SARASOTA, Fla. (March 30, 2018) – Father and son Tony and Michael Gula like spending time together. They visit the driving range and occasionally catch a movie or even an opera together. Twice they traveled to Europe, including a high school class trip that Tony chaperoned.
But a father and son in college?
Why not? It turns out the Gulas share more than a passion for travel, golf and opera. They enjoy the art of fine dining and hospitality, which is how the two ended up enrolled in USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership.
“I was always interested in culinary work, and I had an opportunity to take some classes at a fine-dining Italian restaurant,” explained Tony. “After that, I just became more interested in food preparation and hospitality. It’s all just very interesting to me.”
So with his son already enrolled at the college, Tony approached Culinary Services Manager Garry Colpitts a few months ago about taking a handful of hospitality courses himself. Soon Tony was sitting alongside other students learning the fundamentals like Food Preparation and Restaurant Operations.
The two haven’t shared any classes yet, mostly due to Michael’s academic focus, which leans toward hotel operations. However, they have worked college-sponsored events together, including the recent HospitaBull fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, as well as several Bulls Bistro events at the college’s Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch.
Tony swears he’s not being over-protective of his 20-year-old son, a graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota, and Michael, a junior, shrugs off his dad’s recent interest in college as coincidental. The fact that they share interests shouldn’t be surprising, he says.
“It’s not different than anything else when we’re doing something together,” said Michael, who aims to pursue a master’s degree in hospitality management after graduation next summer.
Long-term, he said, he hopes to work as a concierge, perhaps in Europe, before transitioning into hotel management.
Tony, 68, a retired HVAC operating engineer from Staten Island, NY, is following a less-structured path. He said he’s taking classes because he enjoys them. They occupy his time and keep his mind active, plus he likes the sociability of dining events, including the Bulls Bistros, which are open to the public every Thursday.
And, if nothing else, the events present an opportunity to brag about his son.
“The patrons get a kick out of it,” he said. “I told them I’m retired and just wanted to take some classes, and I point to Michael and say, ‘It’s because of him that I’m here,’ and the patrons laugh and applaud. They get a kick out of it.
“My philosophy in life is, what’s next?”