What makes food-service work more enjoyable than other careers you've had?
While I was earning my MBA at the University of Southern California, I worked in a restaurant to support myself. Then I got a job at an investment firm, and they put me in a little box with a phone and told me to make money. I was miserable—I never saw people, they never saw me—I didn't feel like a person. So I quit my job, took a 75 percent pay cut, and got back into restaurant work.
What made you want to work at Baguette Box?
The owners, Eric and Terrence, are amazing people, so fun and passionate about food. Eric is the chef and he takes the food very seriously—he tastes everything as he goes along to make sure it's perfect. It's food prepared by the gut rather than by the book. Our customers also make working here a joy—I know about a third of them by name, and as soon as they walk through the door I've already got their order going.
Have you ever thought of using your MBA to open your own business?
I actually tried for a year and a half to start my own place, but I had difficulties finding a location. If I could, I would open a vegan restaurant, even though I'm not vegan.
Why is that?
Because I'm Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christian, and so I spend half the year fasting, which means ingesting no meat or dairy for weeks or months at a time—essentially, I'm a part-time vegan.
When you're not fasting, what is your favorite meal here?
The drunken chicken is by far our most popular sandwich, and I'm also partial to the tofu with avocado.