This interview was conducted by freelance writer Sarah Durn.
A Day in the Life of Hostess Alex, Who Started Work Only Days After Coming to the USA
What exactly does it take to keep an award-winning Cleveland restaurant running smoothly? From hostesses to managers to dishwashers, we’re giving you a behind the scenes look at what running a restaurant is really like.
Welcome to another installment of our “Day in the Life” series! Today, we talked with longtime Cedar Creek Grille staff member, Alex Nimachuk. Alex told us what a typical day looks like for her and how she always ends her workday swapping stories with her husband.
How did you get started working at Cedar Creek?
I came to America almost two years ago [from Ukraine]. And, I lived in an area near Cedar Creek, and I just was walking around. And, I saw the new restaurant, and it looked so nice and beautiful. And, they had a huge banner that said, “we are hiring.” And, I was like, “ok!”
And, the next day I came there, and I went up to one of the girls inside, Carley, and asked if they were hiring. And, she said, “yes, of course!”
So, I started to work at Lindey’s Lakehouse [Beachwood] as a food runner, and then in a few months, I started to work at both places [Lindey’s & Cedar Creek Grille]— both as a food runner.
Can you tell me a little about how you came to live in America?
So, my family started to move here, and I didn’t want to be left behind! So, I didn’t really choose Cleveland. It just kind of happened to me. And, that’s how I found Lindey’s and Cedar Creek Grille. It was maybe only my fourth day in America when I started to work at the restaurants!
It was difficult because I didn’t know much English, but everyone was so patient with me. Explaining everything until I would get it.
Now, I’ve started to work as a hostess. It gives me more opportunities to talk to people, so it has made my English better. It’s easy to read, to write [English], but it’s more difficult to understand someone talking. And, even more difficult to talk! But, I’ve gotten a lot better working at the restaurants.
What’s your favorite dish?
Probably the Thai steak salad. Also… the burgers are great! I love burgers. I always order the burger at Lindey’s and Cedar Creek when I get the chance. Or, the fish special is usually really good! It’s hard to choose just one.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No day is exactly the same at the restaurants. I meet many different types of guests. It makes me more patient with people. It can be difficult too, especially when we can’t sit someone where they want. But, you have to just do your best and be as helpful as you can. So, yes, I’ve learned a lot about being patient.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned working at the restaurant?
Working in the restaurant, the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to be part of a team. I know if I make a mistake, it’ll impact not only me, but everyone. I cannot do everything by myself. I need help just like everyone else needs help. It’s all about teamwork.
Was there a piece of advice you got that was helpful to you?
To not worry about yesterday! We are all people. We all make mistakes. If something went wrong yesterday, it’s ok. Don’t be afraid to ask someone or a manager for help. Just ask others who know first, and then ask them to teach you, so you can do better next time.
Also, just to be polite is a big one! Even if someone isn’t very nice to you, you should always be nice to them. No matter what.
What does a successful shift look like for you?
A successful shift is a busy shift when you can satisfy everyone! The guests, first of all. When you can sit them where they want to sit. When you can satisfy the people who you work with, like servers, to make sure each section is balanced. So, they can work effectively, and give enough attention to each customer. A successful shift is when we can give the perfect amount of attention to every guest.
Can you explain what you mean by that? What does it mean to keep each server’s section balanced?
Being a hostess is like a puzzle. Especially now, we want to make sure there’s space between tables. But, always, even when there’s not a pandemic, you want to try to keep the server sections balanced. Each waiter has a section of tables, and I make sure each server has the same amount of tables. So, then, all the servers make about the same in tips. So, I always have a list I’m writing down on which server’s section I’m going to try to sit someone in next.
But, you always have to try to give guests what they want too. Some people want a quiet spot or to sit by the bar or on the patio. Or, they want a specific server. So, it’s always about the guest too, and balancing that with table sections and servers.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you get home from a shift?
I will tell my husband how my day went, what situations I had. Every time it’s something new. When we’re eating, we’ll share our experiences from the day. What kind of people I met. What I learned today. What I can do better next time. I’m always trying to get better.