Our Daytonian of the Week started his restaurant career as a busboy at an unpretentious restaurant in a small town in Clark County, came to the “big city” to serve meals and drinks to guests in a downtown Dayton hotel, landed a job at what was then Dayton’s most prestigious and credentialed dining destination, and ultimately joined his current fine-dining restaurant in 1998, shortly after it opened its doors.
Michael K. Parks serves as general manager of Carvers Steaks & Chops in Washington Twp., and he is the Dayton.com Daytonian of the Week.
A note about Carvers: There is still a lingering misconception in some corners of the Miami Valley that Carvers is a chain restaurant. It is not. It started life with an affiliation to a larger group of restaurants, but “went independent” more than a decade ago, and remains independent today.
Now let’s introduce you to the man who runs the place.
Tell us your background and your restaurant experience.
I started in the restaurant business in 1985 at age 14 at a place called Bobo’s Family Restaurant in New Carlisle, Ohio. I started as a busboy. At age 16, I was promoted to a server. I also received my first management training that taught me about opening and closing a restaurant and daily operational procedures.
In 1990, I decided to move to the big city which, for me, was Dayton.
I started serving tables at Portofino‘s restaurant, which was located in the Radisson Hotel and Suites on Third and Ludlow streets in downtown Dayton. Within a few months, I was the restaurant manager, and then interim food and beverage manager, for the hotel.
In 1992, I left the hotel to pursue a more fine-dining experience. I became a captain and, eventually, a manager at l’Auberge restaurant in Kettering, which was Ohio’s only four-star, free-standing restaurant under the direction of Josef Reif and Dieter Krug. Under their tutelage, I became the person and manager I am today.
In 1998, I started the best and most rewarding part of my career when I was hired by Ed Fauble as a manager at Carvers Steaks & Chops in Centerville-Washington Twp. In 2009, I was promoted to general manager.
Tell us about Carvers and its plans for the future.
Carvers opened in November 1996 by a small company. Their concept was to become a modern big-city steakhouse without the big-city cost, keeping the menu very condensed.
Carvers provided an environment where people could come to eat and dance, all in one place, with live entertainment every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.
Carvers has always been a successful restaurant, but in 2008 the small company that owned Carvers ceased to exist, and we were purchased by our manager and his wife, Ed and Blanca Fauble. We were proud to become a privately owned family restaurant.
Over time, the menu has grown to adjust to the changing times. More selections, such as vegetarian and gluten-free options, as well as the addition of the lounge and patio menu and accompanying Social Hour, have added diverse menu options at a great value.
We also added December lunch hours to accommodate everyone’s holiday needs.
Our plans for the future are to maintain the highest standards possible and to only improve our menu, atmosphere and to have more raving guests that would like to dine with us. We believe in hospitality, not just service.
Why did you decide to stay in and settle in the Dayton area?
I decided many years ago Dayton was the place for me. I actually enjoy the weather, and I believe that Dayton has everything to offer that you could find in a larger city, but with a small-town vibe. There are incredible places to eat, great nightlife, and wonderful parks and entertainment facilities.
Downtown Dayton has changed a lot over time, but is always improving. Everyone should go to a Dragons game. Just make sure and go early so you can walk around RiverScape and just take in the city.
What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge?
I would have to say managing a restaurant during the recession. It required a lot of extra work, finding new ways to make and save money without allowing quality to suffer.
Operational things like re-negotiating contracts, changing phone and TV providers, refusing to pay fuel surcharges, etc. were all ways that we conserved finances.
We started our very successful Social Hour and our Sunday Three-Course Meal menus during this time as well. In the midst of our company needing to conserve, we wanted to still provide great food, service and quality to our guests at a great value.
What are your favorite places to eat and/or drink in the Dayton area, beyond, of course, Carvers?
I honestly don’t get a lot of time to eat out working in the hospitality industry. When I do get time, though, my favorite places to eat, besides Carvers, are the Paragon Supper Club, Oakwood Club and Jay’s Seafood.
The Oregon District is the best place for a drink with all of the independently owned and unique places in it. I really love the old buildings, brick road and unique establishments.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
It would have to be going to The Greene in the spring and summer to walk around and grab a bite or a drink. This is because I always try to eat and drink only at locally owned businesses, and The Greene is predominantly corporate establishments.
What inspires you about Dayton?
Dayton is a progressive and growing city with friendly people. I’ve always been interested in history, and Dayton has a very unique and innovative history with a lot of inventors and intellectuals.
Dayton inspires me because, as a city, we manage to keep growing despite all of the challenges that we have faced in the past. Just this year alone has been a tough one, but I find that people in Dayton are very motivated to improve their lives and their city.