If you ask Chef, Bartender, and Entrepreneur Jon Mendez where he wants to be in five to ten years, he will have an answer ready for you: doing exactly what he is doing right now. As a businessman and conscious member of society, Mendez understands the importance of the small moments that comprise a meaningful experience and a well-lived life. Because he lives a purposeful life, he also instills a strong sense of purpose in his hospitality company Luxury Over Everything. For Mendez, a powerful message is crucial in making his mark on the world and leaving behind a legacy of which he can be proud. The key to his success? He is a man that cares about the details and in caring about the details, he ensures the high quality and satisfaction that accompanies choosing luxury over everything. Choosing luxury over everything essentially means choosing the best out of every moment in life.
How did you get started in the Hospitality Industry? Tell us your story.
I grew up in Tampa, Florida. I’m Cuban and Puerto Rican. A big part of our culture is gathering around food and drinks and sharing stories and cracking jokes. Whether it’s a holiday or once a week thing, we love to be around each other. This is where I learned about food. I was always curious about the craft of it. I love to eat and to be a part of that gathering. I also used to cook for my mom and myself because she worked. Then, at my high school, Wharton Highschool, there was a culinary academy where I was exposed to the professional culinary world. I learned the details of service and hospitality. During my high school tenure, we went around the state and toured schools like Johnson & Wales. We did pro-start culinary competitions. I did on-site and off-site catering events. We were running a restaurant out of a highschool. I loved it and ended up going to culinary school in Upstate New York after high school. I went to the Culinary Institute of America. After two years there, I went to FIU for the Hospitality and Management program.
What inspired you to become a wine expert?
I was intrigued by the wine industry. I was intrigued by the different regions, methods, and how wine is paired. The biggest ‘aha moment’ for me happened at the Culinary Institute of America. I paired vanilla ice cream and a dessert wine called Pedro Ximénez Sherry. It was so simple but I was shocked by the way that you can try one element by itself and then you try them together and completely elevate these factors that you didn’t see before. I wondered if that could be done with other types of food and it turns out you can! I was fascinated by that so I started studying wine, spirits, and cocktails.
In addition to being a chef and wine expert, you are a mixologist and entrepreneur. How are these roles related? How do they vary?
I have been in Miami for seven years working at many different restaurants. I have worked as a sommelier, a beverage director, a bartender, a server, a food runner, and a restaurant manager. I’ve done a bunch of different private events and met fantastic people in this industry. I’ve gotten great insight and it has been a great ride. It’s awesome to use the knowledge of the culinary side to help me understand how things work on the beverage side. What is great about this industry is that it is always evolving. No one knows everything. There are innovations. I’ll forever be a student of the craft. From the entrepreneur perspective, I want to find a way to monetize what I consider my passion. It has always been a dream to do what I love for work so that it does not feel like work. I also like sharing a message that is a message of purpose. Every human has a purpose in this world. This purpose is usually sharing a message with other people or finding a way to benefit humanity and the people around them to leave a mark on this world. For me, I leave my mark through a great dish and by spreading the message of nutrition, mental wellness, friendship, and equitable society. If I can find a way to put together companies or enterprises that can sustain my lifestyle then that’s what I am going to try to do.
Your company is called “Luxury Over Everything”. What inspired this name?
Yes, so this is a funny story. The story goes back to one of my best friends whose name is Jordan Hamilton. He’s an entrepreneur himself. Jordan and I were on vacation when we were younger, about nine years ago, and we were at a vacation home with his parents. We’re playing beer pong on his balcony. We’re drinking cheap beer because it’s just what we had around. We invited Jordan’s dad to play with us and he refused to drink Miller High Life. He was like, ‘I am not playing with this beer. You better get me something better. Get me a Stella or something.’ We got him a Stella and then he decided to play. Later, Jordan and I were cracking up and joking about it. But then we realized that Jordan’s dad wanted to make it comfortable for him to play by elevating his beverage. So then you put that in the perspective of other things. Take the smallest detail. It can make a difference. Over the years, if you hung out with me, you would hear that phrase: luxury over everything. We would get together and we would yell it. If something was awesome we would yell, “luxury over everything” and we would just be happy.
What is your vision for L.O.E?
I want to create a platform where I can do hospitality consulting and pop-ups. I have a lot of friends who are chefs and mixologists. We love to get together and do beautiful dinners. You just come in and have a good time and let us curate the experience. L.O.E. offers that. Of course, luxury is subjective. As a professional in the hospitality industry, we have to get to know the people around us so we can make that small tweak, find that small detail, to create a valuable experience. I want to collaborate with different businesses and organizations to help people take a few extra seconds to add detail and make their day. If a place feels like they’re lacking magic, or if they need fresh eyes, I want to work with them and give them feedback. I want to tell them what people in this area like and encourage them when they’re doing good things. Adding the human factor in different ways when considering service can make a big difference. It makes people feel like they’re being taken care of. That’s what I want to do with Luxury Over Everything hospitality.
What services does L.O.E offer?
-Hospitality Consulting for hospitality industries and other people-oriented businesses such as retail shops, doctor offices, tax offices, etc.
-Cocktail Program Curation
-Pop-up Dining/ Dinner Series
-Advocacy/ Awareness Branch
What does L.O.E. mean to you? What personal and professional values have you instilled in the company?
Luxury over everything is the culmination of all my different professional ventures. It is a means for expanding the purpose that I want to share with the world. This is my way of adding value to society. Some personal touches that I have added to the company are making sure that what I do drives a message. I am not just trying to make money or throw parties. I want to make sure that everything that I do has a message behind it.
How have COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally?
I was working as a bartender at the Fontainebleau in a fine-dining steak house called StripSteak. We had just had the Superbowl which was nuts. Then, COVID happened around Music Week. Everything had an abrupt halt. We lost all our events. I got laid off and I haven’t been back since. It was good to have the time off to disconnect and rest. I also had to wonder, ‘What if the industry doesn’t come back?’ I was going to have to figure something out whether it was going to another industry or starting something on my own. I spent my time talking to people and doing research. I wanted to expand my knowledge and figure out other avenues that I could take to support myself and grow. My girlfriend, Solange, was also laid off. She worked with Southern Wine and Spirits. I will probably go back to the restaurant and bar scene and have L.O.E on the side. Solange will go all-in with her sustainable garden company @herbgardenco which I will help her with as well.
If you had your own drink, bar, or business, what would it be like and why?
My dream is to one day open a hotel. I want to do the same thing that I am doing now for the rest of my life. I want to own a place where people can gather around great music, great conversations, great food, great drinks, and great people.
What are you currently working on? What’s next for Luxury Over Everything? Any pop-ups coming soon?
I am working on getting private gigs. I am finding different people who are local who I can work with. I am also working on creating content. I want to create cool videos. The content will be relevant and maybe include some new stuff that people haven’t heard of. As far as pop-ups, I have something going in the works, but it is not concrete yet. I have two things going on and if they go well, I will announce them closer to the end of the year.
How may we follow your journey? Do you have any social media accounts or websites that you would like to share?