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So, what brings you into GP today? | Great Performances


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So, what brings you into GP today?
by Jennifer Baughman, Community Manager

This month we looked at the staff with whom we have a long history with – so long that we have seen their family come to work with us as well! What we saw was that hospitality runs in the family. We’re not surprised, but grateful to see it so clearly demonstrated through our team! Here are a few we spoke with. 

Bulbul Nurul has worked GP since April, 1996. 20 years later, his two sons Saiham Onik and Shadman Ornob have joined the staff and work alongside him. Liz and I repeatedly talked about how wonderful it is to see such a well-regarded staff member be equally satisfied with us, so much so that his two sons sought work with us.

JB: What made your boys interested to work with GP?

BULBUL: I have been a true loyal GP’er for a very significant amount of time. During that time my two boys kept growing and now they are fully adults, of course they always knew where I was working, how I was treated, and what a great company it is. The younger one, Saiham Onik, started working for GP first. Shadman Ornob was at that time doing an internship for Department of Education for the City of New York. 

I remember very well when I came to GP office with Saiham for his first interview and I saw Liz. I told her my son was here for an interview. Liz, with her great charm, said to me 'wow, second generation!' That was a really beautiful moment I will always remember. 

Saiham has always been a bright child and a quick learner. As soon as he started working for GP I kept getting so many compliments. My fellow workers will rush to me saying, 'Bulbul, your son is so good, I worked with him, he is cute, very respectful and a really good kid.’  Well it is true, we brought him up with those values and the real credit goes to my wife.”

JB: Do you have any traditions or practices related to hospitality that you do together?

BULBUL: He is eager to know learn to bartend, so at home I taught him during a backyard family gathering how to make drinks - what are the steps, how to pour wine to avoid the drip and show the label, how to make cocktails, and he learned it so quickly without any fault. He made everybody's drink that night. I was truly impressed. My older son Shadman Ornob just got hired by GP, he hasn't started yet but will be soon.

JB: What makes you feel so at home at GP and has kept you with us so long?

BULBUL: The intellectual culture it maintains. Being the older son of a late attorney where me and all my brothers and sisters has a Master’s degree, it is a pleasure to be in the same intellectual environment. It is a true honor to be a part of this great organization which has become a leader in the food industry. I have seen it grow right in front of my very eyes with a true devoted leadership of our leader and founder Liz Neumark. 

Another reason is how GP treats wait staff with respect and they truly value the loyalty. The job they do for us, it is amazing. The bookers are a reasonable team who try to take care of their wait staff's needs very efficiently. I do not work for anyone else and I do not need to. I tried to teach my two boys what GP represents in the field of event planning.

I am proud to be working with my two sons at GP for a long time to come. Thanks to all our management team and all my coworkers. 

Another staff member I am well acquainted with is Spencer Hadel. Once hired, he regularly came into the office with a box of homemade macaroons or peanut brittle in hand, as advised by his father. “Always visit the bookers,” Tim Hadel told him.

JB: So, what brought you to GP?

Spencer: Personally, I found GP because of (his) connection to Liz and GP when I needed a job out of college. I've had a similar experience to my father in making connections through GP and learning a lot about service, professionalism, and management.

JB: Agreed. Spencer has been a really hard worker, taking last minute shifts, working everything from bartending to French service to sanit. Three years later and now he sanit captains for us. We trust him to know what he’s doing and use good judgement.

Tim: Spencer first met Liz Neumark and Linda Abbey in 1991 in the GP offices on Prince Street.  Spencer doesn’t remember it, but I do. I made the trip to GP office to pick up a paycheck and a captain’s packet for an upcoming job, and to show off my newborn son to everybody.

I had been working part-time at Great Performances for a few years.  I moved to New York City in the mid 1980s to work as a dancer and choreographer. GP gave me the flexibility I needed. If I had to leave New York for two or three weeks to go on the road to perform, GP would always accommodate my schedule.

JB: What were some of your experiences working with us that influenced what you shared with Spencer?

Tim: I was a recipient of a GP scholarship the first year they started giving them out. The funds helped me to produce my first show at Dance Theater Workshop (now it’s called Live Arts). 

I worked private homes, small events, large events, and amazing events (like the UN event in the Winter Garden). I made many close friends, and I learned a lot about logistics and managing people. Working at GP gave me the opportunity to experience an aspect of New York City that very few people get to see.  It was so great for me that I recommended that Spencer try it out too.

