19 News & Events

The Secret to Success in the Restaurant Business

by Neil Martens, Owner/Operator of 19 Okanagan Grill +Bar

19-Okanagan-Grill-+-Bar-April 2015 - Neil enjoys his own joke
Neil loves what he does

The mission

“To develop, inspire and empower the best people in the Okanagan Valley to go above and beyond our guest’s expectations!”

“To share our love of local, sustainable, quality food and drink with each of our guests in a relaxed, upscale yet casual dining environment!”

A true story

A valued employee who was in university pursuing a career in journalism asked one day if she could interview me. One of her first questions was who is the most important person to walk through our doors at 19 Okanagan? She had a surprised look on her face when the answer I gave wasn’t “the customer”. Instead, I talked about our great people, the chefs, dishwashers, servers, bartenders and hostesses.

The customer is obviously very important and ultimately the way we measure our success. However, if we don’t start with a great person to cook the food, prepare the soup and serve the table with charisma, charm and grace, we risk losing customers to other restaurants. The overall customer experience is important to us and that begins with great people.

Spring is hiring season in the restaurant business

19-Okanagan-Grill-+-Bar-March 2015 - new staff training
New staff training with Praneil and Kaylene

At 19 Okanagan we search for people whose passion and respect for food mirrors our own. We measure character, integrity, honesty and if they are fun. We look for confidence, self-esteem and try to get a sense of their initiative. We select, hire and train and if we as leaders and coaches are doing our jobs right, we inspire. Our goal is to develop our young dishwashers so that they become junior line cooks. We challenge our line cooks to pursue a passion in food. We develop and empower all of our staff.  It’s these great people doing their jobs with passion and flare that ensures our customers simply can’t wait to come back.

19 Okanagan offers apprenticeships for chefs in training

If we have succeeded in inspiring these young men and women working in our kitchen, their path to becoming a chef, is realized in the culinary program at Okanagan University College. The apprenticeship program is three years, requires countless hours of skill based training, reinforces classic techniques in real world applications and is taught by some of the best chefs to have worked in the Okanagan. The successful apprentices become Red Seal Chefs.

19-Okanagan-Grill-+-Bar-April 2015 - kitchen action
Kitchen team members

As the Owner/Operator of 19 Okanagan Grill + Bar, I am very proud to work with a kitchen full of not only Red Seal Chefs, but also with a group of apprentices, eager to learn together, challenging the way we’ve always done things and generating new ideas. We have a team that accepts and embraces the relentless pursuit of perfection.

The 19 Okanagan Red Seal Chefs are Scotty Powell, Sean Hagglund, Lyndon Siemens, Adrian Nymeyer, Geoff Molloy and Conrad Haldorsen. Our Red Seal Apprentices are Reilly Mager, Trevor Boef, Spencer Budworth, Eric Giblin and Alex Ramsay.

The best restaurants treat food with respect

You simply cannot expect to develop a stable of great young chefs, chomping at the bit to run their own kitchens, if you don’t create an environment of learning and challenge. At 19 Okanagan, we source local, sustainable, quality ingredients. We encourage recipe development and teach the costing and profit side of making a great dish. And we insist that our kitchen team creates systems for quality control and execution. The measure of our success comes from seeing the glimmer in the eye of the chef as he or she cultivates a great idea, makes it from scratch and produces the perfectly plated dish that the customer craves again and again.

Once more, at 19 Okanagan Grill + Bar, we believe the most important people who walk through our doors are members of our amazing team and the next great person we hire. Come and see us soon!

Thanks for reading,

Neil