Offbeat

Monthly publication/newsletter giving you insights on the latest things that happen in the Learning & Development Space.

Episodes description, talks with leaders in learning and business discussing the current state of L&D in the world. There are two series available right now.

Melissa: Welcome to the cultur(Ed) podcast. I’m Melissa Jezior your host. On this podcast, I talk to top culture makers in the world today to unpack the visible and not so visible forces that make up this often-overlooked superpower of organizations. Season Two of cultur(ED) is focused on changemakers from the restaurant industry. With me today is Rebecca Reed with the Black Sheep Restaurant Group where she oversees the pastry programs at Black Sheep Orsay and Bell Weather restaurants in Jacksonville, Florida. Welcome Rebecca, thank you so much for joining us.

Rebecca: Thank you so much for having me.

Melissa: My family loves to bake, talking about 2020. This has been the year of the bake in the Jezior house, so I’m tempted to ask you all about your tips and tricks, but I’m going to refrain and try my best to stick to the topic at hand: restaurant culture.

Rebecca: I love it. Although, I really do love to teach people how to bake and it’s kind of amazing what 2020 has been like with people being stuck in their homes. There’s all this opportunity for virtual learning, and I’m all about it. I love it. So, look me up later, and I will

Melissa: Wonderful. So, In reading your background, I found it fascinating that you made a quick and dramatic shift to earn a degree in Sociology in North Carolina. And then moving to New York to study food. So, tell me the story behind that.

Rebecca: I feel like hindsight is always 2020, And when I look back, it’s maybe easier to explain. And, you know how I was feeling in the moment. But I had graduated from high school, and I had a scholarship to go to Wingate University in North Carolina. And I had sort of contemplated what doing a culinary degree would look like for me. And I have three sisters; they’re all really smart too . And I just thought, like, no, I have to use my brain. I really need to put my best foot forward, and the restaurant industry is so hard, and I don’t know if I would even make it and all of that, but I’d always like to cook. And then, fast forward a little bit, graduated from Wingate University, I was applying to grad school programs. I was engaged, I took the GRE twice, and I was really starting to get into it. But, I always had this reservation, because I love to make people happy, and I love to spread joy, but if you’re in a counseling field, and counseling people, that capacity does enrich people’s lives, and make people happy, and more whole, and all of that. But, it is incredibly hard to sit there with people on their worst days.

And I just found, for me, I would rather be with people celebrating on their best days, and sharing joy through food, then kind of be on the other end of it. And it’s like, maybe especially funny, because I wanted to be a marriage counselor, and I don’t know who like, wakes up and thinks like, oh, what a wonderful thing to do! Like, versus, right now I’d like spread sprinkles—I like throw sugar in the air, and I really get to make people happy doing what I’m doing. So, I think my heart has stayed the same, but, you know, the capacity to which I execute, everything is worlds apart.

Melissa: So, you’ve been up and down the East coast working at different restaurants. Is there anything that struck you about the different regional cultures that permeate into the business and restaurant culture, and work environments?

Rebecca: That is a big question, and I love it, because it really makes me think about hospitality. And that is so much of what we’re doing, and a lot of it is providing the experience for your guest. So it may be up north, providing the best experience is a faster pace more matter of the fact, you know dining experience versus in the South maybe people really want to know your name and they want to know the hosts, and they want the host to slowly walk them to their table and point out the blooming tree outside—whatever it might be.
And even the food, you know, the food that you eat and the way that you eat it. Maybe you need a quick bite because you’re on the run. Maybe you want the latest trend and this interesting, new innovative cuisine or, you know, maybe you’re in the South, you want something that reminds you of home, and you have time to sit there and really enjoy the experience and the environment.

So, it’s kind of interesting to think about like the North and the South and the things in-between that kind of play into hospitality.
Melissa: That’s such a good point, it’s funny, you say that when my sister lived in Wisconsin for a while, and I’m from the north-east, and I remember visiting her in the supermarket checkout line, and the supermarket checkout lady was looking at all my items. And saying “Oh are you guys having a party this weekend?” And I remember I was so taken aback that someone would actually engage in conversation at the supermarket with me and I never thought, you’re right, that same type of environment would translate into restaurants.

Rebecca: Yes, and people’s expectation of the connection that they have with the people is very different and what good service looks like. Is it fast paced? Or is it slow and very deep? It’s just different.

Melissa: So let’s talk about the back of the house for a second in that same regard. Have you noticed regional differences, in terms of in the kitchen, and in the back of the house, as it relates to restaurant culture?

Rebecca: It’s always different. Every restaurant has its own culture, and oftentimes it reflects the place that you are. When I worked in New York City, I was working with a bunch of very different people. There was a lot of diversity because it was New York City and there was a lot of diversity that was easily reflected there. And then you go to different places—like I’d worked in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and, you know, the demographic is not all that different. You know, it’s kind of the same. And it’s interesting, because you just sort of see these different—it’s like kitchen enclaves of whatever is there. And it’s definitely different from place to place, and even reflected in the age of the people working there. In New York, it was a lot of younger people that were trying really hard to make name for themselves and work their way up, and then you kind of trickle down, and you see other people that are older and still doing what they love on the line, in the restaurants. And it’s not this like churn that you go through in some of the bigger cities and stuff like that.

Melissa: So, I know that you work for three different restaurants. And so how alike or dissimilar are each of those restaurants? Not so much their menus, but their cultures.
Rebecca: I guess obviously the menus are different and there is kind of this like common thread of southern influence because we are in Jacksonville, Florida and that is there with the hospitality and things like that. But the thing that really sets each of them apart is that there’s a different executive chef for each. So, each chef really brings their personality and their leadership style to the restaurant. And that’s absolutely reflected in the culture of each place. And they are, it’s kinda like different facets of the same thing, because we are the same restaurant group and there are a lot of similarities, but even just things like the type of music that people listen to and the different kitchens can be so different. And it is pretty funny to hear like ragey, angry music, punk rock, whatever in one, and then you go to another and there might be like Canon in D and Mozart playing. And your head kind of spins a little bit, but at the same time, it’s interesting to prep food in the different ambiance, you know, the music, whatever’s happening all around you.

Melissa: So you said there was a single thread in the beginning and can you tell me a little bit more about that?

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