Kitchen Manager Extraordinaire: Manny Dominguez
This is the second interview in an extended series highlighting some of the Laughing Planet staff who make it all happen, day in and day out. We chatted with Manny Dominguez, Kitchen Manager for both the Midtown and UNR locations on a busy Tuesday morning as he was prepping food for the following day and helping other staff prep for the day. Like his cousin Kelly, and his sister, Anell, Manny is extremely passionate about being part of the LP team.
Manny was born and raised in humble beginnings in Cordoba, Veracruz, Mexico. Slowly everyone in his family migrated to Reno; he isn’t sure why the family chose Reno, but the first family member came to Reno and everyone else just followed; he considers Reno his home. With dimples that radiate his smile, it’s easy to see why this affable, young entrepreneur is making his mark at LP, even though he claims he is not very social, preferring the back of the house, the kitchen, to the front of the house, the counter.
Manny gained experience in the food industry when he became a dishwasher for a local upscale restaurant at the urging of his older brother. At 15, Manny quickly graduated to prep cook, knowing then that he didn’t want to pursue higher education because he found his career in the food industry, and like his cousin Kelly, he believes he has learned far more from practical experience than he could in a classroom. Manny took this first job to help his family, often bringing his younger sister (who is the current Midtown Store Manager in Reno) to work with him, so she could do her homework while he prepped in the kitchen. This was more than just helping the family pay the bills though; he knew he wanted to cook. He has always loved cooking, so this first job definitely gave him the experience and education he needed, and after nine years at Beaujolais, he was ready to grow his career.
He started at Laughing Planet as one of the first staff members hired after a friend steered him toward the business. At first he didn’t feel challenged, so he took a position at Adele’s in Carson City, but when he cut his hours at LP, he was offered the full time kitchen manager position at LP, so he quit Adele’s, and his LP career took off. He has been with Laughing Planet for five years now and has not regretted one minute.
He says that working for Laughing Planet has been life-changing on so many levels. Working in more traditional restaurant settings can be a bit abusive since kitchens are often understaffed and the dining room is usually overbooked. Manny says he appreciates the change at LP because “we are just all kind to each other.”
“I love how we care about the earth. We try to do good to the earth and to each other. There are so many things that Laughing Planet does well. I wish people would get to know us more as a company: we know where [all the food] comes from. If people would eat here more, they would be healthier. Fast food is serving chemicals. McNuggets do not feel like chicken. It’s important to know where your food comes from so you can make educated decisions about what you want to put in your body.”Manny D.
Manny wants the community to know that all the LP protein is organic, and LP prices are affordable. He knows that LP buys the same quality food that other more expensive restaurants buy, but LP is not charging double the price for which other restaurants charge more for the same food. He prefers to find local, organic and affordable options, but this is not an easy job. Because the Truckee Meadows is still on the cusp of making local, organic and affordable food available to the masses, Manny became a member of the Advisory Board for DROPP, (Distributors of Regional Organic Produce and Products, part of the Great Basin Community Food Co-op), which meets bi-annually, in an effort to fulfill this community goal.
He is also purchasing about 100 pounds of kale a week from Lyndsey Langsdale, creator of Reno Food Systems. Manny works hard to make sure that the LP approach to food remains “simple and straightforward,” and gets “from the farm to your plate as quickly as possible, and in the least complicated way.” Manny works hard to make sure that there is “an abundance of clean, whole foods, tons of fresh veggies” that are sourced from local farmers.
Like his cousin Kelly, the manager of the UNR location, Manny wants not only to educate the community about healthy food choices but he also wants to educate his family. He says it is difficult because so many families have to eat what they have, which is often highly processed due to limited budgets; they don’t necessarily feel they have the economic means to eat healthier, but they can at LP. He sees it as part of his mission to help consumers understand that they can afford healthier choices.
Manny is happy he works with family members and that his family comes to eat at LP regularly. “I love working with [my sister and cousin], and I’m glad that they run the cafes because I know the cafes are well taken care of. With Kelly and Anell in charge, I have 100 percent peace of mind.”
Manny has an ambitious outlook for LP in the Truckee Meadows. He would like to see more restaurants and a catering station: “I hope to see this company grow a lot more.” He would like to be district manager, but stay in the kitchen, because food is his thing. He says his real skill is problem-solving, but he can put himself in any busy, hot line and immediately determine how to make it more efficient.
Manny loves the Paleo Bowl, but at first he “didn’t think you could make vegetables so good without butter.” Except for inventory day, during which he has to deal with 15 pages of reports, he loves everything about his job. “Hard work is what is needed; I love where I am.”