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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Mickey Bakst

Mickey Bakst, born in 1952, was raised in Detroit, Michigan. He moved to Newport Beach, California, in the early 1970s. A friend needed someone to check IDs at his club, The Studio Cafe. Bakst volunteered. The restaurant captivated him. In 1974, he became a partner in The Studio Cafe. In 1982, Bakst suffered a drug overdose. He moved back to Detroit to recover and commit to sobriety. While living in Detroit, Bakst educated himself about fine dining, working as a waiter and in other front of house positions.

In 1986, Bakst started running the front of house at Tapawingo, a rural fine dining restaurant in Ellsworth, Michigan. His staff consisted of dairy farmers, teachers, and other Ellsworth residents.  In 1993, Bakst left Tapawingo to help create Tribute, a fine dining restaurant in the Detroit area. He worked there until 2003. In 2004, Bakst took a job as the maitre d’ hôtel at the Charleston Grill in Charleston, South Carolina. His commitment to hospitality has earned him the title “unofficial mayor of Charleston.”

Date of interview:

Annemarie Anderson

Grace Beahm Alford

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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