Meet Tom

Tom is the creator of my all time favorite WHBC food – the Shrimp and Grits.  Seriously, you need to run your buns down here on a Sunday to get some.  Best thing ever.  I surprised him with his interview because of my lack of planning this week, but he took it like a champ.
Tom1
Quick Facts:
Name: Thomas Owen
Age: 38
Position: Sous Chef
Birthplace: Baltimore, MD
Favorite WHBC  Beer: Bell Ringer
Favorite WHBC Food: BBQ
Education: TCC Culinary Program

WHBC: Thanks for taking a a little while to sit and chat with me today!  I know it was a surprise!  So you were born in Baltimore; how did you get here to Smithfield?
T: My parents.  Ha ha.  We moved here when I was 2 or 3 months. My dad worked for Smithfield Foods and got transferred here.
WHBC: How long have you been a chef?
T: I am a culinary graduate from Tidewater Community College. I worked at The Grille, Reel Inn, and here.  I’ve been cooking since I was about 15 years old; it just seems like second nature.  I had chefs in my family, so I got into it and started doing my own thing.
WHBC: Do you remember the first thing you ever made and thought to yourself, “Self, this is good!  I can do this!”
T: Hmmm.  I can’t exactly remember, but it was probably BBQ – I’ve been around pork my whole life.  It’s my favorite.
WHBC: So tell me, are there any cardinal sins of BBQ?  I’ve heard some chefs get very offended if you do certain things to your BBQ (like put coleslaw right on top – sorry not sorry).
T: For people who cook it, it’s that they don’t let it cook long enough.  They try to rush it, but you can’t rush good BBQ – you have to take time and have patience.  As far as eating it, to each his own.  I guess I could say try the meat before you drown it in sauce.
WHBC: You’ve worked here how long?
T: Since we opened.  I grew up with Betty’s youngest daughter, so I knew their family.  When Pam told me about Wharf opening, I came over.  Betty, Pam, and I have been working together since we were all at The Grille.
WHBC: Your culinary education?  What does that consist of?
T: I have two degrees actually. One in Culinary and the other in High Voltage Electricity.
WHBC: Ha! Do you ever use both degrees at the same time?!
T: I try not to…that’d be a little shocking.
WHBC: Do you have advice for someone who might want to be a chef one day?
T: Well, when I was a teachers aid at school, I told the students if you don’t have a passion for it, you won’t succeed.  Whatever your passion, just do it.  Working in a kitchen is hard and you have to be committed.
WHBC: Great advice!  So even though it’s tough, what’s your favorite part about working here?
T: The people.  Definitely.  Dave is an amazing person to work for, and the rest of the guys all bust their butts.  It’s a really great work environment.  I’m impressed everyday at how hard everyone works to put out really great food.
WHBC: Do you have a favorite shift you like to work?
T:  No.  This isn’t a job, it’s my passion, so I work whenever I can.
T: We are always joking around.  All the staff is serious about our jobs, but we have a good time.  It’s always been my motto if you can’t have fun at work, why do it?
WHBC: Agreed!  There are times I’m sure it’s less fun than others.  What is your strategy for getting through those crazy busy times?
T:  Just hunker down and get the job done.  There’s no sense in worrying about things, just do it.
WHBC: So when you’re done working, what do you do to unwind?
T: Time off?  Is there such a thing?!  Well, I have a wife, an 8 year old daughter and a 4 year old son.  I spend all my free time with them.  We like to travel; we just came back from a vacation at the beach, we went to Disney a little while ago.  Anything to get outside and hang out with them.
WHBC: Cool.  So last question so you can get back to work.  If you could have a superpower, what would you pick?
T: That’s a loaded question.  Hmmm.  I’d say the power to heal.
WHBC:Why that one?
T:My father has cancer, and I’d want to be able to heal him.
WHBC: That would be a great power to have…
Now that I’m crying into my beer, we’ll end the interview.  If you see Tom emerge from the kitchen, be sure to say hello!
Tom2
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Meet Betty

I had to catch Betty in between tables to fit her interview in – the pub was packed while we were talking!  If you’ve visited our local restaurants anytime in the last two decades, chances are you’ve seen Betty around.  We’re going to shine the spotlight on her to get to know her just a little better…
 Betty color
Quick Facts:
Name: Betty Carter
Age: 65
Position: Server
Birthplace: Dunn, NC
Favorite WHBC Guest Beer: Pineapple Cider
Favorite WHBC Food: Grilled Shrimp
Education: Sanford Central High School, NC.  I got my GED the same year my Pam graduated!