We also have two bright, spunky, smiley girls who have spent a handful of years with us between regular acting jobs. The Ritacco sisters, or the Ritacco Tuesdays as I call them, were happy to chat about working together at GP as well. Jessica is three years older than Rachel, and started with us a year before her sister.

JB: Tacos! How did you come to hear about GP and decide to apply?

Jessica: I started working for GP in April 2012 when an actor friend referred me, saying that it was excellent freelance/part-time work that could accommodate an artist's lifestyle and erratic schedule.  During my first couple months with the company, I thought of it as my "pays the bills" job which could help support my acting career.  But very quickly, I realized that it is more than just a "job", it's about being a part of a great, big network of diverse, international, artistic, creative, hardworking people, from all different backgrounds and walks of life.  Actors, singers, dancers, writers, musicians, business owners, designers, rock climbers, students, veterans... all ages, all cultures, from all over the US and all over the world.  I love the people, I love hearing their life stories, and feeling like part of an eclectic team that works hard and in synch to set up, give guests a memorable experience, then take it all down to a clean slate once more.

Rachel: I applied to GP when I moved to the city in 2013. I'm an actress, as most of the wait staff is, and needed to find work that understood my wacky schedule. My sister had already been working for GP for a year, and recommended me to the Catering Managers. I was so grateful when I was hired - not only for having a job, but to be employed at a place that not only accepted my theatre life, but embraced and encouraged it. 

Jessica: And getting to work alongside my sister is the cherry on top!  We've always been very close, actually best friends.  We even went to the same college together, SUNY New Paltz.  I was happy to be able to refer her to GP. We still enjoy the enthusiasm and attention we get from the staff, who always seem so excited to see the Ritacco sisters working together, even after three years.  I guess they're not sick of us yet!

Rachel: The staff here is absolutely my favorite part of the job. The food industry can be grueling, and when you're working a high pressure event, it's so nice to have people around with whom you can laugh and who will be there to support you. I've learned so much about what goes into food prep, as well as the most efficient, helpful ways to serve guests. Being a team player goes a long way, too. Now when I attend catered parties as a guest, I hold a higher standard for food service because of GP - and I also appreciate the wait staff a lot more!

It's always so nice to have my sister on the job with me. She took me under her wing when I first started, and nowadays we lean on each other for support when a shift is tough. It's still funny to me every time someone finds out that we're sisters - the response is usually that we're totally alike or completely different. And we're affectionately called "the Ritacco sisters" whenever we're put on a job together.

JB: Do you guys have any favorite food traditions you like to do together?

Rachel: Jess and I are both vegetarians, so we tend to eat a lot of the same foods. Any time there is an ample supply of veggies on the menu for an event, we're both so excited. And of course, we both have terrible sweet tooth’s, which can be very dangerous when working with this company - too many tasty options!

JB: The pastry department. Ugh god, the pastry department. Treat alert. Threat level TREATS. If you want anyone in your family it’s a pastry chef. 

Rachel: When I told one of the other waiters that Jess and I were being interviewed for this blog post about family, he jokingly said, "but we're ALL family." And although he was kidding, I would have to say he's right. We're one big, loud, hard-working, silly, loving cater family.

Two of our most requested (and personally beloved) Event Chefs are Natalia and her daughter Anastassia. I remember telling Anastassia that we were going to train and promote her to a Chef level position for our events, after months of demonstrating her particular affinity for balanced taste, beautiful plating, and strong staff leadership. She was so happy for the opportunity, and has never disappointed us.

JB: So, what brought you in to GP’s family?

Anastassia: I applied first because of a friend who worked in the company, and then my mom applied a few months later. We love spending time together as well working with each other, so it was only natural to work together in the same company. We are always excited when we work the same events together even after many years with the company. Feels like a second home with lots of friends and relatives. It’s a special environment. 

JB: How present was food and cooking in your life before this?

Anastassia: Growing up our family always loved to cook from small family dinners to large gatherings, inviting lots of friends and family on the weekends and holidays. My sister and myself would help our parents in the kitchen since we were kids, it always a lot of fun.

Natalia: Food culture runs long in our family, since my grandmother was a very good chef in St. Petersburg, Russia, and was trained by a famous French chef. 

Anastassia: I learned from my mom a lot of traditional authentic Russian recipes, and at GP I get to teach her about other cuisines. 

JB: Yes, I hear this a lot throughout our interviewing process. When your family loves food and parties, you tend to pick up a lot. Good hospitality runs in the family. 

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