Service Sessions: Steph Pajak | Gracie’s Host

Here at Gracie’s Venture, we have upwards of 60 employees. Each month, we interview members of the team to get an inside look on how the Venture functions. I had the pleasure of speaking with Dante Foggy, a newer member of our team. Here’s his inside look!

By Kelly Doran

What is your role at Gracie’s? How long have you been here?

I’m currently a host here at Gracie’s, and I’ve been here for 4 years. I started here as a polisher, and back of house as a teen.  In my senior year of high school, I started front of house. I went to college and graduated with my bachelors, but I always came back to help and give a hand.  I keep coming back because of this team. It’s an amazing team to work with; it’s a place to be hospitable, which is such a huge part of me now. I’m such a foodie, I really enjoy wonderful service, and I know I can get that here. This is my extended family. Gracie’s feels like home. I’ve been here long enough, I’ve seen some of the turnover we’ve had, and I can say, that even with these turnovers, the values  remain the same. We are dedicated to our guests, and our value system stays the same, even when we’re growing.

What is your favorite part about working within the Venture?

To narrow it down, I love our food. The food is delicious and always changing. We want to surprise you, and make you feel comfortable. We want you to try something different. Since I’ve worked here I’ve been able to try so many different things, duck, venison, octopus. My favorite part about working here is being able to invite people into our world, and getting to show them what we do here. We are next level here, and we are able to provide a next level of Love to each and every guest. Things might not always run as smooth as we’ve planned, but there is a need in me to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. I want to go above and beyond. I want them to feel Extra, EXTRA Special. I let our guests know, honestly, what the plan is to better their experience. It comes down to respect. We respect our guests, and they respect us. The host team here have made many magical things happen, weather it be saving the best seat in the house for a 50th wedding anniversary to pulling off surprise birthday parties, weddings, rehearsal dinners. We want to make sure that every guest has a memorable experience. My favorite part is making simple, clear choices that benefit our guests, who always come first.

What does your ideal dinner look like?

It looks like, my family and friends, lot’s of laughter, my boyfriend. It would involve the people who are closest to me, the people who help make up our back bone, knowing that when we’re together, we are happy. There HAS to be cheese, Has to be cheese on the plate. I used to be a sweets kind of girl, but now, It just has to be cheese, and there has to be sorbet or some form of ice cream involved! Cheese, Family and Sorbet, enjoying simple pleasures with the people I love the most. At the end of the day, you may not remember the exact dish or the exact service, but you WILL remember the people that you dined with. There are definitely things that have to be on the plate or served a specific way, but it really comes down to the memories made while you are dining. It is all about the people with you at the table. You have to enjoy that aspect.

What is a food you HATE, and a food you LOVE?

I do NOT liked canned beets. My mom loves them, canned and I tell her all the time that canned beets are gross!  I, however, enjoy the beat salad that we have here with the nicely cut, fresh beets with blue cheese.  I used to dislike Mushrooms so much,was not a huge fan at all.  Gracie’s as a team loves to continue our education, and we get a chance to do that through some of the trips we take to farms or restaurants, vineyards, and breweries, We took a trip to RI Mushroom company,and learned so much about Mushrooms on that trip. When you know how hard people have to work to produce this food, it gives you a better appreciation. Mushrooms will never be a favorite of mine, but I was able to take some mushrooms home. I used them in dinner, cooked with them that night. It’s a better understanding of the food we are learn about.

For foods I LOVE: Seafood. Always will be. I grew up on the water, boating, and I love all things summer and water and Rhode Island! There are foods that you insists you will never try, but end up trying it and liking it. Gracie’s as a whole is conducive to education when it comes to food, wine, and hospitality. There are definitely times where the I learn so much from the front servers here, about food, wine, hospitality, and that plays a part on how I view the food and wine. I ask the front servers :what did you learn today” so I can also learn it too!  Gracie’s really does try to provide information for us so we can help better our system and skillset. If a guest calls, to say, check on the fish for the night. I can assist them with just a quick check in with the Chef, because I was able to learn about the fish and how it’s prepared and served. There are restaurants where you cannot try the dishes your serving, or the wine. I want to learn, try, and spread the education to my team members.

You’ve helped shape and mold the host program here at Gracie’s. What inspires you to give that one percent better every shift? What drives you to teach the next host successful?

Honestly, what pushes me to get to that one percent every day is the smiles! Feeling and knowing that I perhaps have made your dinner better or your day better, drives me to be better each shift. When people come in, they come from their long days. Having a guest say to me “ Thank You, the food was delicious, and the service, Great. Being able to help provide the experience to the guest, to where they leave here happy, and full. We’ve been involved in many people’s special events and assisting those people and helping them reach their goal and help them to make those memories, That is what the one percent is about for me.

What  is the one thing you want guests to know, that they don’t know now?

I want guests to know, that sometimes, Restaurant Life can be hard sometimes! I think every person in any given workforce, should work in fine dining at least once in their lives because it teaches you about patience, hard work, consistency,  teamwork, independence. There are so many life lessons that you can learn ! It takes maturity to work in fine dining. When it seems like we have a floor plan that just won’t work, and you think things look impossible…you have to remember that, here at Gracie’s, the word impossible doesn’t exist. I want people to know that so much hard work goes into a single service, and that it’s all about the details.

Describe a time where you needed to go above and beyond to make a guests night extra special. What drove you to do that?

Sometimes, we cannot always control the duration of a guests stay. I had one couple in particular that comes to mind. They came to us to celebrate a special event, and I  knew that these guests were going to wait. My instinct says to get these guests seated right away, but my education of what makes us stand out tells me to try and wait for a cozier or more secluded table. I let this couple know, that I would have a more romantic table, and gave them an honest timeline as to when this table might be available. The guests were seated, and said “ Thank you, this was the BEST food, the BEST Service, THANK YOU for the romantic table, we will be back”. I want to Provide THIS kind of service to every single guest who enters our doors. We’ve pulled off weddings, surprise parties, engagements, you name it, we’ve done it, and as special as those events are, as unique as those events are, MY drive comes from providing every single guest with that above and beyond. That’s where my drive comes from. If you are honest about the wait or the plan with the guests, it’s only going to benefit the guest. With this couple who were celebrating a special event with us, I brought them over to the table we had talked about waiting for, and their faces lit up when they saw the table, and were so very happy. I took a risk, and it paid off!