Born and raised in Peoria, Michael Little has been surrounded by food his entire life. His father was a butcher, and food brought their extended family together every Sunday after church. When he first started cooking for his family, Little was so young that he couldn’t even see the stovetop. “I would open up the [oven] door and use it as a ‘ladder’ to stand on,” he recalls with a chuckle. With his parents at work and his sister at basketball practice, he quickly learned to prepare dinner in the evenings. “I had great success with it, and it became my job.”
From his early experience as a fry cook at a local steakhouse, Little is now a proud first-generation business owner and restaurateur. He started Tongue & Cheek Catering out of his home, converting his garage into a full-service kitchen. But as word of mouth spread and the business expanded, he moved the operation to 1112 W. Pioneer Parkway about four years ago, and that space quickly grew into a restaurant: SLÈ Sexy Little Eatery.
At SLÈ (pronounced “slay”), Little serves up Southern-influenced comfort food—brisket, pulled pork, chicken, catfish, pork chops and the like—but he enjoys preparing all kinds of food. “I love Italian cuisine, and baking is my passion,” he notes. While he admits his restaurant’s name is unique, Little bats away any less-than-family-friendly misconceptions. “Food is sexy,” he declares. “It’s a celebration of good food.” The acronym was inspired by fine dining restaurants he encountered on the West Coast, which bring the first letters of their name together to make another word. And once you know how to pronounce it, SLÈ just rolls off the tongue. With a friendly enthusiasm and a palpable passion for his work, Little invites you to check out Tongue & Cheek Catering or visit SLÈ for dine-in, takeout or delivery.
- What is your favorite childhood memory? Preparing dinner for my family at the age of 12 years old.
- What was your first car? 1971 Chevy Caprice. I had to save my money and go buy my own vehicle.
- What would you say to your 20-year-old self? Be a better judge of character.
- What do consider your greatest achievement? Opening my own business.
- Words to live by: If you are not completely satisfied with the outcome of something that you have done, do it over.
- What is some of the best advice you’ve been given? Be the best you possible.
- What is something that always brings a smile to your face? Watching people enjoy food that I prepared.
- Favorite smell: Anything orange.
- What are your hobbies and interests outside of cooking? Outside of cooking, I love interior design and I love to grow plants.
- If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? Myself. PM