Tips from a server: Cleo Burke of Homestead

  • “We use family meal as a chance to play with different flavors or try a new recipe or technique.” says Jeremy Werther, left, the chef and owner of Homestead. Werther says it’s important for the staff — including manager, Emily Mailloux, second from left, and servers James Low and Cleo Burke — to taste all of the restaurant’s food. Here, they nosh on Tuscan Prosciutto Carpaccio, Bucatini, and Rigatoni with Mixed Meat Ragu before opening for business on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A Homestead Sour, made with Vida mezcal, lemon, egg whites and Angostura. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • “I like the community here,” says Cleo Burke, holding the restaurant’s homemade Mushroom Campanelle. “I’ve worked in quite a few restaurants and kitchens before and it can be really cut-throat, or people will be friendly but in a backhanded way. I appreciate that everyone is friendly and looks out for each other.” STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Cleo Burke, who is a server at Homestead, holds Tuscan Prosciutto Carpaccio, Thursday, March 14, 2019.

  • Cleo Burke, who is a server at Homestead, waits on customers during her shift, Thursday, March 14, 2019.

  • Homestead’s Butcher Steak with braised alliums and roasted sweet potatoes. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A Homestead Sour, made with Vida mezcal, lemon, egg whites and Angostura —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 3/15/2019 5:02:15 PM

Cleo Burke is a 26-year-old server at Homestead of Northampton, an atmospheric Italian restaurant that specializes in handmade pasta, scratch cooking and craft cocktails. Burke, who joined the Homestead crew last October, says that she enjoys the friendly atmosphere and snacking on the delicious food.

Originally from Tampa Florida, Burke moved to western Massachusetts to attend Smith College in the fall of 2010. In addition to working as a server at Homestead, she takes classes in various hand-made art forms, like woodworking and pottery.

What is your go-to greeting?

“I usually say, ‘Hi, welcome to Homestead,’ tell them my name and ask if they’ve dined with us before.”

Which phrases do you over-use?

“I do say ‘sweet’ and ‘cool’ a lot, and I’m definitely an ‘ummer.’ ”

Does working here make you hungry?

“I’m always hungry. We have pre-meal before we actually open for service, and I’m usually eating something before pre-meal, during pre-meal and then I nibble throughout service. I’m a bit voracious.”

What is “pre-meal?” Is it provided by the restaurant?

“The pre-meal is free. We all sit down before service and touch base with each other and then the chefs tell us what the specials are and discuss any changes to the menu. Our bartender tells us what’s going on with the bar. It’s nice because everyone gets to get together and pow wow a bit before reviewing what we’re doing for the day.”

Do you know the specials by heart?

“Yes, I do. They (fellow servers) make fun of me because I don’t have to use my book.”

What is the best part of working here?

“I like the community here. I’ve worked in quite a few restaurants and kitchens before and it can be really cut-throat, or people will be friendly but in a backhanded way. I appreciate that everyone is friendly and looks out for each other. There is a very good teamwork aspect.”

What is the nicest thing a customer has ever done for you?

“I had this table come up and talk to me after I was done serving them, and they told me what a good job I was doing. It’s a silly thing, but being told you’re doing a good job is really nice. I feel like customers don’t always see everything going on behind the scenes, and I respond well to a pat on the back.”

What should people order on their first visit here?

“I recommend trying to get as many small plates as possible. That way you get a good idea of what we have. Maybe go for the Ricotta Dumplings so that you at least get to have some of the handmade pasta. We also have artichokes on our small plates menu that are roasted and stuffed with garlic and come with lemon creme.”

What do regulars tend to crave?

“Meatballs and the Black Kale Salad. And Rigatoni, just because it’s such a classic.

What is the weirdest request you have gotten?

“This is just the first thing I could think of but I don’t think it’s the oddest request. I had someone look at the menu and ask me to explain it to them, and then as I began to explain it, they asked me to go away. Then they kept waving me over and having me come back, it felt like a weird power move. I have no idea what was going on but I could tell that whoever he was with was kind of embarrassed.”

Are you your true self when you’re at work?

“No, well, partially. I feel like I put on a whole bunch of different masks every day, but that is one aspect of me. It’s definitely a face I put on, but it’s not an ingenuine one. I’m not the happy-go-lucky server, I’m more of the relaxing, calm person, like ‘it’s ok, we’ll get through this order together.’ ”

Where do you take breaks?

“We have a little patio in the back with string lights and a cute little table. It’s nice.”

What’s your dream job?

“Ideally I would like to make things, I want to learn everything that I can do with my hands. I want to woodwork and weld. ... One of my long term goals is to open a restaurant eventually, but I’m very happy just working at service and saving up money to take classes and learn how to make things.”

Who’s your role model here?

“Our two bartenders are really good with the customers. I think it’s amazing that they can both be very fast and so friendly and attentive to everyone on top of making drinks. They manage to keep their cool.”

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

“Do you know that guy Nightcrawler from X Men? He can poof to any place that he wants to be. I want that power, vacations would be so much cheaper.”




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