16:45 PM

Tomas Paredes: General Manager of Landside Grill

Loyal patrons of Tampa International Airport’s employee cafeteria, Landside Grill, may have noticed a little more spice and flavor to its daily specials menu over the last year. Mojo pork, chimichurri fish tacos and jerk chicken are now customer favorites that are served regularly in the small café, in addition to its usual grill items, made-from-scratch chili and popular salad bar.

Tomas Paredes, General Manager of Landside Grill is behind many of the cafeteria changes and improvements, which he feels better reflects the talents of his staff as well as the tastes of the customers.

“We changed the menu to accommodate different types of cultures here at TPA,” Tomas said. “We have so much diversity among the employees here, and people want more variety.”

Tomas also wanted to make the cafeteria more inviting and fun, decorating tables for Valentine’s Day and other holidays, as well as offering special desserts or dishes such as Guinness stew with cabbage and corned beef for upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. His attention to details and best use of staff, along with his vast experience working in food service, have helped Landside Grill be a successful addition to TPA’s concessions offerings.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Tomas moved to the United States when he was 10 years old. His father was a maintenance worker for Manhattan’s then-famous Downtown Athletic Club and his mother was a home attendant for the elderly, and together they raised eight children, including Tomas. When Tomas became old enough to work, a catering company his brother worked for liked the brother so much, they hired Tomas on the spot. At one point, all six of the eight Parades children worked for the company.

While working in catering, Tomas also learned he had a special talent for mixing cocktails, so he got his bartender’s license and began bartending on the side. After several years of saving money, Tomas and his wife, high school sweetheart Yani, decided they wanted to try to open their own restaurant. They moved to Lancaster, Penn., and opened a Spanish-American restaurant and café which they ran for three and a half years.

A few years ago, shortly after closing his restaurant and café, Tomas began working for Canteen, which provided food service around the country including at Tampa International Airport’s Landside Grill. In December 2017, he came to Tampa to interview for the cafeteria’s General Manager job and immediately clicked with the staff and TPA’s Concessions team.

“I love working with the people here,” Tomas said. “I don’t know if it’s a Florida thing since I’m from New York, but everyone is so nice. I try to treat everyone the same way.”

Tomas is often seen running around not only the cafeteria but the entire Airport, helping cater meetings and events in addition to keeping the Landside Grill hopping. He cooks, serves, works the cash registers, stocks, cleans manages and does just about anything that needs to be done.

When he’s able to relax, Tomas likes to spend time with Yani – now his wife of nearly 28 years – and his remaining child in the house, a 17-year-old daughter. He has two older children that live in New York and Pennsylvania and a grandson who was born shortly after he began working at TPA.

When he needs an escape, Tomas turns to his favorite hobby: Playing the video game Call of Duty.

“Hey, I’m really good at it,” he laughed.