WHBC: Thanks for taking a few minutes here and there to sit for this!  I’ll start with the basics – How long have you been at Wharf?
B: Since day 2.  I worked for Robert when he owned the Grille, then worked for both owners after, off and on.  I was working at Reel Inn when I heard Robert was opening a new restaurant.  So I called him up and said, “Robert is what I hear true?”  He said, “It depends on what you heard!”  I asked him if he was opening a new restaurant and he told me about Lee and how he was helping Lee open Wharf Hill.  I asked him to keep Pam and I in mind for staffing, and he let me know we were the first two he thought of!  Pam is my daughter.
WHBC: So you followed Robert here – why?  What do you like about working here?
B: Three things: The staff, the management, and the customers.
WHBC: Do you have a favorite customer?
B: The McConnells. I think that’s spelled right.  They’re so nice, easy going, and very polite.  Also, Don & Candie.  They were customers of mine at The Grille, then Reel Inn, then they followed me here.
WHBC: Are you here full time?
B: No. I work 4 shifts a week.  I work full time, five days a week, for Western Branch Diesel as a payroll clerk.  I’ve been there 42 years.
WHBC: Wow!  That’s incredible!  So if you work there full time, and here 4 shifts a week, what do you do in your spare time?  Or is that a mythical idea?  Is spare time even a thing for you?!
B: Not really!  When I’m not working, I’m sitting and resting, and sleeping.  That’s just the reality of it!
WHBC: Do you have any days off total during the week?
B: I do have Sundays off to get caught up on everything.
WHBC: I’m tired just listening to your schedule! When you do find yourself with spare time, or time off, do you have a hobby?  What do you like to do?
B: We like to camp.  We have a travel trailer.  Our favorite place to camp is Bethpage Resort.  We call it the Cadillac of campgrounds.  We like Hatteras also.
WHBC: Getting back to work, since that’s where most of your time is spent anyway!  I’m sure after working in this industry since the 90s, you are familiar with getting in the weeds.  What’s your best strategy for getting out?
B: Holler out for help! You have to ask for help.  Make sure you use big letters for that – HELP!
WHBC: Haha.  I couldn’t agree more!  I was a server for five years and agree you have to rely on each other!  Who is one of your favorite people to work with and why?
B: Debbie, because… {we just got slammed.  Please imagine your favorite telephone hold music at this time.  We will return shortly!}

WHBC: Aaaaand, we’re back.  Two hours later. Okay, so you said you like working with Debbie.  Why is that?
B:  You know what it is?  She’s an excellent team player.  I mean, I like working with everyone, but I really like working with her.  It’s like we understand each other.
B: You asked me before about something funny that’s happened while I’ve been working.  The only thing that came to mind was the time I was walking up from the kitchen, not a thing in my hand, and tripped up the stairs.  Fell right down on the floor and was so embarrassed all I could do was lay there laughing!
WHBC: Haha.  Tripping over nothing is a common thing – it’s okay.  I’m glad you weren’t hurt.  Okay last thing because I know it’s super busy tonight!  Tell me something most people wouldn’t know about you?
B:  Probably that I smoked for 14 years.  I quit in 1976.
WHBC: Congratulations!  That’s hard to do.  Okay, let’s get back to work – thanks for taking the time to let us get to know you! I appreciate you!
B: Well thank you!  I appreciate everyone!
Betty makes me smile every time I see her!
Betty BW
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Meet Traun

This week, we will spotlight Traun.  I caught him for a few minutes before his shift last week.

