started cooking as a child.
“My mom is Filipino and my dad’s American by way of Italy,” he said. They loved to cook and Francis grew up helping in the kitchen and learning from them. “I got to eat a lot of good noodles from both sides of the world.”
He competed on the TV show MasterChef in 2014. He made it into the top 15 contestants, with compliments from Chef Gordon Ramsay, before his luck ran out. “It’s funny because I’m part Asian and I got sent home because my spring rolls were greasy! But it was fun and I have no regrets.”
Serving has performance elements also, he said. “You have to have a smile on your face, and it comes from inside. If you’re feeling happy and grounded, you’ll give your guests great service and a stress-free night out. Our guests know when they come in that their steak is going to be great and the service will be excellent.”
There’s no telling where Francis will go next. “It’s been quite a journey so far,” he said. “Five years ago, I would never have thought that I’d be here with Darden pursuing all my dreams with their help.”