Foh&boh sits down with Nashville’s Luke Roguska

Hathorne, Luke’s “happiest work environment {he’s} ever been a part of.”

Luke Roguska moved to Nashville for the same reason as so many others: To break into the music industry. A job with LiveNation lured him down South from his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, but he soon realized it wasn’t the right fit for him.

He’d filled in a few times for a roommate’s hosting shift at Hathorne and really enjoyed his time there, so he reached out to see if they had any available opportunities. They brought him on as a host, but owner John Stephenson quickly realized Luke’s potential. His role now is to jump in wherever he is needed, which can be pretty much anything — hosting, serving, running, managing, you name it. And Luke couldn’t be happier with his unconventional role.

He told us, “John’s an employer who looks you in the eye and truly gets to know you for you. He took notice of my skills and realized I could really add value, and that makes me feel recognized and appreciated. He’s a true leader, and Hathorne is, hands down, the happiest work environment I’ve ever been a part of.”

On top of the stellar work environment, Luke is a big fan of Hathorne’s concept: A former fellowship hall, John carried that vibe forward with shared plates dining and the original pews he kept in the space. Luke said, “It’s a thoughtful, interesting concept, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. As a server, you often have to lie when people ask you about the food, but not here. I can honestly answer with passion because the food is phenomenal.”

Big Break

When I was 17, I started working in my uncle’s pizza place back home in MIchigan. It was a pretty cool job for a senior in high school. I got to experience all the roles — delivery boy, server, kitchen prep. I learned early on that I’m more FOH than BOH. I’m an extroverted introvert, so I enjoy that face time with people. I see serving as a sales job — you have some control over how much you make, based on your efforts.

Good Gig

We are treated very well at Hathorne. The shifts are short, the pay is great, and I have strong bonds with coworkers. We have each other’s backs, and in an industry that can be cutthroat, that’s a big deal.

Stand Out Tip
My days are always different, depending on my role for the day, but regardless of what it is, I always show up 15 minutes before my shift starts. I noticed that John gets stressed if I don’t do that, and I know it doesn’t go unnoticed.

On The Up & Up

Two years ago, I was working at a nightclub in Grand Rapids with a toxic environment. I was making terrible money and had to scrub floors at 4am off the clock. There was a lot of fighting amongst staff and inappropriate behavior — just an all-around downer. Cut to now, I am managing at one of the top up-and-coming restaurants in Nashville that’s been featured in Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants in 2019 (amongst many other accolades). Having a big hand in that feels great!

Home Chef

When I cook at home, it’s not pretty. I whip up my version of goulash (we’re Polish and my grandma made goulash growing up). I saute ground chicken/beef/lamb, add a chickpea or red lentil pasta and a TON of veggies (red, white, and green onions, jalapenos, bell peppers, mushrooms). I finish it off with plenty of herbs and seasonings and eat that for a few days. I call it Luke’s Paleo Goulash.

Just DON’T

Of course I have customer pet peeves — it comes with the territory. It drives me crazy when people try to hand me their dirty plates when my hands are totally full. It makes me feel bad! They get this sad look in their eye, and it’s like, sorry, I can’t physically carry one more thing.

Oh and people who split a bill in a super complicated way. I had a table of 16 people recently ask me to split it up into everyone’s individual drinks + 1/16 of the food bill. Do you know how long it took me to do all that math in a corner? I had to ignore all my other tables for way too long, and with Venmo and Splitwise, is it really necessary?

Off Duty

Favorite Recent Discoveries

Fable on West End feels exclusive (you don’t need a password or anything), fancy, and a little mysterious — and the cocktails are great.

Attaboy is a speakeasy-esque bar in East Nashville. There’s often a wait, but it’s worth it. There’s no drink menu, you just tell the bartender what you do and don’t like, and he’ll make a drink based on your preferences. Best drinks I’ve ever had. Just don’t ask me what they were because I have no idea!

Special Occasion Dinner

Even if I didn’t work there, the Hathorne private dining room.

Drinks With Friends

Old Glory. A cool building + a cool vibe gets me every time.

On His List To Try

I’m really curious about Twilight Tavern and Miel.

Drink of Choice

My go-to is an Espolon reposado tequila on the rocks, but I’ve been on a huge mezcal kick lately, and the bartender at Attaboy made me a spicy, smoky mezcal cocktail that was literally me in a drink.

Best Cheap Eats

Vui’s Kitchen. My friends and I joke that they had to open a new location because we keep a single one in business. I get the original beef pho and a beef banh mi, and it’s so good.

Foh&boh sits down with Nashville’s Luke Roguska was originally published in foh&boh on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.