Taking ownership featuring Chef Angelo Montes with Sole Mio
Written by John P. Palen for Minnesota Business Magazine June 2013
Great American success stories are still happening, including this one in Woodbury. And like the stories of old, this story shows that hard work, the right connections, and passion can pay off.
Angelo Montes grew up in Biella, Italy, near Milan. He worked in restaurants from a young age, and held a dream of owning his own restaurant someday. It was a long time coming - including a recession-induced delay - but his dream was finally realized in October 2012 when he opened Sole Mio Ristorante in Woodbury, near I-494 and Valley Creek Road.
Montes is also now the recipient of not one, but two Chef of the Year awards from the American Culinary Federation.
As the son of a 100 percent Italian mother, I can vouch for the quality and authenticity of Montes' food. But it takes more than a great product or service to succeed in Minnesota's competitive dining scene. Montes credits many leaders along the way for helping him move from executive chef to owner.
After moving his family from Italy to Woodbury, MN in 1999, Montes got his start as a cook at Chianti Grill. His skills with food prep, organization and cookery soon had him consulting on improved recipes and staff management. As he advanced, Montes emphasized quality food and a great dining experience as well as respect for others.
"I am very competitive and I want to be the best," Montes said. "Not all employees take ownership in their job. I've had to learn how to motivate people to give more than they normally would."
For 10 years, Montes was head chef for three Chianti Grill locations – elevating them to be among the best Twin Cities restaurants. He learned how to communicate with different owners and learn all he could from their example. He was always upfront about his dream of opening a restaurant. "I helped them and they helped me." Montes says, "They taught me the business side of the restaurant business."
Montes also pursued certification in the American Culinary Federation, something few executive chefs in Minnesota hold. He also serves as a board member, building more connections and giving back to the industry.
As Montes will show you, big personalities can become big leaders even if they are in a small package. He is not tall of stature, but tall in character.
"I feel good because I am a good person," he says. "I love and care about people, and my integrity, the truth is very important to me."
The passion is evident when you dine at Sole Mio, from the preparation and plating of the food to the lively personalities of employees who seem to enjoy their work. The respect that Montes showed to his owners as a chef - and received in return - is coming full circle.
"I like to teach other chefs how to do more than cook in the restaurant industry," he says. "I would tell them there is risk in running your own business, but I am confident if I do the right things, the reward will come later."