Panda Hat: I Heart Perkins

Photographer: Lianna Matt

Photographer: Lianna Matt

The idea of “work culture” is a fun, squishy term that is nicely molded to fit brand content, but it’s something that makes a big difference. I’m not saying that everyone I worked with during my 17-month stint at Perkins was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when they were in the privacy of the kitchen. Far from it.

But there’s something in the way a cook can go from loudly complaining about crazy customers to saying “I’ve got you” to the server. Even though this is the millionth time a bored manager shocks a host with the buzzing bakery sign, it makes them feel like they belong.

Every Sunday the balloon girl comes, and once in a while, all of the employees have the urge to get something whimsical from her—an elephant, a crocodile, a bumble bee balloon animal—to give to their special someones.

There is a perpetual, shared, “I’m overwhelmed by life, but I’m here” feeling. Depending on the season, it’s accompanied by a cold’s sneeze, allergy sniffles, or perspiration because the air for some reason is off on a busy Sunday in May. Combine that with any typical restaurant horror story, and then you get the days where I thought I wanted to quit.

But then before I would leave, I would get a customer with a beaming toddler, an offhand compliment from a server, a conversation with a busboy that would leave me smiling, and voila. All better.

Being around people who aren’t jerks makes work a lot nicer, no matter what the job is. While Perkins has slowly moved off my one-page resume, my experience there has taught me the most about how to be a good work mate. (Apparently I can literally say Perkins has changed my life).

What you experience at these stereotypical high school/college jobs is worth something. Don’t forget that in your rush to move onto bigger and better things.
Fun fact: You can buy six Mammoth muffins at Perkins for $7.17, including tax. And hark, a beautifully convenient, green-roofed breakfast temple is on West Bank on Riverside and 27th Avenue. Go there. Savor. Enjoy.