In How I Got My Job, folks from across the food and restaurant industry answer Eater’s questions about, well, how they got their job. Today’s installment: Kate Green.
Kate Green is an expert in restaurant marketing and communications representing the Mozza Restaurant Group in Los Angeles and, in her spare time, she has a side gig co-hosting the culinary podcast-turned-talk show Table Setting. So it’s hard to believe that 13 years ago, Green knew very little about the food industry — and virtually nothing about Mozza’s legendary founder and chef Nancy Silverton.
In 2006, fresh out of San Diego Mesa College with a degree in communications, Green felt directionless. After moving to Los Angeles to model, she was convinced by a friend to take a part-time job at Mozza. Though she didn’t know it at the time, she was embarking on an exciting career with the mother of artisan bread making.
She felt intimidated at first, but gradually Green found her footing at the restaurant group. Along the way, she forged a deep professional relationship with Silverton as her assistant and right-hand woman, while also making a name for herself in the LA dining scene. Today, Green is Mozza’s communications director, touching just about every department. In the following interview, Green talks about the value of growing with a company in the restaurant industry and what it takes to assist a world-renowned chef.
What did you originally want to do when you started your career?
Kate Green: I went to school for communications and public relations. I had wanted to go into the music industry and do public relations for a record label or artist, but at the end of school I got confused about what I wanted to do. So when I graduated college and moved to LA, I started modeling and didn’t have a traditional job. That’s where I was when I started to work for Nancy.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
My best friend from college was the opening hostess at Mozza. She didn’t think my modeling situation was the healthiest environment for me and she threatened to tell my parents about it if I didn’t take a job answering the phones two days per week [at the restaurant].
Everybody who knows me, knows that I have a really good relationship with my parents and my dad specifically. I grew up in a really strict military household. So him getting a call that I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing was not really an option for me — so I listened.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when you were starting out in the industry?
When I first started at Mozza, I was working with people who had been in the industry for years and who were a lot older than me. I didn’t really know anything about restaurants, so I had to start from scratch.
Thankfully, I did have mentors to guide me through, but the biggest challenge was feeling insecure about my ability to fit in that world. I didn’t know who Nancy or any big chefs were when I started working there. It wasn’t intimidating because she was a famous chef; it was intimidating because I had never done anything like that before and I had no idea what I was doing. When you’re answering the phone, you’re the first line of defense for the restaurant. It’s really important how you interact with guests.
When was the first time you felt successful?
I started to feel more comfortable and realized that the role was a good fit for me when I developed a connection with Nancy. She began to acknowledge my job and recognize I was good at it. There’s no higher praise than getting it from Nancy. I got promoted from reservationist to office manager to running events to working with her directly as her assistant.
Did you have any setbacks, and, if so, what were they?
I wouldn’t call them setbacks because it’s all a learning experience. Things at the time that you think might be setbacks — like if you get something wrong or are having a hard time learning to do something — actually end up being important.
If you don’t have any adversity or issues while you’re doing your job, you don’t really have a point of perspective and you don’t really learn how to handle things when they do go wrong. A lot of what we do in hospitality is learning from mistakes, so yes, of course, I had issues, but I wouldn’t call them setbacks because they made me stronger in what I do.
What was the turning point that led to where you are now in your career?
My trajectory is a little bit different than that of most people. Most people who work in restaurants spend four or five years in one place at the most. I started in a very entry-level position and gradually moved up as the years went on, which gave me the ability to have longevity and work at Mozza for as long as I have. It’s very rare.
What were the most important skills that got you there?
I think my strengths are, first and foremost, communication and people. I’m a people person and I always have been. I’m a connector, a mover, and a shaker in that sense. I think it’s a strength in my position to have a finger on the pulse of where things are in the restaurant industry and keep pushing forward on that note.
I’m pretty self-aware. If I don’t know how to do something or I’m not good at something, I’ll delegate or work with others to get it done. I’m not afraid to ask for help. I think people make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves and keep a tight grip on their departments, but I think in restaurants it always works better to collaborate with the team.
Do you have, or did you ever have, a mentor in your field?
