“You never know.” It is a phrase written on a sticky note on my desk. My father taught me this at an early age and it stuck. He was a politician and we would go door to door when it was election season. Before someone opened the door, he would look at me and say the phrase. And it was true. Someone might come to the door in pjs looking stressed with screaming kids, and my dad would calmly thank her for her time. He would ask about her needs and give her as much respect as he did the elder man down the street.
Treating people equally with respect, regardless of what they look like or appear to be when you first meet them, is the cornerstone of how I approach life. I have met some incredible people over the years because of it.
First, I recommend everyone do at least one internship before getting a job. It helps better prepare you for the real world and should give you a glimpse into what to expect working in that profession. I was lucky to be in Orlando, FL when the city was a host site for the 1995 World Cup Soccer. I competed to be one of two interns with the host committee and got the role. This is where I learned more about event planning and public relations and decided to make that my major moving forward—which eventually became my profession.
I am obsessed with learning. I read everything I can get my hands on—magazines (have over 30 monthly subscriptions from food, travel, business, and entertainment), online articles and blogs, and books. There are a few annual events that are a priority to attend for educational and networking purposes—including the Southern Foodways Alliance’s symposiums. As a writer for The Daily Meal, I interview people doing interesting things and learn from their experiences and life lessons.
I try and surround myself with people who are much better than me at what they do and ask them as many questions as I possibly can. Great writing, fun and well organized events, awesome restaurants and bar with great menus are all inspirational. There is always Pinterest.
Inc is a really great magazine to learn from other leaders and is something I read cover to cover. Obviously any culinary related publications—Food + Wine, Bon Appetit, Lucky Peach, Saveur, Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, Cherry Bombe, and Gravy. New York magazine is great, and The New York Times is a
must, especially the Sunday edition.
When hiring, I look for people that have a great personality. They have to be a good person, have good morals, and have a good work ethic. If someone is negative or talks negatively about someone in an interview, that is a red flag. You cannot teach attitude or positive thinking. And if someone asks a lot of questions about the hours for the job or asks about working weekends in a problematic way, then that is not a good sign. This industry is 24/7 and no day is off limits. You work hard, but you play hard, so there is a balance but it is not 9 to 5.
I cannot live without my iPhone and laptop, including my calendar, even though I still have not found a great one that works best for me. I cannot live without my contact lists, whether it is a cell number or email address. I have lots of good ones that I can count on all of the time. And a good night sleep, positive attitude, and sense of humor. All very, very vital.
Making people happy, that is all it takes for me. I work for places that make people happy every single day. It is exciting to work hard to create successful programs and events for my clients so they can then institute them and in turn see successes—happy customers, loyal supporters, and good and important community good will. I get to share stories and help communicate creativity that is seen day in and day out at area restaurants and bars. No one is saving lives, but we help give people a place to enjoy their lives. The industry is also the most giving one and it is a great honor to be able to help charities local and afar, help raise the needed funds they need to survive.