It was the coolest thing he'd ever seen, so naturally he wanted to do it, too.

It was the coolest thing he'd ever seen, so naturally he wanted to do it, too.

Phil Hoffman was 10 years old when his parents, Jeanne and Phil Hoffman, took him to a restaurant that had a sort of floor show, a magician who worked the tables doing tricks.

Hoffman was hooked.

"I wanted to do that," he said last week.

Now 17 and a junior at Centennial High School, the Northwest Side resident, who specializes in close-up and strolling magic, performs every Monday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Applebee's restaurant in the Graceland Shopping Center.

Hoffman started what might well be a career path by asking for a magic kit from his parents after that first restaurant encounter with a sleight-of-hand artist, and then requesting books about the subject.

"This didn't come from us at all," Mrs. Hoffman said. "He was voracious.

"We were really pleased because it wasn't playing video games and things like that.

"Very early on it became clear he had a gift."

It became clear to Hoffman, too. Not only was he drawn to magic, the young man said, but he also he had a very real aptitude for it.

Hoffman said magic helped bring him out of his shell.

He admitted he was "introverted when I was little.

"When I started doing magic, it kind of gave me a heart for making people smile," he said. "That's really what it's all about."

Hoffman was scheduled to be among 20 competitors last weekend in the Arnold Quest for Talent Contest, part of the Arnold Sportsworld Kid and Teen Expo.

Hoffman, who began performing the same year he first started learning magic, won the Under-18 Amateur Magician competition sponsored by Miracles and Magic, according to his mother.

In 2013, he was awarded a scholarship from Ultimate Magic Productions to attend the Sorcerer's Safari magic performance camp in Ottawa, Canada.

"He likes the idea of doing the magic right in front of someone," Mrs. Hoffman said.

"No smoke and mirrors," her son chimed in.

Has the teen found his life's calling?

"I think so," Hoffman said.

"I want to have magic as my sideline, kind of attach that to whatever I do.

At Centennial, Hoffman is a percussionist in the Centennial Stars Marching Band and will cohost the school's upcoming multicultural festival. He is also active in Xenos Christian Fellowship.

"Magic tricks bring me joy in performing them," Hoffman said.

"I do some tricks and I fool myself. It's made me kind of like a better individual.

More information is available at the performer's website,