My name is Gerardo Pasqualetti and I’m a creative director for the gyro Cincinnati office. It would be easy to say that I’ve been inspired by great artists, names like Michelangelo, Raphael, Picasso or Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec but that would not be entirely true. Inspiration can and usually come from anywhere or anyone. In my case it is within my own family. The person who has inspired me the most in my life would be my father, Gerardo Pasqualetti Sr. He was born in 1937 in a small town named Bisaccia, south of Naples, Italy.
He was one of four children and the last sibling to migrate to the United States at the age of fifteen. He settled in Cincinnati, Ohio where his brother was living. He embarked on this new land with an eighth grade education and not speaking an ounce of English, so you can imagine how hard it would be to find work with the language barrier. One day he set out to find work, no matter what occupation, to get settled. He stumbled upon two men speaking Italian, in a different dialect, but he could understand them. He walked up to them to strike up a conversation, while the men were taking a smoke break outside of a box company called Rigacci Box Co. One of the men was the owner and offered him a job, it was a labor job and he gratefully accepted, he was earning 75 cents an hour.
His real passion was cooking, so he would work all day at the box company and then spend his evenings watching and learning how to cook at the Hilton Hotel were his brother was cooking. He then started bussing tables just so he could better understand the way a restaurant actually functioned and to get his foot into the front door. He spent many years learning and experimenting with food. His brother took a job with another restaurant, thus giving my father an opportunity to ask for the position. He went to the chef and said his brother taught him everything he knows and that he could handle the job and had some new ideas to bring to the menu. The chef gave him a chance to prove himself.
He was finally cooking in a real commercial kitchen, he was ready to take on the world! By this time he had learned English on his own and was starting to get a reputation in the kitchen as an incredibly hard worker. Not only was he a hard worker, he was mastering soups and other entrees that the chef started serving to the customers. People were asking to meet the chef to say how delicious their meals were, but he was saying he couldn’t take all the credit and he would introduce my father.
Married with four children to be responsible for, he continued to please the Hilton with his talent to not only create wonderful food but to present the food in an artistic way. He moved to the chef’s position without even making it a priority. He was working a second job in catering just to make ends meet. I never heard him complain about his work load. Even after all his children left home to move on to their own lives and careers he continued working, mentoring and inspiring people around him. He retired at the age of 75 still loving what he did. You could say he is a bit of a legend at the Hilton being requested to cook for big names like Red Skelton, Elvis Presley and Bob Hope to mention a few, but he would tell you he treated all his customers as if they were celebrities.
So if I ever have a day when I’m in a slump or feeling uninspired, I think about my father’s story and all that he has accomplished in his life and the passion he had towards his career.
-Gerry Pasqualetti, creative director, gyro Cincinnati