My mentor was David Rosoff. He was our managing partner for eight years and now works at Hippo and Triple Beam Pizza. People make fun of me and call me a baby Rosoff, because I have some of his qualities. ‘Particular’ is a nice way to put it. It wasn’t always easy in the sense that he really pushed me to do what I was supposed to be doing. He believes that when you open a circle, you close a circle. If you walk into a room, you look around for what’s out of place and fix it. Every single day, he would tell us to reach for the top, knowing you’re going to fall down a little bit. He pushed us all to be as good as we could be. I would not be where I am today without him. I lend a lot of my sensibilities and the way that I do things to him. Even now, 13 years later, he’s still in the back of my mind — for better or for worse.
What does your job involve and what’s your favorite part about it?
I am still working with Nancy always. That’s one of my favorite parts of my job. I wear a lot of different hats, but technically the title is director of communications. We do all of our public relations, marketing, and digital in-house.
My day always starts with a call from Nancy. Even though we both know we’re going to be at the restaurant, we connect in the morning and lay out the day with what she needs me to do. I really like having a list, because it’s the only way I stay organized. When you wear a lot of hats, you have to manage your time. I run all the social media for the restaurants, so there are Instagram stories and those things, as well as marketing events like guest chef dinners and cooking classes that we’re doing on site. I’m also in charge of all of the newsletters. I need to keep all the digital and marketing machines pushing forward, trying to brainstorm what we’re going to do next, while also organizing Nancy’s travels.
I think I’m one of the only people in the group who’s dealing with every single department of every single restaurant on the corner, because there are so many moving parts. It can be challenging at times to try to keep up, but that’s the fun part. There’s never a dull moment on the corner of Melrose and Highland. Plus, I get to be around fantastic food and wine all the time. That will always be one of the biggest perks.
You do a podcast on top of that?
In terms of Table Setting, the podcast is a full-on talk show now. Originally, Tastemade came to me saying they were interested in creating a culinary podcast, because they didn’t have one and obviously podcasts are super exciting and interesting. When we started doing it, they had just come out with Tastemade TV and wanted content for that vertical, so they filmed the podcast in addition to recording the audio. It turns out that 98 percent of [the audience] was watching it, rather than listening. We just got picked up for season 3, so we ditched the big podcast microphones, and now are hosting a talk show in our little living room with our guests.
As far as schedule goes, it’s interesting. People think that we film once per week, but we actually shoot all of the episodes four days in a row and shoot three episodes per day. Max [Block, my co-host] and my schedules’ are so busy that there’s no other way that we could do it, so we get them done in a chunk. It also helps keep me focused, because I’m in that mindset of being on-air talent, which is not that easy to turn on and off.
I love getting to flex that creative muscle that I don’t necessarily get to use on a daily basis. A lot of what I do in my job is very much behind the scenes and focused on other people. My job is to support Nancy in whatever she is doing. It takes time to switch my brain to being in front of the camera, instead of behind it. I think my favorite part is getting to have that creativity and speak to people in the industry who I’ve known for a long time or have been admiring and getting a chance to tell their stories.
What would surprise people about your job?
People would be surprised to hear that it really is a 24-hour job. Whether I’m in the office or not, I’m working. Especially when you’re someone’s assistant, you don’t really have days off. They’re called “out of office” days. It’s more hands-on than people think. It’s not a cookie cutter job. Every single day is different and you really have to adapt and be on your toes.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
If you’re writing an email, write a draft and then go back and take all the emotions out of it before you press send. I think we’re all guilty of the 45 exclamation marks and it’s really important to remember that when you’re writing professional things, you don’t want to be emotional or reactionary. You need to keep your side of the street clean.
What advice would you give someone who wants your job?
Make sure you find the boss who you actually get along with and work well with. When you have to be around somebody that much, you have to make sure it’s a good fit on both sides and you believe in what they’re doing.
Having longevity in restaurants is really difficult. Sticking with it and staying in one place for so long might seem like a downside for a lot of people, but I think there are a lot of upsides and it says a lot about the brand that we have so many people who have been around for so long. It’s valuable to dig in, take ownership, and be part of something bigger. My advice to the new guard is, in this age of instant gratification and social media, you should get out of that mindset. You should try to get as much out of what you’re doing as you can, rather than looking around for the next best thing.
Morgan Goldberg is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, California.
Photo courtesy of Kate Green.
Illustrations from the Noun Project: camera by Dhika Hernandita; covered dish by Made by Made; wine by Made by Made; lightbulb by Maxim Kulikov; hand writing by Pongsakorn.