I joined the Darden family in January of this year as a server. When I became interested in the company, I researched Darden, studying its website as if preparing for a final exam. The more I read, the more I wanted to be a part of this team.
My favorite articles on Darden Digest were those written by team members. I loved reading about how the company had improved their lives and supported their goals and dreams. As an actor, that’s important to me — I need a flexible schedule so I can attend auditions, rehearsals and classes.
My interview went well, and Managing Partner Brooke Manz offered me a server position at the new LongHorn in Orlando, FL. The service manager encouraged me to keep acting, telling me to sign up for classes and promising to schedule my shifts around my acting needs. This support confirmed everything I had read from team members, and I was amazed.
A few weeks later, our restaurant prepared to compete in LongHorn Steakhouse’s annual Steak Master Series grilling competition. I was eager to cheer on our grill masters and arrived at the restaurant early with other team members. Being a comedian and improviser, I grabbed a kazoo to use as a microphone and introduced myself as the “pretend host” for the competition. My team videotaped me, and I posted the seven videos on my Instagram feed, keeping everyone updated on the competition using the hashtags #WeAreLongHorn and #LongHornSteaks. I didn’t think anything of it — I was just being goofy and having fun.
But the videos caught the attention of the brand’s social media team at the Restaurant Support Center (RSC) in Orlando, and I was invited to take over LongHorn’s Instagram feed during the final competition!
What an incredible surprise and honor! I was humbled to learn that my creativity had inspired this idea, which had never been tried before. I was rewarded with this opportunity for simply being myself.
Fast-forward to the final competition at the RSC in May, when I met LongHorn President Todd Burrowes and other leaders and was treated like a celebrity! I could feel the positive energy everywhere. I worked closely with LongHorn’s social media team to create my Instagram posts. We cheered as Eric Bates was chosen Steak Master Series champion, and we created memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I’m proud that my company spends $200,000 in this competition to celebrate great performance.
It’s hard to believe that in only five months, I’ve experienced so many opportunities, from training to creating loyal guests to hosting the 2019 Steak Masters Series Instagram takeover. Words cannot describe how much love and pride I feel for LongHorn, Darden and my new work family, which supports, encourages and accepts me for everything I am and everything I want to become.