Community Table: Mel Muoio

Rose Truesdale
on

Community Table is a Home Chef interview series dedicated to real people who celebrate food — from farmers, chefs, and food photographers to those cooking with love in their own kitchens.

Our second guest: Mel Muoio, a stylist for the hospitality industry.

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In a nutshell, what’s your job?
I work as the Levy Lifestylist. I enhance the guest experience with brand touch points and add unique visual elements to a space or service style.

What’s your hospitality style philosophy?
The goal is to whisk the guest away to a magical place where all senses are enhanced. Having a style point of view is crucial for nailing the visual details and experiential design. I like to start by walking through the space or renderings and then start with the “what if we…” series to get the wild creativity and brainstorming started.

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Cafe Spiaggia table settings by Mel, photo by Jeff Kauck

How have your personal and professional backgrounds shaped said philosophy?
I have inherently always had the knack for style and the appreciation for beauty in the world, on the street, in fashion and in textiles. Hospitality was a natural extension of that, as I appreciate the beauty of food, and how to make the environment focused on the cuisine that much more special. Working in the hospitality makes me appreciate function, as well: operators still need beauty to be operationally friendly and stand up to the commercial use of the space and its objects.

Who are your style icons in the food world? What about them inspires you?
Style icons in the food world would be Elsa Maxwell for hosting outlandish dinner parties. And my great grandmother, Helen: she would always have beautiful table settings and was such a lovely hostess.

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Curated Staples Center staff uniforms by Mel, photo by Justin Winget

What’s been the greatest challenge of your career so far? Tell us about that point in your life.
I think the greatest ongoing challenge is the pace of this industry — it goes a million miles a minute and everyone has to work collaboratively and communicatively to get each project, opening or night’s service to a high level of success.

Name a food that’s particularly meaningful to you. Share that story.
Well… it’s not really a dish but one single item. It sounds so silly and simple but bright, perfectly ripe strawberries during the summer remind me of going to the farm in Michigan to pick them every year with my mom and then making fresh, sugary, delicious jam. They remind me of the summer, having the windows open and my mom having fresh clean strawberries on the counter to snack on.

What upcoming projects do you have simmering?
So many projects at Levy that I need two more hands to count them on, but I can’t really tell you about those. I work with an awesome team and have an amazing boss/mentor/work icon so stay tuned for all the fun we have yet to release!

One thing I can tell you: I was finding it difficult to find cool table top items so my boyfriend and I have started creating caddies, menu holders, check presenters and tables.

caddies Anything else we should know?
While the hospitality industry seems glamorous, it’s not for sissies. It’s about dedication, going the extra mile at all times and always being a team player. Despite all the hard work, it has allowed me some memorable and hilarious moments, incredible friendships and some of the best memories.

Learn more about Mel here.

Photos by Jeff Kauck and Justin Winget