Phillip DeVito worked in Oregon’s restaurant and hospitality industry for over 60 years. His career began in the late 1940s when he started working as a waiter in private clubs and fine dining restaurants in Portland to pay for college expenses and to support his family. Partway through a master’s degree in clinical psychology, he changed his focus to pleasing and entertaining guests through showman-style food preparation and excellent service. Soon, DeVito turned toward restaurant management responsibilities, eventually becoming a successful maître d’hôtel, sommelier (caviste), and cellar master. By the late 1950s, he discovered a passion for learning to pair wine and food flavors. DeVito shared his growing sommelier knowledge with the dining public as well as with those whom he supervised.
In 1972, Phillip DeVito became maître d’hôtel and cellar master for the fine dining and wine program at Salishan Lodge. During DeVito’s 22 years at Salishan, and through the support of Salishan owners John and Betty Gray, he developed a world-famous wine collection that received numerous prestigious awards. Under DeVito’s management, The Dining Room at Salishan received the highest hospitality industry awards from Mobil and Triple A. In 1988, Salishan received an award at the World of Wine Festival as “the greatest international wine list in America.” The Salishan wine list program received the top industry Wine Spectator Grand Award every year from 1983 to 1994, for quality of a collection that eventually totaled 32,000 bottles.
Initially an expert in international wines, as the Oregon wine industry developed Phillip DeVito became committed to its promotion. He is credited with supporting the emerging Oregon wine industry by selecting the best quality Oregon wines for the award-winning wine program he created at Salishan. He developed many friendships and business ties with early Oregon winemakers, and he educated the dining public and his staff about quality Oregon wines – especially Oregon Pinot noir.
Videos featured include DeVito’s retirement celebration in 1994 and a television appearance on a Portland morning show. There are also audio recordings of DeVito dictating the proper way to make a Caesar salad and answering callers’ questions on a radio show.