Spotlight on Team Thomas
Have you eaten at The Café at Shipley Center lately? Did you notice some new faces serving, or working in the kitchen? Well, two of those people are this month’s featured couple, Curtis and Deborah Thomas. Actually, Deborah is “Debbie” and because our Café Manager/Chef is also Kurt, Curtis goes by “Tony” (a la Tony Curtis!).
This is only the second time the Spotlight has featured a couple, a sort of “two-fer” … not, because they do not merit an entire article each, but because they are so interesting as a team.
Debbie was born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard MA. After high school, off she went to Finch College in New York City, for a degree in Art Gallery Management. This was followed by a degree in Hospitality Management from Stratford University in Virginia. She became an online Professor of Hospitality for the San Diego Community College Network.
She traveled the world as a Restaurant and Dining Services Consultant, training staff at their own sites; and is now developing training schools in these countries to carry on the education of service, banquets, and catering into the future. http://schoolfortheservicearts.com
Curtis (Curt, aka “Tony” at Shipley Center), born into an Army family in Tacoma, was brought up in Los Angeles. He joined the US Coast Guard in 1971 and served in various duty stations from Alaska to Italy. He was a boarding officer on Boating Safety Team 11 in San Pedro CA. He was discharged in 1976.
After leaving the military, he worked for a time in Galveston TX driving transport vehicles to and from oil rigs. He then attended San Diego State University and graduated with a degree in fleet engineering. After he got his degree, he signed on as a Chief Engineer of Tuna Boats out of San Diego and worked for a time in the Merchant Marine as captain and chief engineer.
By now, you may be wondering, as I was, how these people with very different backgrounds managed to get together! That would happen in 1989.
By now, Curt was Captain of an 87-foot yacht. While in Newport Beach, he advertised for a cook … and Debbie applied for and got the job! Thus began many years working on yachts as a team, Captain & Chef!
In 2001, they decided to spend time on land, and opened Health Conscious Catering Co., in North County, San Diego. The catering company featured organic, vegetarian, and vegan cuisine catering to a high-end clientele, producing special events for as many as 500 people.
Now we come to 2014 when they “retired”, sold their home and business, and moved into a 40-foot fifth wheel motor home to begin a new life as park hosts. Their first posting was the 112-acre day-use park, The Ranch Guajome Adobe County Park in Vista, CA. (That is a fascinating place; for more information, Google that name.)
This was followed by camp host duties in private parks in the Redwoods, Northern CA, then ending up at private resorts on the Olympic Peninsula. Currently, they are living in Sequim on the grounds of a private home doing security and maintenance duties.
Which brings us to “How did Debbie and Curtis end up at Shipley Center”? Debbie needed several hours of quiet time most days to complete her position as an adjunct online professor in hospitality, so Curt was “encouraged” to find something to do outside the home. A small ad for a “part time dishwasher at Shipley Center” caught his eye .. and as the saying goes, “the rest is history”!
More than a dishwasher, Curt waits and buses tables and does some of the prep and cooking work. Curt just happened to mention that his wife was a catering professor … who almost immediately was brought on board as a consultant to expand the catering side of “The Café”.
Two popular activities already implemented by Debbie were changing the potlucks to buffets, and $5 Fridays. While The Café had already been catering for Shipley functions, she is looking to expand the outside catering division.
Debbie and Curt love living in Sequim, their “west coast New England”, close to their grandkids in Seattle. Of his work at Shipley Center, Curt .. er, “Tony” .. says, “I love giving back to the community that has given me so much”.
Debbie and Curt, we are blessed to have you here and hope you will make Sequim your home for many years to come!
Do any of YOU have an interesting hobby that could be featured in an upcoming Spotlight article? Let Margaret Cox know.