Today we’d like to introduce you to Star Gilani.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Star. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My journey in the hospitality industry started at a tender age of 16 where I held my first job as the hostess for Chili’s in Sugar Land. I was instantly infected by the organized chaos of the restaurant industry and looked forward to coming to work every day. My passion for food was heightened, and I decided to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. I read about the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston and decided to pursue higher education there. The catch was that I was broke, and my parents couldn’t afford to help me with college at that time. So, I found another way – I started taking classes at the Houston Community College and maintained a 4.0 average throughout my tenure which allowed me to apply for numerous grants and scholarships. 2.5 years later, I finally ended up at the University of Houston.
Three years later, I graduated the Summa Cum Laude from the Conrad N. Hilton College and left with a new found understanding and love of the hospitality industry. I started my first full-time (or grown-up job as I like to call it) as an Event Coordinator for the City of Sugar Land. In about three months of that, I was promoted to the Tourism & Marketing Manager for the City of Sugar Land.
In my new role, I branded Sugar Land as the “Sweetest City in Texas” and created a plethora of programs to unite the City’s tourism partners. It was my dream job and I was great at it, but a part of me always felt like I needed to be my own boss.
It took me eight months to come to terms with quitting my well-paying job to start Best Bites Houston, a food tour company covering the diversity of Houston’s food & culture. My entrepreneurship journey was definitely a shaky one. It took me a full year to establish my first tour and there were many moments where I wanted to give it all up, but I kept pushing by staying grounded to who I am and always being cognizant of what I really wanted out of my life.
It’s been ten years since I started working at Chili’s and I can say that I have the same enthusiasm for food and people as I once did. And although I am about to launch my own business, I still feel like I am in the beginning stages of a lifelong entrepreneurial career.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Nothing worth having comes easy and there have been many obstacles in my journey as a young professional and entrepreneur. From being broke to facing sexism and ageism – I’ve experienced it all. In fact, my own parents didn’t support my decision to quit my reputable government job.
What I realized through all of this (especially in my encounters with sexism and ageism) is that you have to always stay rooted to WHY you’re doing what you’re doing and to remember that some people are just assholes (yes, I said it). You won’t ever be able to change anyone’s opinion about you, but you can control your reaction and how you let it affect you. This is why I take time to reflect on my “why” when I come across an obstacle or uncomfortable situation.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Best Bites Houston – what should we know?
Best Bites Houston is a premier Food Tour company that explores the diversity of Houston’s food & culture one bite at a time. We provide an immersive tour experience where you eat tons of delicious and diverse bites while exploring the cultural, historical and architectural landmarks of the area.
I started this business because I’m extremely passionate about Houston food. To me, the food here evokes memory, it immerses you in a different culture and gives you a glimpse of the hearts and minds of some of Houston’s best chefs. Because of these reasons, I decided to create the ultimate way to experience the most diverse city in the United States.
Our first tour is the Houston Bites & Sites Food Tour. It is a three-hour walking food tour that features five diverse tastings and enough booze to give you some liquid courage. While you’re eating, you’ll get you to learn about the hands that are cooking the food at these local Houston restaurants and the passion these local restaurateurs and specialty shop owners share for the Houston community. In between tasting, we share historical sites, architectural landmarks and cultural significances of the area. Basically, you’re guaranteed to leave the tour with a few Houston secrets that even locals don’t know about.
Our goal is to feed your bellies and your mind. We want you to feel immersed in the culture and diverse food offerings and see why Houston is a must-visit destination for any foodie.
By attending a Best Bites Houston tour, you are directly supporting numerous small businesses in Houston. I hope you’ll join me soon to eat, learn and explore Houston like you never have before!
What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
In my opinion, the glass ceiling is the same everywhere. Although we are in 2019, many individuals still believe that women can’t hold leadership positions or even start their own companies. The best way to overcome this is to never give up on what you ultimately want. The glass will eventually crack when the force is united and persistent.
- $65 (5 tastings and 2 alcoholic beverage pairings)
- $75 (5 tastings and 5 alcoholic beverage pairings)
- Instagram: @StarEats
Best Bites Houston