This month, we are kicking off a feature called “How I Got Promoted,” spotlighting the stories of how top hospitality professionals took their careers to the next level. First up is Pierre Siue, General Manager at Restaurant Daniel, who started at the fine dining institution more than a decade ago as a food runner and now oversees all aspects of service.
I decided I wanted to work in restaurants while I was doing my compulsory military duty in France — I worked as a maître d’ in the prime minister’s house. I liked that job a lot, so I started to work on my resume and applied to restaurants in New York (I had visited the city a few years before and fell in love). I found a guidebook that listed New York’s top restaurants as Jean-Georges, Le Bernardin, and Daniel. I moved into my friend’s apartment in Carroll Gardens and started visiting all these restaurants, asking about jobs.
People were not very welcoming — they took my resume, but they didn’t call. But when I got to Daniel, the maître d’ was extremely welcoming. He showed me the dining room; he spent half an hour explaining the restaurant to me in French, as he saw my English wasn’t that great. I became immediately infatuated with the place and the incredible hospitality I had been shown.
I got the name of Daniel’s assistant, and I’d fax my resume over to her once a week. Finally, right before I was about to move to England, having given up on New York, I got a call from the restaurant. I canceled my trip, did my interview over the phone, and six weeks later I was a food runner at Daniel. I put my head down and worked hard, and within a few months, I became assistant captain. That turned into
I put my head down and worked hard, and within a few months, I became assistant captain. That turned into part-time captain, which became full-time captain. In addition to being captain, I would always come early and help the assistant manager.
I didn’t have an academic background and I didn’t speak great English, so I started to master the language by reading the menus. I volunteered to coordinate large party dinners. I learned how to type so that I could start to place orders in the system. I started picking up the phone when people called to ask a question about their reservation. A little while later, I got promoted to assistant manager.
This year, I became the general manager. I think the reason I have been able to move up with such consistency is because I’m not afraid to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself.
I always spoke up when I wanted something: I remember one weekend, I was traveling with Daniel for an event in Chicago. I waited for the right moment and told him I wanted to take on a managerial role. He told me that if I learn to type, I could have the job. So I invested in my first computer.
I don’t think that I am the most knowledgeable or well-spoken person, but I am a doer. I lead by example. I am creative, intense, and curious — and those align really well with Daniel’s values. I feel lucky to work at a place where mentorship is so important — at the kitchens in France, the chefs barely say hi to you.
The most important lesson I have learned in my career is to treat every employee at the restaurant — whether it is a chef or a dishwasher — as you would treat your guests. Every individual is different, but you have to find a way to work with people, and a find a way from them to work with you. Respect everyone, and it’ll go a long way.
Photo credit: Rick O’Brien.