REVIVAL: Q&A with senior Mikayla Walters
129 Church St.: the new weekend hangout spot?
For senior Mikayla Walters, her Saturdays and Sundays are spent here, or more popularly known as Revival. As a 4-year culinary program veteran, Mikayla scored her kitchen job at this restaurant through a culinary event last year.
Revival’s niche is local, southern comfort food, or alternatively, the genre of food that fostered Mikayla’s love for cooking.
When did you start working at Revival?
“Over the summer was when I got the job, but during my junior year, we did this event at Twain’s, and I was stationed with Andreas, he’s my boss, and he gave me his card after the event and said ‘call me if you need a job.’ So, later that school year, I called him and he was like, ‘okay I’ll keep in contact with you’ because Revival wasn’t done getting built. So, it was like June and I came in for an interview. And usually when you get a job in the culinary field, you have to do a stage (stAH-dge). Basically, you would cook something. I basically already had the job, but I guess they wanted to see if I was really interested in cooking, and that’s how I got the job. By July, I actually started working there.”
Worst part of your job?
“The cleaning after because by the time it’s time to wrap up everything, I still have desserts coming in at that point, and people will just stay there forever. They’re just like, ‘I don’t have to go to work tomorrow, I’m just gonna stay here forever.’ They’re loud and stuff. But you have to clean up and everything.
I guess it teaches me about being responsible.”
Do you think it’s important for teenagers to have jobs when they’re younger? And also, what is good about the restaurant industry for young people?
Andreas Müller, Revival’s executive chef:
“I think it’s important for teenagers to have jobs, especially a part-time job just to kinda learn how to, you know, earn money. Also, I think with a job, it kinda builds some structure you know, you’re held accountable for something, and I think that’s very important. obviously school always comes first, you know, i’ve said that from the get-go, so do well in school and you should get a little part-time job.
The restaurant industry is important – that’s where I started in high school. Usually kitchens are pretty small, so it builds some friendship. Some relationships. It also gives you an opportunity to grow. A lot of times, we promote from within, [and] it gives you an opportunity to work for something that will eventually pay off.”
What have you learned while working at Revival?
“I will say that I’ve learned a lot more than in the culinary class here at the school. I learned a lot about multitasking because one minute someone will give me an assignment like, ‘can you cut these vegetables?’ But I also have to make the sauce, and while the sauce is boiling on the stove, I have to cut herbs or something. You’re always moving in the kitchen, and I guess it kinda works in my schoolwork. I’m managing my time more – I still have to work on that, but having a job in general helps you manage your time.”
Do you plan on pursuing a career in cooking?
“The other thing about cooking, if I ever decide to go into food, I think I would like it more if it was something that was not so intense. I would wanna be, I guess, more of a personal cook.
Chefs are dramatic divas.”
Do you have a favorite dish to prepare at Revival?
“I guess one thing that I love doing – that I got faster at doing, I guess, is the kale salad,” she said,” but I also hate doing the kale salad, too. I don’t really like doing desserts either because you get a order in for people who are still ordering appetizers and someone who’s finished with their entree and they’re ordering desserts. It all comes in at the same time, so you have to learn how to manage your time, like I said before. It’s like, ‘okay I’m gonna finish this and then top it with the cheese later. Then I’m gonna go get the desserts, put it in the microwave. When they call for the salad, put the cheese on. When the microwave beeps, you have it at the same time. You’re all over the place.”
What’s annoying about the kale salad?
“You have to build it, you have to salt and pepper, dressing, kinda get your hands dirty. You have to mix it up together, and then they’ll call horderves for 5 and you have to make a salad for 5. You have to put the apples on there, the cheese, the onions, it’s just so much to do. But I got faster at it, you just have to manage your time and you’ll get it.”
How has culinary class helped you at your job?
“It has a little bit. I wouldn’t say too much. In school, you always learn basics, and you don’t really get hands-on until you get to that second year of culinary. So I think that helps a lot with, for example, the mother sauces, like hollandaise. I learned that in culinary, here, but it doesn’t help a lot.”
Where did your passion for cooking start?
“Yeah, definitely at home. I don’t think I would’ve been interested in culinary if it wasn’t for my grandma. So, my grandma. She would cook dinner for everyone and she would let me do the simple tasks like mixing the cornbread or ya know putting the chicken in the flour. She wouldn’t let me do stuff over the stove but she would let me do the simple stuff like put the cornbread batter inside of the pans. So I guess I learned from my grandma ‘cause my mom doesn’t cook . . . [I] didn’t learn from her.
I think my grandma, and then watching cooking shows on TV.”
Do you have a favorite dish that your grandma makes?
