Faculty Spotlight: Hospitality professor’s journey from dish duty to Dubai
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Written by: Emily Hollingshead
From the kitchen of his grandfather’s restaurant to the towering city of Dubai, Dr. Michael Petrillose’s career has taken him around the world before bringing him to Seminole State College of Florida.
Now he serves as the program manager for the Associate in Science (A.S.) degree in Hospitality Management program and teaches in the College’s new Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S.) in Management and Organizational Leadership program.
Regardless of where he has been, Petrillose’s people skills and business mindset have guided his path. “You never know who you are going to meet or how you are going to help them,” said Petrillose.
People Focused Passion
“Both my uncles, my grandfather and father were in the industry,” Petrillose said. He grew up observing how his family members ran their respective businesses, including his grandfather’s restaurant and his father’s side business of running a soft-serve ice cream truck. He would ride along in the truck with his father counting change and handing out ice cream and got his first job at the age of 11 washing dishes in his grandfather’s restaurant. “I learned a lot by watching people,” Petrillose said. “Grandpa would come around and engage with them in the restaurant. Their dining room was their living room.”
Beyond customer service, he observed his grandfather with his employees, how he would motivate them and counsel them when they were late to work or even when he had to bail them out of jail to make their shift. Petrillose carried those lessons with him even when he worked as a general manager for a major hotel. “You have to have a passion for dealing with people and solving their problems. Every day is a new challenge, and you never really know what is going to unfold in a given day,” he said.
Coming to Seminole State to serve as program manager and professor, Petrillose is back in the classroom. “I’ve done what I’ve really set out to do, and now I’m back doing what I’m passionate about. That in a small way every day I can positively impact a student,” Petrillose said. He started his own journey in higher education at a two-year institution before transferring to Cornell University. “It was the best thing I could have done. I had professors and teachers who were passionate about the industry and teaching. They gave me the foundational skills that I wanted to emulate and challenged me and gave me the confidence that I could do it and achieve success. I try to bring that forward in my own teaching style.”
Starting Projects and Solving Problems
Any career path an individual may pursue, if they have a business and hospitality background they can go into a variety of different industries and be successful.Dr. Michael Petrillose
In fact, Petrillose can call upon many of the skills he picked up in the hospitality and business field while he is teaching. “Any career path an individual may pursue, if they have a business and hospitality background they can go into a variety of different industries and be successful. They’ll have the financial piece, the management, customer service and technology pieces – all those skill sets are transferable across a wide array of careers,” said Petrillose.
He uses those skills to tackle major problems and relishes in the challenge of starting new programs. That drive is what saw him leave his job at Johnson & Wales University as a dean and travel to the other side of the globe to serve as the academic director of the Dubai College of Tourism where he prepared academic programs in business, events, retail, culinary arts and hospitality management in one of the largest tourism destinations in the world.
“It goes back to who you are sitting next to in class,” Petrillose said, explaining that he befriended a classmate from the United Arab Emirates when he was in college and stayed in contact throughout the years until 2016 when his friend brought him on for a consulting job which snowballed into Petrillose’s once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity. Building a college from the ground up meant he had a hand in everything from running customer surveys, to creating corporate partnerships and planning the academic programs. “You learn how to organize a little tighter when you take on a big project,” he said. “You learn a lot about yourself and what you are able to achieve.
When he isn’t working Petrillose enjoys traveling or revisiting his roots in the kitchen and is working on creating a cookbook with his family’s recipes. No matter what he takes on, his curiosity and dedication to people is what shines through.
Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves nearly 30,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A comprehensive college, Seminole State has awarded more than 100,000 credentials, from bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas, and offers more than 200 degrees, certificates and programs designed for success. For more about the college, visit seminolestate.edu
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