In this new Interview Series, titled One on One, Mogogo met and conversed with Chef Philip Thompson, Executive Chef at Hilton McLean Tysons Corner in McLean, Virginia. From childhood memories to his personal ambitions, and his unique approach to excellence in service and quality, we were fascinated to discover all that goes on behind the scenes!
What is your favorite childhood food memory?
When I was 8 or 9 years old, I went to my dad’s greenhouse and picked a perfectly ripe tomato from one of his vines. It was the juiciest and sweetest tomato I had ever eaten, and it was the first time I really started to think about food.
Did it inspire you to become a chef?
At the time it did not cross my mind, however, it definitely made me think about food differently. Over the years, observing my dad and my grandfather grow fresh produce first hand, sparked a special interest in food. Ultimately, it was my grandmother’s passion for cooking that made me want to become a chef.
How important is it for a chef to be involved in design beyond the plate?
For me, the chef’s role doesn’t end until the guests leave. It’s vital to be involved all the way through planning to execute an event. When I plan a menu for an event, I think about what it is going to look like from the guest’s perspective; their first thoughts as they enter the room, what it is going to smell like, feel like and look like. How is the guest going to understand my vision. It’s an all-encompassing vision.
What have been your biggest challenges, and how does Mogogo help you solve them?
How to create different experiences for our guests at each different event is always a challenge; each setup needs to be approached from a unique perspective. The versatility of Mogogo products helps us create different styles and experiences for each event. You can create a rustic farmers market feel for one event, and take the same tables and do a more luxury fine dining event.
Did switching to linenless buffet tables help you save money?
Absolutely, switching to linenless buffet tables has saved us on labor when setting up banquet space and also save on laundry from all the linens, which in turn helps the environment too!
Describe your cooking philosophy in 3 words.
Local. Fresh. Inspired
In the age of social media and the power of visuals, where do you find inspiration, and how does Mogogo enable your creativity?
Inspiration comes from many places. Sometimes, it’s a trip to the farm and sometimes it’s something I see in a magazine or on the internet. I use social media a lot; it’s great to see what other people out there are doing and draw inspiration from it. But we never look at somebody else’s and copy the idea, it is the initial stage of inspiration before adding my own personal touch. Mogogo reminds me of playing with Legos when I was a kid: you can use your creativity to build unlimited looks and designs. I love seeing all the ways people use them.
What would you say to young chefs aspiring to become an executive chef in a large hotel like the Hilton?
Be inspired, keep pushing your limits and think outside the box.
What is your dream in hospitality?
My dream is to provide amazing experiences for our guests that go above and beyond their expectations, which are unique and tailored to their personal needs. My overall outlook of the experience, is that it’s should be fun and rewarding for both the attendees and our team members at Hilton. It’s vitally important for me as a chef that my team enjoys coming to work, as it reverberates directly on the atmosphere into the dining room. It’s a continuously moving goalpost as you want to get better and better every day.