(Photo by Don Kadair)
Tsunami Baton Rouge
Hometown: Channelview, Texas
How do you define “success”?
Meeting your goals—personal and business—and always striving to better yourself and the people surrounding you.
What are your responsibilities as the general manager of Tsunami Baton Rouge?
Oversee all aspects of the restaurant, from employee and customer issues to compliance with health and sanitation codes. I also oversee budgeting and inventory needs, and am involved in helping to grow the business.
What attracted you to the position?
I believe the corporate staff is what attracted me the most. The vibe of the owners—Leah Simon, Michele Ezell, and Sean Ezell—really stuck with me during the interview process, and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.
How and where did you gain experience in restaurant management? What drew you to the profession?
I relocated to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I initially came in an EMS (emergency medical services) capacity to assist with the rescue/relief effort. I fell in love with the city and was ready for a change, ready to try something new. And in a city of food, the restaurant industry sounded like the way to go. I started waiting tables, tending bar, and eventually worked my way up the ladder in fine dining. I was the captain at Arnaud’s.
Tell about your EMS career. Did you hold any managerial positions?
I was in EMS for almost 20 years. I started as a volunteer for the fire department in my hometown; loved being on the ambulance and decided to make a career out of it. I attended San Jacinto College in Houston and studied EMS. Eventually I moved into the communications part of the field. I ended my EMS career as the director of communications.
The change in your career path—your second act—seems a bold move. What factors did you consider in making it?
I was very ready for a change. The high-stress, high-paced environment of EMS tends to wear on you. It was very challenging. But the only career I ever really knew was EMS. However, it was nice to shift into the restaurant environment, where I am meeting and interacting with people celebrating or enjoying their day versus always meeting someone on a bad day.
Is there any overlap in skills needed for restaurant management and for ambulance operations?
Customer service, for sure. I was very grateful for and appreciative of my EMS training. It has prepared me for so many challenges in my life.
What do you love about your job at Tsunami?
I love my staff and my co-workers. It has been a blessing.
What’s something that you believe the general public may not fully understand about sushi, as served at Tsunami?
Don’t knock it till you try it. It’s not all raw. The word “sushi” actually means cooked rice. So there are several different types of sushi depending on the topping.
In the few months since you became Tsunami’s GM, what is something essential that you’ve learned?
Always have your finger on the pulse of your community.
Apart from your work, are you involved in Baton Rouge’s downtown development?
Still getting my feet wet.
How would you characterize downtown at this stage in its revitalization, from the standpoint of one who has lived in Houston and New Orleans?
I think Baton Rouge is on the right track. For me, it’s nice to be in a city that is so rich in heritage but away from the hustle and bustle of a large city like Houston and away from the never-ending party of New Orleans—but close enough to both to make it easy to visit.
Would you describe yourself as a “foodie”? Do you enjoy cooking?
I love cooking but am not sure I would consider myself a foodie, but I really like to eat. I grew up with my family all around all the time. There were 21 of us at one point, so we cooked a lot. All extended family: aunts, uncles and cousins. We all shared communal property most of the time or at least within a few blocks of one another. Some of my fondest memories are of us at the table.
Have you had a mentor? Do you now serve as a mentor in some capacity?
I have had some of the best mentors. In EMS, I had the privilege of working with the best communications manager on the planet: Susie Marsan. She earned the nickname “The Disaster Queen.” She worked through the San Francisco earthquakes, the bombing in Oklahoma City, major hurricanes in Florida, and the bombing at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. So I always strive to help and teach as often as I can.
What is your most satisfying professional accomplishment?
I believe the day I made through paramedic school.
What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you’ve overcome?
Leaving a long, successful career in EMS and uprooting to New Orleans to start a new chapter in my life. It has been a little bumpy on the way, but it has been a blast and has helped me grow in so many ways.
What gets your workday off to a good start?
My staff—all 55 of them.
If you could have dinner with any three living people, other than relatives, who would they be?
Oprah, the Dalai Lama and Wolf Blitzer.
What do you do to unwind?
Take my dog for a walk and hang out with friends.
Do you have a favorite sport you like to play or watch?
I love to play racquetball and of course love the Saints and the Tigers
What are three of your favorite movies?
Star Wars, Titanic, and all superhero movies.
What is an item on your “bucket list”?
To travel the world. I would love to go to Australia one day.
If you could have any job other than your own, what would it be?
I think it would be very fun and interesting to be a pediatrician.
What website or app are you especially fond of?
Very into Facebook right now. Not sure how long that will last.
What is one travel destination you especially like?
The beach is my all-time favorite.
What is your prescription for living well?
Be happy, celebrate life, and love with all your heart.