Each month we feature a woman in business who personifies what it means to be a Business Betty- she is confident, smart, stylish and successful. Do you know a woman that you consider a Betty? Tell us about her by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Center Square Grill is an American steakhouse that features 28-day dry aged NY strip, great pastas, and fresh fish as well. Center Square Grill is a great place for business lunch meetings, with many “quickfire” options, as well as the ability to do a variety of catering events. We are small town feel, with big city taste.
How did you get started?
I started working in a bakery in northern New Hampshire, as a dishwasher, and eventually climbed up to manager. From there I took a second job making tea time pastries for a 4-star/4-diamond Inn in Vermont, where I met my husband (who is my chef mentor). This was when I had a dose of reality into what a “real kitchen” looked & worked like. At this point, I was terrified because I thought I knew what I was doing! Nerves got in the way for the first couple of weeks, and I was almost fired. Chef told me, ”You need to produce something worthwile…..TODAY!” Heard, Chef!!! This was when I pulled off my almond cake, and I was good! I continued to work with only pastries, while watching and listening to my husband, trying to tap into his vast culinary brain to learn as much as I could. It wasn’t until my husband needed an expeditor in his kitchen, that I really got a rude awakening into the savory cooking world! He said ”You can do it. It’s really not too tough. Just make sure the line gets food out from each station at the same time, and you sell it to the right waitstaff.” Ok! Simple enough! Until your on the window, on Memorial Day weekend, beach resort town. you only have READ the menu AND don’t know a damn thing about WHAT station the food is coming from or how long it takes to cook!!! I will never forget that night! It was the best night ever, even though it was my worst performance ever, and at the end of service I was outside crying & throwing up!!! Every step of the way, I have been given oppurtinites where I have no idea what I’m getting into, and, being Irish and stubborn, I do everything to excel at it. My biggest fear, is failure! I feel like there is a lot to learn from doing it the hard way!
What inspires you?
The seasons. I get excited at the start of each season because it’s time to change menus and refresh what we are doing. In the winter meals are warm and hearty, and it’s all about deep, slow cooked flavor. With spring, vegetation comes back to life, waters warm up, thaw out and we slowly get to start cooking a bit lighter and introducing whatever is growing or being caught. By the time summer starts, everything is alive and bright and it’s all about crisp, clean, fresh cooking. One thing I look forward to at the beginning of summer is when the Copper River in Alaska is opened up for fishing of wild salmon. In the fall, my favorite time, there is an energy in the air. People are looking forward to all the classic flavors – pumpkin, cranberry, figs, apples, and warm spices. I always enjoy baking the most this time of year with all those flavors, it seems to remind people of family and home
What’s the best part of being in charge?
The challenges that present themselves everyday and trying to find a solution for them.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day always starts with coffee at 6:30! Then I wake up our 11 year old daughter and get her ready for school, and my husband takes her to the bus stop while I wake up our 6 year old daughter and get her ready for school. After the girls are off to school, I get ready for work and then stop for iced coffee on my way. For the next 20 minutes, it’s the only time my husband and I have to chat without anyone interrupting, so we try to cram in as much conversation as possible! Once I get to work, I fire up my computer and turn on Pandora. From there….”typical” pretty much ends! Everyday is different depending on orders, catering, prep, staff, functions, etc. Thats part of what I love about work in my field. You can plan as best you can, but there is always something you didn’t plan for and you have to be ready to adjust to it, and help your staff adjust to it as well.
How do you keep things current?
I read a lot, whether it’s online or print. Everyone in the building has different experiences that can bring fresh ideas to the kitchen, and I enjoy listening to their ideas and thoughts based on their exposures. We like to change our menus seasonally, or if an item isn’t selling. Our customers are the barometer of what is current in our specific market.
What is the one tool you couldn’t live without?
Sharpies! during dinner service, I need to write ticket times and modifications on slips. Throughout the day, I’m always writing notes about schedules, ideas, or reminders and I feel lost without at least two sharpies on my chef coat at all times. Friday and Saturday nights I typically have 3 or 4 to start dinner service with, and then by the end I have 1 or 2 left because I leave them all over the place!
What is your most popular dessert?
One that is on our current menu is my chocolate cake. It’s a moist chocolate cake, filled with chocolate frosting, and covered in chocolate ganache. Others include lemon curd, rugelach, and almond cake, with apricot jam fililng. At home it’s apple pie!
How do you relax?
I like to relax with my family on Sundays. It’s the one day we are all home together. In the fall, we watch our Pittsburgh Steelers and eat all day! The rest of the year, we will go shopping, go on road trips, or stay home and play games together.
What is your motto or theme song?
“Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery”. When people want to do what you do, or act the way you act, it is a testament to what your all about.
What do you do when you’re having a bad day?
Just keep on moving through it, because tomorrow is another day and it won’t last forever! (I’ve been known to have pear vodka with sprite and a splash of pineapple juice too!)
What advice do you have for a woman starting a career as a chef?
Be ready to work your ass off! It takes a lot of hard work, heart, and commitment to be successful in this business. Be willing to start and the bottom, and work your way up. Don’t let anyone hand you anything you haven’t earned. Pay attention to all the small things, because the small details will set you apart. Don’t take anyone’s shit, but have a sense of humor. Know that you will screw up along the way, but as long as you know how or why you screwed up and can figure out how to fix it….dont give up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or say you don’t know something. Don’t act like you know everything, because you never will.
What’s the nicest compliment you’ve received about your work?
I’m not sure that it is necessarily a compliment directly…but when I make something the sparks a personal memory, it sticks with me. I’ve been told my rugelach tastes just like the old Jewish shops in NYC. I made a basic veggie dip with dill, and my friend from Bulgaria said it was just like a classic dish from home. When something I make evokes those kinds of memories, and people share them with me, it makes me feel good.
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