Long Island Chef Michael Landesberg Makes Paying it Forward Part of His Repertoire

Hitting the lotto is usually a good thing but as Executive Chef Michael Landesberg puts it, when he found out he had a rare form of male breast cancer, the news was as devastating as it was unlikely.

“I literally hit the breast cancer jackpot,” Landesberg wrote in his survivor story.

While quarantining during Covid, the then 46-year-old found a lump that turned out to be a very unusual case.

As he put it, the chances of a male getting breast cancer are 1 in 1000 and the chances of a male being HER2+ (the type of cancer he was diagnosed with) are just 5%.

“And they also find out that these numbers generally coincide with people over the age of 60,” Landesberg said.

The prognosis was not good.

“I was given a year to live,” he told us in a recent phone interview.

That was 2020. Three years later, Landesberg is cancer free and doing well.

“I got very lucky,” he said.

Landesberg also made a pledge.

“When I get better I am going to be there for others,” he said.

It’s a promise he has kept and continues to keep over and over again. Landesberg’s Facebook page is filled with examples of his generosity and kindness, something that he says is viral.

“Courtesy is contagious,” he says. “It’s kind of my catchphrase.”

Landesberg has been the executive chef and general manager at Jackson Hall in East Islip for two years now. With 35 years of experience in the restaurant industry, he knows the pleasure that a good meal gives to people and part of his repertoire now is providing opportunities to pay it forward. When he’s not in the kitchen he’s out and about patronizing other restaurants across Long Island, writing up reviews and sharing his message.

Recently, Landesberg went to a new restaurant near him called Nice Day Chinese Food and wrote up a review that he shared on the popular Facebook foodie group, Long Island Food & Drink.

“The former home of Wongs noodle town in Plainview New York is now the home of nice day, Chinese, which is serving up, house made Dim Sum  along with some other specialty dishes that you would have to drive to Flushing for,” he wrote.

Because of that post, Angelo Mylonas, the owner of Greek Cove restaurants with a number of locations in Nassau County tried out the new Chinese food spot. He liked it and mentioned the review Landesberg gave them. As he tells it, before this, Landesberg and Mylonas had never met each other but coincidentally, they met up the next day at Restaurant Depot.

“This guy Angelo says ‘I follow you on Facebook and because of what you did the owner at the Chinese restaurant comped my meal,’” Landesberg said. “And she says ‘tell Michael I want to meet him.’”

But Mylonas didn’t want a free meal so he handed Landesberg a fifty dollar bill and told him to pay it forward. Landesberg posted about the exchange on Facebook.

“Why am I holding a $50.00 bill?” he asks in the post. “Angelo got me in the parking lot this morning and gave me a $50 bill and told me that he wants to pay it forward and buy someone a gift card to Jackson Hall American Bar & Grille.”

And that’s exactly what Landesberg plans to do. On Saturday night, he’s going to raffle off a $50 gift certificate to anyone who has a reservation at Jackson Hall that night.

Landesberg often posts these types of encounters on Facebook.

“It’s really been catching on,” he said “It shows the camaraderie in the restaurant industry.”

One time, the owner of Popei’s Clam Bar in Bethpage said he wanted to get in on it and gave away gift certificates to his place, inspired by Landesberg.

Jackson Hall is very busy, according to Landesberg, and he wants to use that success to continue to pay it forward any way he can.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” said Landesberg.

So his goal is to help other restaurants and do good for the industry as a whole.

“I believe in doing nice things for people,” he said.

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