Traun 1

Quick Facts:
Name: Traun Greene
Age: 36 – Bday Nov 24 (he’s 2 days older than me!)
Position: Kitchen supervisor
Birthplace: Smithfield, VA
Favorite WHBC Beer: Bell Ringer
Favorite WHBC Food: A different chicken sandwich
Education: Smithfield High, Johnson & Wales

WHBC: Thanks for not hiding from me in the kitchen!
Traun: Haha.  No problem.
WHBC: So, how long have you been at Wharf?
T: Since we opened. I worked at CW Cowlings for 13 years.  I left there to work at Ruby Tuesday, but it was just too corporate for me.  So when I heard about the opening here, I came in.
WHBC: What do you like about working here?
T: I like the family feel.  Dave lets us be creative too.  We can make new stuff if we want.  There’s a light mood here to that make me want to work.
WHBC: So what exactly do you do for the kitchen?
T: Most of the time I make sure things are stocked and everything looks good before it leaves the kitchen.  I want to make sure the customers enjoy what we make them.
WHBC: What happens in your mind when it gets slammed?
T: I’ve been at this so long, I just go on auto; it just kicks in.  I do what has to be done.  Sometimes I jump in on the line.  I think it makes it a little easier for me because I’ve been trained by so many great people.
WHBC: Has there ever been anything super crazy to happen to you at work?
T: One night during a storm, the lights went out.  The kitchen was pitch black – you couldn’t see anything.  We couldn’t see, people were falling down the stairs.  Oh and there was another time that Alex (who isn’t here anymore) mix bleach and another chemical while he was cleaning and  put it in a hot skillet.  He made this cloud of noxious gas that filled the kitchen.
WHBC: So he pretty much tried to poison everyone?
T: {laughing} Yeah. Haha.  We had to open all the doors to air it out.
WHBC: I’m glad everyone survived. What would people say is the best part about working with you?
T: Probably that I am always ready to work and usually in a good mood.
WHBC: Have you ever hurt yourself in a weird way?  (I don’t know why I ask this question other than to laugh at other people’s situations)
T: I cut my finger with a piece of toast.  A little paper cut.  And once I almost cut my finger off?
WHBC: With the toast?!
T: Haha. No – with the slicer.  Things just happen sometimes.
WHBC: Happy to hear there’s never been any death by toast.
WHBC: Enough about work – what do you do for fun?
T:My girlfriend, her son and I just got a new house, so now I mostly do yard work and stuff.  We play with our new puppy.
WHBC: Are you a music fan?
T: I listen to rap, mostly.  Old school rap. When I was a kid I got to meet and hang out with Wu Tang Clan because they lived near a friend of mine.
WHBC: That’s a pretty cool story to be able to tell.
T: Yeah, I tell that one a lot!
WHBC: So, here’s weird question for you.. if you had a super power, what would it be?
T: That’s hard.  Probably flight; the freedom to go wherever whenever.
WHBC: Do you like to travel? What’s your favorite place you’ve been?
T: Washington D.C.  My aunt lives there and I used to go every summer.  We’re going again soon.
WHBC: See, if you had the ability to fly, you wouldn’t have to pay any baggage fees!
T: Ha! That’s true.
WHBC: Alright, I know you’re a busy man and have to get to work.  Thanks for hanging out!
Traun 2
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Meet Sam

This week’s staff spotlight is near and dear to my heart.  We focus in on Sam.  Normally I head up to the pub to do these interviews, but she’s my kid, so we sat down before school one day to chat a bit…

WHBC_Sam1

Quick Facts:
Name: Samantha (Sam) Heugel
Age: 16 (17 in August!)
Position: Busperson
Birthplace: Saratoga Springs, NY
Favorite WHBC Beer Drink: Agua
Favorite WHBC Food: I love the chefs’ specials
Education: Smithfield High, Isle of Wight Academy

