Tanya Gay’s day begins like most parents. She starts with a frantic rush to get her teens out the door to school. After a few short hours to herself, she gets to deal with frantic rushes again – only this time as the day prep cook for the Draught Horse.
Gay, like a quarter of the new restaurant’s staff, is a resident of North Philadelphia. Gay, 30, grew up in the area with her mother and her mother’s family. Her childhood was fairly normal – except for playing outside. “I didn’t hang outside because of incidents,” she said.
Over the years, she has chosen to commute to jobs rather than move. Gay gave up a position as a waitress at the Hilton in King of Prussia to work closer to home.
She figured that the time she saved commuting could be spent with her children, Yvonne, 15, and Andre, 13. She first started working at McDonald’s at Broad Street and Girard Avenue – and then across the street at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
One day on her way home from work at KFC, she saw a hiring sign in the Draught Horse window.
“I didn’t want to work at KFC all my life,” she said. She put in her application – and was extremely tenacious about getting the job. “I came by here every day when I was going to work and after work when I had the time.”
“I hired her mainly on her qualifications, her availability and her personality,” Draught Horse general manager Payton Bowton said.
The qualifications came in handy for her brief training. Gay’s first day of work on Feb. 28 mainly consisted of training. She had to learn burger setups, sauces and the seasonings to use on different foods.
“It only takes a person who’s training me one time, and I know it from there,” she says. “If you pay attention, you learn quicker.”
Family, though, is at the center of Gay’s existence.
“When I’m home, I like to think about my family,” she says. Like many parents, she cooks and cleans at home. “We go to the movies, go shopping, (and) do family things.”
But when she’s at work, she’s at work.
In some ways, her routine is like thousands of corporate parents: she works from nine to five Monday through Friday.
“I’m the type of person who likes to get my work done and keep my areas clean.” Despite her conventionally structured schedule, she tries to help her bosses when they need it.
“If they need me, I try to make sure my kids are all right. The kids know to call here if there’s a problem. My sister-in-law and brother up the street help,” Gay said.
She feels filling in for sick employees is “showing your boss and supervising managers that you’re being loyal to the job.”
So far, she has every reason to be loyal. “This job is the best job (of the ones I’ve had),” she said.
At her other jobs, her coworkers’ lack of motivation was frustrating. Things are different at the Draught Horse: “We all communicate and get along… We talk about the main issues that need to get done.”
Working with college kids isn’t a problem. “Even though most of us in the kitchen are older, we look at them as team members. If we don’t know each other we introduce ourselves and then talk. People are people.”
But Gay is looking to bigger and better things.
“Maybe someday I’ll have my own restaurant,” Gay said. “It’ll probably be a place like this – only with a place for the kids to play.”