Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)
“Simple food made good.”
That’s the motto of Laneil Smith, manager of the newly-opened Marion Street Eatery. Smith, 28, a graduate of Red River College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program (2006), runs the St. Boniface restaurant with chef Melissa Hryb, a graduate of RRC’s Culinary Arts program (2005).
Located in the Marion Hotel (393 Marion St.), Marion Street Eatery offers such comfort foods as chicken pot pie, meat loaf, and mac ’n’ cheese, reasonably priced dishes that reflect the working-class clientele of the bar and the community it serves.
“We both said we want to do something that’s not pretentious, that’s down to earth, like a small town restaurant but done in a nicer fashion. A greasy spoon minus the grease,” says Hryb, 28, who grew up in Niverville, Man.
“That’s what we were going for and I think that’s what we achieved. It’s very basic, very down to earth, but at the same time it has a little kick.”
Marion Street Eatery opened its doors in mid-February. Smith’s family owns the hotel and eatery space, which was formerly leased out to a Polish restaurant for 18 years. Smith started working for the family business six years ago, and said she had her eye on the space right from day one.
“I said to my parents ‘Whenever that space comes open, tell me first,’” Smith says. “It’s a beautiful space and I knew it had potential and I know that my heart is 100 per cent in restaurants and food. I knew if I could twist her (Hryb’s) rubber arm I’d have a pretty good chance of making a go at it.”
Smith and Hryb first met while working at Bergmann’s on Lombard, where Smith was a front-of-house manager and Hryb was a sous-chef. The pair says they are good friends who respect each other’s opinions and areas of expertise.
“I have a really high level of respect for what Melissa does and I will back her on everything, 100 per cent,” Smith says. They (the staff) see that and they’ve complimented us on it a couple times. It helps with the everyday in here. Our front-of-house sees that communication I have with the kitchen. It’s a really strong team in here.”
“It’s not what you usually see in restaurants, butting heads between the front and the back. It’s a team and I think that’s because we do communicate so much and get along so well,” Hryb adds.
Marion Street Eatery employs 10 kitchen staff and 12 front-of house staff, with most of the cooks being students or graduates of RRC’s Culinary Arts program. Both women say their time at RRC prepared them well for the demands of running a restaurant.
“I just see the kind of skills they (the cooks) bring to the kitchen and it’s easier to work with them and train them because I was in their shoes not that long ago,” Hryb says. “Also, things like Human Resources, Inventory Management, the specific Culinary Arts courses we use on a daily basis. It’s not just making a sandwich, I use the whole program so much every single day.”
“Almost everything I’ve learned, I learned from the school. And if I haven’t learned it from the school, I know there’s still someone I can contact at the school who I can get the information from,” says Smith, noting she keeps in touch with RRC instructors Barb Hogue and Karen McDonald. Hryb says she communicates weekly with Culinary Arts instructor Tim Appleton.
Speaking of education, when it comes to food, Hryb thinks people are more educated these days, which she says bodes well for Marion Street Eatery.
“My group of friends, they say I don’t want to go to Earls, I’d rather go to something more local,’” Hryb says. “I think people are just becoming more educated and are just over the big corporations.”
“One thing I’ve found when people walk in here is they love that it’s a small enough space that generally the servers will remember you. That recognition helps,” Smith says.
“That’s the kind of small town feel we wanted, where you walk in and it’s like ‘Hi!’” Hryb says.
Click here for more information on the Marion Street Eatery.