WHBC: Hi Sam. It’s nice to meet you 😉
Sam: Hi mom.
WHBC: So, you were born in NY.  How did you get here?
S: Well, when a mom and a dad love each other very much… haha.  Seriously though, we are a military family.  We moved from New York to Virginia, then I lived in Missouri with my grandparents after my parents’ divorce for a couple months, then with my mom and stepdad in Washington, then back here to Virginia!
WHBC: Do you hope to stay here?
S: For the most part right now.  I’d like to move to an island somewhere to live and learn their cuisine.
WHBC: How did you come to work here?
S: My mom’s friend told her there was an opening.  So I came in and applied in October.
WHBC: Why here?
S: I want to learn all aspects of the restaurant industry because it will help me in my future. I HOPE to start cooking here some this summer.  Wink, wink, Dave!!
WHBC: How will this help you in the future?
S: My plan when I graduate is to go to school for business, while learning how to cook and run a restaurant.  One day I’d like to be a chef with my own place.  I feel like I’d want to have a farm to table style restaurant that serves fresh, healthy, tropical cuisine.
WHBC: That sounds like a great plan!  Do your parents approve?!
S: {laughing} I don’t know, do they?
{aside}: yes.
WHBC: You want to live on an island?  Do you travel?  What’s your favorite place?
S: So far, my favorites are Jamaica and Spain.  Jamaica for the weather, beaches, and food.  Spain because I can speak the language and it was cool to talk to people.
WHBC: Cool.  So you’ve been at WHBC for about 6 months.  What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you so far while working?
S: Haha!  The night I face planted in front of the whole kitchen, then not even ten minutes later I dropped an entire tray of silverware.  It sounded like loud, metallic thunder throughout the whole restaurant because the place was pretty quiet.
WHBC: When things get super crazy here, how do you manage? When Murphy’s Law takes hold, what do you do?
S: I just fill in and do the little stuff; fill sauces, fold napkins, that kind of thing.  So those don’t run out.  I pre-bus and bus as soon as customers are done so it moves things along.  I help the servers if they need me.  I think if I can do the little stuff to help things keep moving, it makes everything easier for everyone working.
WHBC: What is your favorite thing about working here?
S: We’re like a family.  Even though I’m one of the youngest, my coworkers include me and appreciate me for the person I am.  Everyone seems to get along with everyone else.  It’s great.
WHBC: So when you’re done working, what do you do for fun?
S: Well, I don’t really hang out with people outside of school too much for some reason, except my coworkers.  I like to longboard, draw, surf, and play ukelele.
WHBC: What is your favorite song to play?
S: I don’t have a favorite song, but my favorite bands to play songs from are Ballyhoo and the Dirty Heads.
WHBC: One last question before you have to leave.  I heard your mom is pretty cool.  Is this true?
S: No.  No it’s not.
{aside}: She really does think I’m cool, but can’t admit that for a couple more years…
WHBC: Okay, an actual last question.  If you could live another life as anything/anyone else, alive or inanimate, what would you be?
S: I would be a flower.  They’re beautiful and don’t have to worry about anything or anyone else.  They just do their own thing and bloom!
WHBC: Right on.  Thanks Sammer!
WHBC_Sam 2
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Meet Meagan

This week’s staff spotlight focuses on one of our managers, Meagan.  We had ourselves a fun little conversation before opening one day last week…

Meagan 2

 

 Quick Facts:
Name: Meagan Pugh
Age: 29 (she turns 30 on May 24th!!!)
Position: Manager
Birthplace: just outside Philadelphia, moved here at age 11
Favorite WHBC Beer: Any IPA – “I like ’em hoppy”
Favorite WHBC Food: The Non Wontons
Education: Governor’s School for the Arts, VCU with degrees in photography and business
 

