Q. How long have you been with Olive Garden and Darden? What job positions have you held besides your current one, if any?
A. I’ve been with Darden 35 years — 14 years at Red Lobster and 21 at Olive Garden. I started in Production at Red Lobster – peeling, slicing and breading shrimp – but I also worked as a server. I developed a shellfish allergy so I transferred to Olive Garden, where I worked as a server for a year and then moved back to line cook, the job I love the most. I also opened 12 new restaurants, working as a trainer.
Q. What do you like best about your job, and why?
A. Being a line cook is challenging — getting the food out to the guests in a timely manner and making it look and taste great. I’m constantly learning, and it never gets boring. A line cook is never caught up.
Q. Would you recommend Olive Garden as a good employer to your friends and family?
A. I have! All three of my sons have worked at this restaurant, and one has been here five years. Darden has taken good care of me with benefits such as 401(k) and health insurance, and it offers plenty of opportunities for growth. In 2006, I was sent to the Culinary Institute of Tuscany in Italy for culinary training. I was one of nine culinary assistants chosen from across the nation, and in my free time I saw the sights in Siena, Florence and Rome. It was a fun opportunity that no other company would have offered.
Q. What are you most proud of?
A. The training I’ve done at new restaurant openings. I’d stand back and watch the new team members do their jobs, and it was a good feeling. It’s also nice when a manager I had trained comes in to the restaurant. When they stay with the company and succeed, it makes me feel great.
Q. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A. I just got my first smartphone! It’s taking me a little while to get used it after all those years with a flip phone. I’m texting okay, but when I try to take a photo, it takes a hundred of them. I haven’t figured out that function yet.