Phil Costner is a restaurant operator who has moved easily from the kitchen to the executive suite. As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Costner has used his culinary expertise to propel his career in ways others can’t match.
As chief operating officer for Dallas-based la Madeleine Country French Café Costner now finds himself at the helm of a company that is poised for growth following two years of strategic change and innovations.
With a foodservice background that stretches 30 years Costner has had a variety of roles inside and outside of the kitchen.
Prior to signing on with la Madeleine, Costner was vice president of Food and Beverage for Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, where he reengineered the menu for its flagship TGI Fridays.
Other posts include Universal Studios Hollywood, where Costner had direct oversight of the planning and construction of more than 30 themed foodservice facilities at the Islands of Adventure Theme Park in Orlando, FL; LS Sky Chefs’ research and development team where he developed a multitude of products for several airlines and opened a new production facility at New York’s JFK Airport. Prior to that Costner held executive chef posts at the Warwick Hotel in Seattle, The Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland, WA and Riverplace Alexis Hotel in Portland, OR.
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Concept, headquarters location: la Madeleine Country French Café, Dallas
Check averages: $11.50 (all day)
Number of units: 60
States: Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C.
Newest ventures: New prototype cafes located in Dallas and soon in D.C. Getting ready to franchise
Education: Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y.
First restaurant job: Busboy at Mr. Steak (Four days as a busboy, three weeks as a dishwasher, ‘Then into the kitchen and I never looked back.’)
Restaurant light bulb moment: The day my mom showed me an article about the Culinary Institute of America in the Wall Street Journal. I was 17 years old.
Heroes: My Dad, my Mom, and Bob Hill, (my little league baseball coach).
What do you cook at home?: I love cooking anything on my outdoor grill. I also love to cook big holiday meals or special occasion meals for family and friends.
Pick your final meal: Smoked Salmon & Caviar Canapés passed with Champagne Seared Foie Gras with a sinful Port Wine Reduction and Candied Orange Peel, Salad of Wild & Gathered Greens with a warm Walnut and Brie, Grilled Copper River King Salmon with Smoked Sea Salt, Cracked Black Pepper and a squeeze of Roasted Lemon, Slow Roasted Prime Rib served with rich Jus and ‘Tear Jerking’ Horseradish Cream, CrÃ¨me Brulee with a Caramelized Sugar ‘Dance Floor’ (hard enough to tap dance with your spoon), McCallan 25, Johnny Walker Blue and/or Chivas Century with Moore & Bode Cigars
First dish prepared as a child: Beef Stew – I earned my Cub Scout cooking badge for doing this.
Favorite television show, movie, music: Seinfeld, The Odd Couple, Modern Country
Favorite part of the job: Rewarding outstanding performance
Guilty pleasure: Rocky Road ice cream
Best stress management: Sipping a chewy cabernet while watching a spring thunder storm roll through
Career highlights: Becoming the executive chef at The Riverplace Alexis Hotel at 23 years of age, Winning the Oregon Seafood Challenge, Becoming the vice president of Food and Beverage at Universal Studios, Receiving a Menu Masters Award while at TGI Friday’s, Becoming the chief operating officer at la Madeleine
Best advice ever received: ‘Work hard’ from Executive Chef ‘Monty’ on his last day at the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel, Seattle
Best advice ever given: Cook the onions until they look like mahogany. When you think they are done let them go another 10 minutes, (what I used to tell my cooks when making onion marmalade)
Favorite book: ‘Catch Me If You Can’ – Frank Abagnale Jr.
Hobbies: Golf, enjoying great red wines
Personal: Engaged, one daughter