We’ve all heard the saying, mother knows best. The children of these local families took that advice to heart, following their moms’ career paths while learning and finding their own success along the way.
Pat Shannon-VanMatre and Gary VanMatre
MIKE SHANNON’S STEAKS AND SEAFOOD
In 2007, Gary VanMatre was enjoying life as a 20-something-year-old working for Anheuser-Busch in Southern California when he realized a different career path was calling his name. Returning to St. Louis, Gary took up a position at Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood, the restaurant owned by his grandfather and mother. “It really hit me that I wanted to be in this industry and be in business for my family,” he says. “I wanted to help run a successful restaurant that not only my mom and grandfather, but also the rest of our family and friends, could be proud of.”
Now the GM at Mike Shannon’s, Gary works alongside his mother, Pat Shannon- VanMatre, on a daily basis. “I encouraged him to come back, and luckily, not only is he great at the job, he also loves it,” she says. “That’s exactly what you want as a mother if you’re recruiting your child into the business.”
Working together, mother and son respect each other’s opinions and the skills each brings to the work. “We feed well off each other because we both have different strong points,” Gary explains.
While Pat has taught him better attention to detail, Gary has shown his mother that he is capable of taking over more responsibilities at the restaurant. “He’s enabled me to step back and hand the reins over,” Pat says. “He’s been able to put his own fingerprints on the business and bring great ideas to the table.”
Gary’s younger brother, Justin, also has recently joined the family at Mike Shannon’s as front-of-the-house manager after returning from Australia, and Pat enjoys watching her sons carry on the family tradition. “I know it brings my dad a lot of pride to walk into this place,” she says. “I’ve tried to help him leave a great legacy in this city and my sons are doing the same for me.”
Julie Beckwith and Nicole Shelledy
With Julie Beckwith’s skills as a creative thinker and people-person, and Nicole Shelledy’s business and statistical abilities, the mother-daughter team works well together at Julie’s company, Home Helpers. “We have different skills and strengths, which complement each other,” she says.
After working together at another home health care agency, Nicole encouraged her mom to purchase Home Helpers in 2006. “I just kept telling her she had the right personality and ability to do this,” Nicole explains.
In Nicole’s role as director of management, she handles the bookkeeping, payroll and other behind-the-scenes items, all the while learning from her mother. “I have even more respect for her now, seeing how she communicates with people in making sure they’re on the same page and in resolving any issues,” she says. “It’s made me a more patient person who can relate better to people.”
Seeing each other a daily basis, their relationship has grown over the years. “Even though a lot of what we talk about is work-related, it still gives us more of an opportunity to connect and stay updated with each other’s personal lives,” Nicole says.
At the same time, Julie and Nicole are able to maintain professional roles at work, then “when we leave, we leave work at work,” Julie says. “We go back to being mom and daughter at home.”
By taking on more responsibility at Home Helpers, Nicole is preparing to one day take over the business and keep it growing, a prospect that Julie is content with. “One day I might retire, and it’s a comfortable feeling knowing the company will be in good hands.”
Lia Buzzetta and Paul Buzzetta
SAPORE ITALIAN CAFÉ
Learning how to cook is a rite of passage as an Italian, Paul Buzzetta says. Growing up in his parents’ restaurant, the former Benedetto’s Italian Ristorante, Paul graduated from bringing bread and butter to diners as a young boy, to making sauces and cutting meats and seafood in the kitchen by the time he was 12. “I learned 95 percent of what I know about food from my dad and especially my mom,” he says. “It was inspirational seeing how you go from a raw to a finished product.”
Although Paul had an equal love for soccer, an injury ended his hopes for a professional career, and he delved back into the restaurant business after college. After owning Limoncello in Clayton with his brother for three years, he opened Sapore Italian Café in 2009, sharing the chef duties with his mom, Lia Buzzetta. “We collaborate on dishes and share ideas with each other,” Paul says. “And as we’ve grown together, she trusts my judgment about food even more.”
While Paul has taken what his mother has taught him and modified it for a modern Italian kitchen, Lia knows he’ll still look to her for advice. “He doesn’t do anything unless he asks me, Mom, what do you think? We do everything together as a team,” she says. “It’s very joyful to see your children working with you.”
Beyond the culinary collaboration, Paul looks forward to spending as much time as possible with Lia. “Another thing about being an Italian guy is that I’m a momma’s boy. I get to see my mom every day, and that’s awesome—I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Just as Paul grew up learning from his mom, he now enjoys watching her impart the same wisdom to his two young sons. “I get to see them do the same thing I went through,” he says. “They’ll watch my mom and say, I want Nonna to teach me how to make pasta. It’s pretty cool to watch it come full circle and pass on to the next generation.”