“I like my grandma’s collard greens. Like, I think the ones at my job – they’re good, but I don’t think they beat my grandma’s collard greens. They might beat her on fried chicken, cornbread, but they just definitely don’t beat her on collard greens.”
Do you have a favorite cooking show?
“I have a favorite cook. Gordon Ramsay. He’s really intense. I like watching him because he’s funny. He yells at people. And that’s another thing I’ve noticed is how they treat me at the job. They’re just really nice, but in reality, it’s intense, and once you get in that rhythm of getting orders in, if someone messes up, they’re gonna yell at you. You have to be really strong-minded and know how to take an insult because that’s what’s gonna happen. If you mess up something, they’re gonna throw it in your face or something. But they’re really nice to me, so that’s cool.”
Besides Revival, what is your go-to restaurant in Decatur?
“I don’t think I have a go-to restaurant in Decatur. I just go anywhere, like, ‘I’m hungry. I want blah blah blah, I’ll just go there. But, I’ve been to Revival and I guess it’s cool. I know all the secrets behind every dish.
And with family meal, that’s another thing we have. Before every service, we have family meal and they fix us something, and meatloaf, if we have leftover meatloaf, this guy named Darrell will find a way to make some kinda meatloaf pasta. He will find any way to use the leftover meatloaf. So, if I go to Revival and eat there, it’s just like, ‘ehh, I don’t want the fried chicken, I’ve had it plenty of times. I don’t want the meatloaf. I’ve had it plenty of times. I’m around the desserts forever so I wouldn’t order something that I could easily just eat there, ya know.’”
So you’re saying that working there, in the kitchen, has perks because you get to taste all the stuff constantly?
(She gets to take home leftovers.)
Last meal ever?
“Could it be like, protein?”
It could be a three-course meal. It could be one thing. It doesn’t matter.
“I think if it was a protein, I would choose chicken. You could do anything with chicken. It would probably be like wings or something. And then, for dessert, I would have… I don’t really eat a lot of sweets, so it would probably be something like Starbursts. And before, something like shrimp.
Chicken, shrimp and Starbursts. Cause that’s some of my favorite things.”
What did you see in Mikayla at the Twain’s event that pushed you to offer her a job?
In terms of your history with restaurants, how did you get into the restaurant business?
“Well, my first job was working in a fast food restaurant when I was 15. I moved from Sweden to Marietta, Ga. Two weeks after moving, my mom told me I had to get a job because my step brother had a job. He worked at this restaurant, so, he got me a job flipping burgers. I worked at McDonald’s for two and a half years because it was good money. Then I learned how to work in a kitchen and went to some restaurants and tried front house. Obviously front house is way different and you make more money – it’s different hours, and you don’t have to clean as much.
I just liked the environment. Working in a restaurant, if you work in the right restaurant, almost becomes a family. I think that’s probably part of why people really stay in restaurants, [and] that was pretty much me. I was thrown into it. My mom told me to get a job, and I did, and it was in a restaurant.”
Is that what you went to college for?
“Yeah, I went to culinary school. I decided that I was going to cook for a living and went to culinary school and graduated.”
How have Mikayla’s responsibilities at the restaurant grown since she started over the summer?
“They’ve grown quite a bit. I would probably say there’s two stations that she has not worked, so she’s pretty much worked, learned and ran four stations. Now, when we work Saturday and Sunday lunch, it’s myself and Mikayla cooking on the line. We did almost 90 covers today. We fed 90 people. So, that was busy.
She has stepped up. When I’ve had to ask her to come in on a day off or stay late, she’s done it. She’s done really well for herself here.”
In terms of Mikayla’s future in a restaurant, or anyone’s future, do you think that they need to go to culinary school?
“You know, that’s the big topic amongst people who have not gone to culinary school and people that have.
A lot of people that I’ve worked with have not gone to culinary school and learned the trade going from restaurant to restaurant. You know, you find a chef and he or she is a mentor, and they teach you certain things and you get paid a little bit for it. You move on and learn from someone else, and then one day, you have a boatload of knowledge. You decide what restaurant you want to go and run.”
You know, especially now, culinary school has become quite expensive, and so I think you can definitely do without. But as an individual, if you want to go and get that piece of paper showing that this is your career and that you went to school for it and invested time and money into it, I would suggest that. But that’s not necessarily a have to. It’s a little bit harder because no one really takes the time to teach you the basics. The restaurant – it’s so fast, and the chef has so many different tasks to put his hands into, so it’s hard to find someone that takes the time to actually teach you stuff. You have to want to learn yourself and invest a lot of time – probably a lot of personal time.”
What does the Revival kitchen sound like?
Photos by Chaney Wynne, Carpe Diem editor