Philipos Mengistu gained his first culinary experience at the restaurant his parents operated in Addis Abeba in the early 1970's. Philipos used to spend much of his time behind the scenes in the restaurant kitchen. He watched his mother intently over the years, learning recipes that had been passed from generation to generation through the family lineage, and picking up his mother's expertise. One area being in blending her own version of berbere, a hot sauce common in much of the Ethiopian cuisine.
Philipos moved to the United States in 1990, with the concept of introducing New York City to Ethiopian food. As he scouted locations and saved money for his first business in the US, he worked as an aircraft technician for Ethiopian Airways and a Yellow Cab driver.
Philipos opened his first restaurant, 'Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant', with two partners in 1995. Meskerem was a success, receiving positive reviews from the New York Times and the Daily News, among others.
In 1999, Philipos launched plans to run his own restaurant, this time with the aim of focusing specifically on his family's recipes and creating a warm and cozy environment, surrounded by traditional Ethiopian decor. He spent a year scouting the ideal venue and perfecting the ingredients of his new menu, as well as arranging to import berbere directly from his own mother in Ethiopia, using only her recipe.
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