WHBC: Here we are.  Hello!  So, I hear that your family owns a vineyard.
Meagan: My parents own SummerWind Vineyards.  My mom was a Master Gardener and President of the Arts League at one point, and having vines started as a bit of a hobby for her.  She started with just a couple of vines and now we have 12-15 acres full.  All our grapes are sold to Smithfield Winery now.  Wine and craft beer are a lot alike; they are conversation starters.
WHBC: That’s great they keep the grapes local!
M: They used to sell to wineries in Williamsburg too, but once the Smithfield Winery opened, they all went there.
WHBC: I’m sure you helped your parents in the vineyard, but how did you get into the restaurant business?
M: My parents owned a family restaurant outside of Philly until about a year and a half ago.  I worked for them full time doing a little bit of everything.
WHBC: How did you come to work here?
M: The timing was just right.  WHBC was just opening and I was looking.  I was hired as a manager at the start and have been here since.
WHBC: Your degree in business helps, I’m sure.  Now that you’re out of college, did you ever use your photography degree?
M: I’ve always been interested in art.  The thing I didn’t like about college was that you had to focus on one specific thing.  So I picked photography.  But I like to paint and create other things; the wreaths hanging in here were made by me.  I like to paint portraits also.
{aside}:  You can see all of Meagan’s art on her Facebook page!!
WHBC: What would be your dream job?
M: To make money as an artist.  I like art so much, I spend so much time and money to create something and get so pumped and invested in it, I don’t end up making money from it.
WHBC: In the meantime though, you are here at Wharf Hill.  What is your favorite thing about working here?
M: I think Smithfield has needed a place like this for a long time.  The sense of camaraderie and family here is great.   We have great customers and staff; I enjoy working with literally everyone here.
WHBC: When things get super crazy here, how do you manage?
M: Just don’t get flustered.  I’ve been doing this a long time so I’m used to things getting a little crazy. When it gets busy, you just have to prioritize what needs to be done.  At the end of everything, you’re only one person who can do only so many things at once.
WHBC: What is the craziest thing that’s happened to you at work?
M: That’s hard!  I think everyday, there is something to laugh about.  That really is the key to serving – staying happy.
WHBC: So when you’re done working, what do you do to unwind?
M: Have a beer! haha.  I think most people in the service industry like to have other people wait on them for a change.
WHBC: What customer sticks out most in your mind?
M: Oh, so many!  I hate to leave anyone out.  3 o’clock Bob – we tease him if he comes in and it’s not actually 3! Fred, Karen, April, Mike, Connie, Julian – they’re all super nice.
WHBC: So one last question because I know it’s your day off.  Just for fun, if you were to walk into a spiderweb, what would you do?
M: Flail around spastically and then be paranoid the rest of the day that a spider was in my hair.  When I was younger, we’d have picnics.  To be funny, my dad would tie beetles to a string and pretend to fly  them around my head.  I would flail around so the string would wrap around my head.  So I then would lose my mind and continue to flail around the whole picnic until I got it off me.  Everyone would be laughing, and I’m sitting on the ground sobbing.  THAT was my childhood which is why I can tell people now, no matter what’s going on, to suck it up!
WHBC: {at this point I’m laughing hysterically also}  That’s funny.  Well now it’s funny, though I’m sure it wasn’t then.  Thanks for hanging out today Meagan!
Meagan 1
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Meet Preston

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Our spotlight this week in our “Meet Wharf Hill” series shines down on Preston.  I was able to catch a few minutes with him before lunch last week…

Quick Facts:
Name: Preston Bremus
Age: 23
Birthday: August 5th
Position: Server
Birthplace: Roanoke, VA (moved here at age 2)
Favorite Beer: Sinclair’s Revenge
Education: Smithfeld High; 2 years each at North Carolina Wesleyan and Old Dominion University.  Majored in Information Sciences and minored in Communications.

