Alissa Atkinson remembers some pivotal career advice in her restaurant journey:
“You’ll never move up until you train your replacement.”
She says the moment she took the advice to heart her career immediately started progressing.
Up to that moment, she’d been on a self-focused career journey, simply trying to be the best she could be in each position she held. The advice, from a trusted early mentor, helped her see that her own goals could not be attained until she focused on helping others achieve.
Alissa’s restaurant passion was set in her early teen years – working for the married owners of a Greek restaurant at a mall in her hometown of Charleston, West Virginia. She made pastries, took orders, ran the register, cleaned. It was the wife-owner who provided the pivotal advice and inspired Alissa in the joyful, energetic way she cared for everyone – guests, friends and family.
“I admired that she saw service to all as a gift,” says Alissa.
Early server jobs in comedy club and hotel restaurant followed and then she was ready for opportunity outside her comfort zone. She heard from a friend about a new Greek restaurant opening in Columbus, Ohio. She packed up and landed a server position that led to supervisor, bartender and into management.
About nine years ago, she joined the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants’ team as a server at Mitchell’s Steakhouse downtown (now owned by Landry’s), working her way up from lunch to dinner service then management, eventually moving to the general manager position at Mitchell’s Steakhouse at Polaris.
In 2011, she returned to Cameron Mitchell Restaurants and spent five years as the assistant general manager at Mitchell’s Ocean Club.
In April 2016, Alissa was named to the position of Training Manager for Ocean Prime, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants’ nationally recognized seafood and steak concept.
At the moment, she is focused on training for the October opening of Ocean Prime’s 13th location in Washington, DC. She describes her new role as an exciting transition allowing her to be of service while helping others learn the joy of delivering genuine hospitality.
The position requires her style and energy level. Ocean Prime Associate Training is rigorous. Server training lasts 12 to 13 full days as the servers follow each position held in the ‘Front of House’ and ‘Heart of House’ (Kitchen) while also learning about Ocean Prime’s menu and service standards.
New Heart of House team members – sous chefs, prep and line Associates – are simultaneously kept busy learning recipes, working the line, rotating through different stations and being tested on their preparation skills. It’s an exciting time – lots of energy and bonding for the teams.
Alissa and her team lead Ocean Prime Managers through week-long ‘CMR 101’ training focused on culture. New managers from out-of-town are flown to our Columbus headquarters to learn about operations where they’ll meet with everyone from chefs to marketing and accounting team members. They visit each of the 13 Cameron Mitchell Restaurants concepts in Columbus including Mitchell’s Ocean Club – the place where the Ocean Prime concept was crafted.
Alissa says the great unsung heroes of the restaurant world are the people who work ‘The Dish Tank.’ It’s the place where Cameron Mitchell started his career as a teenager and it’s the most unglamorous and unrecognized spot in the house. “it’s a hot, fast, tough job and one that makes a key element of outstanding service possible. If you meet someone who works in The Tank, say thank you,” she offers.
What’s the highest compliment she can receive as a manager or trainer?
“We felt like family – as if the most important thing in the world at that moment was to make us comfortable and provide everything we needed.”
When guests offer this compliment, she knows the benchmark of delivering genuine hospitality has been met.
Alissa’s ‘go to’ item on the Ocean Prime menu is the Goat Cheese Ravioli. She says her brother, a fan of the Jalapeno Scalloped Potatoes, now prepares them for Thanksgiving as one of the family’s favorite side dishes and does a little twist on the recipe each year.
She’s grateful Columbus offers an environment where restaurants thrive and are appreciated. In her free time, she enjoys trying new restaurants and remains a devoted fan of Greek cuisine.
The entire Cameron Mitchell Restaurants team is excited to have someone with Alissa’s passion and talent leading the next generation of our Associates. Thank you, Alissa – we’re raving Fans!