“There are many lessons I've learned throughout my career. The biggest one is that if I am not paying myself, I need to re-evaluate what’s happening. This is not a hobby; it is my livelihood and if I don’t value my time and compensate myself no one else will either. Many restaurateurs make that mistake (and I have in the past), but I’ve learned my lessons.„
The best pieces of advice I have received are always (always!) pay your taxes and hire people you genuinely like. I have to remember that if I come into work and find I’m upset by someone I’m working with, or I don’t like how someone reflects my business to others, I have no one to blame but myself. I don’t need to hire my best friends, but if I wouldn’t want to hang out with someone outside of work for a coffee or a hike, I probably shouldn’t hire them and have them representing Comida.
I knew this profession was right for me when I was 24, and I had a meal that changed the way I thought about what I had been doing for the last seven years, which was serving/ waiting tables. The meal was at The Gramercy Tavern in NYC, where I grew up. I had gone back for a quick visit, and a friend of mine took me there on a Sunday at 8 pm. By the time we left at 1 am or so, I knew for sure that serving and taking care of guests in a restaurant setting was what I wanted to do as my life’s work.
I make sure to take a least one full day off every week, ideally two if I can to maintain a healthy work/life balance. I maintain balance by living in the mountains and sleeping outside every night. I eat well, am thoughtful, and present, and I do yoga. I take care of myself, so I can be my best when I am at work both for my staff and the guests.
When hiring aspiring professionals, the ability to make eye contact is critical, and I also make sure there are no overpowering smells, like tobacco, perfumes, or body odors. More generally, I look for people who like serving, like taking care of other people’s needs. I like people with thick skin, who have interests and activities they love doing outside of work that feed them and make them better when they are at work, and I must have people who are empathetic and like being a part of a team.
I keep my team motivated and educated by making the restaurant more than just a place to work. We have fun weekly liquor education classes for all FOH staff members, and we hold a weekly yoga class for anyone on staff who wants to join in on the dining room before Friday lunch service.
Great service is ALWAYS inspirational and SO hard to come by, and I’m inspired when I experience it myself. When I do have that experience with someone who I can tell genuinely loves what they do, I love to share with my staff during pre-service how it felt and what they did in particular, a great reminder of our hospitality culture.
I am always reading cookbooks to learn and inspire. When I’m not reading cookbooks, I always seem to have service manuals in my hands to read. And, of course, I eat out when I can, to learn and grow!
I live about an hour from my restaurant, so my car is essential for me to do my work. My commute is a great time for decompression, allowing me to leave the cares of the day and listen to great Podcasts (another essential!) and audiobooks to get me to and from work daily. I’m better with both when I have a clear differentiation between my work and home lives.
I say "please" and "thank you" and make sure I lead by example with positivity and support when I am on the floor.
I’m also inspired when I hear how other organizations help support their staff to live a full and enjoyable life outside of work, it is always revelatory.
Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.
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