WHBC: How long have you worked at Wharf Hill?
Preston: About a month and a half.
WHBC: Have you worked at other restaurants before?
P: Yeah, I lived in OBX one summer and worked Barefoot Bernies.  My cousin had a beach house there.
WHBC: So you lived in a beach house for the summer?  That must have been awful.
P: Yeah, it was terrible.  I got to spend a lot of time on the beach running and playing soccer.  While I wasn’t working, I got to play in a soccer league with a group of Mexican soccer players.
WHBC: So, I’m hearing soccer is kind of your thing.
P: I’ve played for 12 years. I’m an assistant coach at Smithfield for the JV and Varsity teams. I get to run some practices myself.  I played for NC Wesleyan and ODU both for two years also.
WHBC: Do you hope to play professionally somewhere?
P: Hopefully!  I don’t have a loyalty anywhere – I will play wherever they’re going to pay me!  I’ve played semi-pro.  I can play any position except goalie.
WHBC: That’s very cool. So what else do you do for fun.  Other than soccer, obviously!
P: Well, I’m usually practicing, playing or watching soccer.  If not, I read a little.  I take my dog, Gracie, to the park.
WHBC: Do you have brothers and sisters?
P: Yeah, I’ve got one brother and a step brother and sister.
WHBC: So, what is your favorite thing about working here?
P: I love to try and make someone’s day.  I like to see people happy.
WHBC: What happens when it gets so busy you feel like you’re falling behind?  What do you do?
P: Just focus on each table while you’re with them and do my best for them. Hopefully all my other tables see that and show a little grace when I get to them! Working summers in OBX helped me be prepared for busy times.
WHBC: That’s a good way to look at things!  What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you with a customer here?
P: One time I was serving a table and this lady was here with her family.  She kept pretending to be British and speaking with an accent, but she’d forget.  So sometimes when I came back, she’d be American again.
WHBC: How do you know she wasn’t British trying to be American?!
P: I guess I don’t!  But her family was American, so I assumed the other way.
WHBC: Alright, last question… if someone walked in and said they had a time machine out front and wanted you to use it, to when would you go?
P: That’s tough!  You could change history! I guess I’d like to go back to meet George Washington just to see what he was like.
WHBC: Maybe run against him for President?
P: Ha! Yeah. Or talk war tactics.  Who knows.
WHBC: Thanks for taking the time Preston!  It was very cool talking with you!
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Meet Joe

Joe2 Our second installment of “Meet Wharf Hill” zooms in on Joe.  I cornered him last week in the kitchen just before the Thursday dinner rush…

Quick Facts:
Name: Joseph Thomas Connelly
Age: 27
Position: Head Cook
Romantic Status: Single
Birthplace: Bradford, PA
Favorite Beer: Isle of Wheat
Education: Graduate, Smithfeld High School
WHBC: How did you get started in restaurants?
Joe: My mom was working as a server at Angelo’s Steak House and they needed a dishwasher, so I applied.
WHBC: How old were you?
J: 15.
WHBC: From dishwasher, you moved up to the cook line?
J: Yes, sir.
WHBC: As Angelo’s is no more (it stood on Church Street where the Rescue Squad building is now located), how many restaurants have you worked in during your 12-year career?
J: Eight.
WHBC: Where did you work before starting here?
J: The Plaid Turnip in Suffolk.
WHBC: Cool.  That place is fun. Of the eight restaurants you worked in, which is your favorite?
J: Wharf Hill, of course.
WHBC: I guess I deserved that.  When the dining room is slammed and the kitchen printer is spitting orders like mad, how do you guys keep it together?
J: I just keep my head down and keep going.  For me, the crazier, the better.
WHBC: Right on. What was your busiest day ever?
J: Me and another guy did a $5,000 St Patty’s Day Dinner.
WHBC: I’ve seen your guys rolling behind the line for hours straight and then clean everything down, wrap it up and leave dog tired.  How do you unwind after a a heavy shift?
J: I walk around the neighborhood, maybe drink a couple or beers…listen to music.
WHBC: What sort of music do you like?
J: Melodic Death Metal.
WHBC:  Hmm.  Last question: what is your life’s ambition?
J: To own a pub like my family did back in Ireland.  My grandfather came over on the boat in the 1920’s.
WHBC: Thanks for your hard work, Joe.  Keep gettin’ up.
J: Thank you.
Joe1
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