Five Star Manager: Kelly Dominguez
This is the first of a three-part series highlighting some of the the Laughing Planet staff who make it all happen, day in and day out. We kick this off with Kelly Dominguez who manages the UNR LP. We chatted with Kelly on a Wednesday afternoon, in between peak ordering hours, to get to know more about why she is so passionate about LP, especially since her life course drastically changed after becoming part of the LP team.
Born and raised in Reno, but hailing from Veracruz, Mexico, her mother immigrated to the U.S. when Kelly was two. Kelly grew up with strong hispanic familial roots, and as an only child she was primed to be curious, so after graduating from high school in 2013, she went to UNR to study nutrition. Her eating habits as a teenager had consisted of all the junk food groups, chips, candy and processed foods, so when she started eating a more plant-based diet, she learned about LP and became hooked on good, healthy food that was also affordable.
Kelly has been working at LP for four years now. She started as a line cook, but was distracted by her classes at UNR, which did not feel relevant or pertinent at the time, especially when her professors contradicted what they were saying about nutrition and food policy. It didn’t take long for Kelly to realize there was a big disconnect between what she was supposed to be learning in college and the real world she was experiencing at LP.
Kelly grew bored of just being a line cook. Naturally inquisitive and industrious, she decided to take on more responsibility and work harder so that she could learn every aspect of the LP business. This is when she began to see herself as a potential manager, especially after realizing that composting was necessary for the volume of greens going through the restaurant, and LP also needed a more sustainable recycling program. She told us she could not have done this without Tim Healion as he was her guide for all of her ideas, but what she was most impressed with is that the company wanted to hear her ideas and wanted to use them. Working on this team and feeling valued is one of the main reasons she would not work anywhere but LP.
“It doesn’t even feel like you’re working; it feels like living your life.”Kelly D.
It did not take long for Kelly to connect with Lyndsey Langsdale, creator of Reno Food Systems located on Mayberry Drive. Not only was this a community connection, but it also provided opportunities for bringing more local vegetables into the restaurant. As Kelly gained greater awareness of the business and realized that the LP community was committed to lowering their global footprint, she became less motivated by the traditional college experience and more passionate about living and learning on the Laughing Planet, which she feels is more than a restaurant; it is an educational hub. Sustainability is paramount for Kelly and for LP, and Kelly says this could not be possible without community partnerships.
Kelly’s interests in healthy, delicious food has roots in her own family, including two cousins who also work for LP. Her early schooling, which she felt was not only inconsistent, but lacking in basic, real-world information. Growing up in a hispanic family in which her mother always made her eat her veggies, she was familiar with the hispanic tradition of prepping more veggies than the average American, so she was surprised that so few local restaurants were doing what she thought was just smart and healthy. The abundance of cheap and fast food in the U.S. was doing little to promote healthy lifestyles; Kelly believes that the medical system is in league with this unhealthy system, using fake food to keep people sick rather than promoting healthy food to maintain health. She also didn’t understand the overwhelming portion sizes, but at LP she found that there were more vegetables served and portion sizes were more about satisfaction rather than over-indulgence.
“The abundance of cheap and fast food in the U.S. was doing little to promote healthy lifestyles”Kelly D.
Kelly’s favorite indulgence is all LP food, but if she had to pick one it would be the Bollywood Bowl subbed with the Thai Peanut Sauce, and the employees. She says the best part is working in a place where everyone is supported, loves each other, works collaboratively to share really good ideas, works beyond the bare minimum expected to create positive and sustainable change and growth rather than just getting by. Kelly exuberantly claims that everyone she works with is inspiring: “it doesn’t even feel like you’re working; it feels like living your life.” Kelly loves that LP has zero gas emissions as a result of the Northern Nevada food distribution system within LP restaurants she helped create, but even with all of LP’s successes, she appreciates that there is still and always room for change beyond what she has seen in the four years she has been with LP.
In addition, she believes that LP “killed it” by creating a menu that accommodates many lifestyles but doesn’t charge more for those menu options. LP cuisine brings together a range of people from different backgrounds and economic status, more so than you might find at a traditionally organized restaurant, primarily because it is so delicious and affordable.
Kelly would like to take everything she has learned at LP and bridge it with physical health because she believes that a healthy diet and physical fitness go hand in hand. Because she is inspired by her experience at LP, once she has hammered down food health, she wants to become a pilates instructor. She hopes that as she continues to be the change at LP, she can help create new learning systems that help her community experience nutrition and art in real and meaningful ways, especially at an early age so people don’t have to wait until they go to college or get a job to learn about the healthiest ways to earn a living while living one’s dreams.