As part of our ongoing series, The Happiness Series Q & A, we wanted to feature people from around the country, who are doing what they can to find inspiration and value in their work & their lives. People like you, who are living with gusto & passion, and at the same time, raising a family and building a career. Gina Selby, in Denver, CO, is a hard working woman in an industry that doesn’t always support the life of a working mom. Gina, with her husband Matt Selby, chef/restauranteur, has worked at some of the busiest, most successful restaurants in Denver, CO. She left the business to take care of their young daughters. She’s recently returned, as a consulting manager to Adrift, a new tiki bar in Denver. Incidentally, her husband just opened a new restaurant. And if you’ve ever worked in this industry you know what that means, long hours, late nights, and a new crisis every hour. So how, in one household, do they manage to keep it together? We’ll find out this & more from Gina in our Happiness Series Q & A.
Q: Gina, how do you manage it all, now that you & your husband are both in the early days of new restaurants?
A: With very little sleep. You know, honestly, it’s just a day to day thing. It’s just what we do. We get the kids ready for school, we get ready for work. My oldest daughter has been instrumental in allowing us to do this, in picking up the school.
Q: So it’s really a family affair?
A: 100%. Everyone’s involved. The kids are my champions everyday.
Q: How’d you get started in the restaurant business?
A: Going to college, I started bartending & cocktailing & I just fell in the love with the business. It’s a new experience everyday. When I had kids, when I was in the business, I chose to bartend part-time, so I could stay with my kids all day & my husband could be with kids at night. It worked out beautifully. We had our family days. 2 days a week that are untouchable. No meetings, no work, just the family.
Q: Is that sometimes hard to pull off?
A: It is hard. Restaurants are 24/7. It’s just takes time to get other people to understand that it’s important. We just do what we do. Be grateful for what you do have… be grateful for the time we do have together.
Q: Why is work important to you?
A: Well, there’s always the money component. But I also want my kids to see that you need to work hard to have a good life. To get the things you want, you have to work hard. I don’t have a social life, so working in the restaurant biz is my social life. And it keeps me young. And I have fun.
Q:What made you want to have kids?
A: I always thought I would. Never occurred to me that I wouldn’t.
Q: What do you love about your life?
A: I love being a mom. I love that life is beautiful. My friends, family & husband. It’s endless, there are so many great things. So much beauty in the world. Every single day you have to find the beauty & be grateful for what you have. There are bad days but the reality is that life is beautiful.
Q: What in your day makes you happiest?
A: Waking my kids up in the morning. Audrey coming into my room & snuggling with me before we get up. Seeing my kids sleeping, even Olivia, my 17 year old, is so sweet asleep. I love that.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do?
A: Sitting on the beach looking out at the ocean. Any time of year.
Q: What makes you feel good? When somebody recognizes what I do, when I feel validated, from anybody, my staff, my kids, my husband, the guests, when somebody says you did a really good job. It’s important when you’re working your ass off for somebody that they pat you on the back. Coming home to clean house, when my kids clean the house for me, to make me happy, as a gift. That makes me feel good.
Q: How did you make your businesses successful?
A: Guest service is the #1 thing to a successful restaurant. You need a good product & a good space but building the business is making the guest feel good. They’ll come back because they felt good while they were there. You can go anywhere for a good meal but you can’t always get a good experience. If you give them an outstanding experience, they’ll come back. That’s my #1 goal. And creating a feeling of ownership & loyalty amongst my staff.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve been given regarding work & life?
Q: How do you find balance? You’re very busy these days, with your family and your job, is it possible to find balance in your life?
A: I don’t, right now. When you open a new restaurant, there’s no balance. Everything is out of control. But you have to get back to the balance. Balance between work/life/family/self.
Q: What are you plans for the future?
A: To continue to create amazing restaurants in the city. And to help drive the restaurant scene in Denver. This is my home; this where I’d like to help create a great food city.
Q: What has working in a restaurant taught you about life and happiness?
A: People are amazing. People are interesting & fun. And people are crazy. They can also be messed up. It makes me realize that even on a bad day my life is awesome.
Q: How has being a mother impacted your life?
A: I think being a mother has kept me from doing things that I’ve wanted to do, I’ve had to put things off because I’m a mom & my kids come first & that’s okay. But then on the other hand they’ve created so much joy in my life. And being responsible for them to grow up & to be good people & part of our community, it’s overwhelming. It’s a daunting task, to think that I’m responsible for these 3 people to go out in the world & do good things. But it’s what I’ve always wanted.
Q: Do you have a desert island meal?
A: McDonald’s french fries, Coca Cola, several bottles of cava.
Q: What’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted?
A: Seared foie gras, buttery, crispy. I love it.
Q: What’s frustrating about your job?
A: Same thing that frustrating my kids. Getting people do what they’re supposed to do. Don’t half-ass your work. It’s frustrating to give people a list of your expectations & then have them throw out the window.
Q: How did you meet your husband?
A: In a restaurant. I was working at Jax in Denver. And they were working on Vesta, where my husband Matt started. The chef community is really tight. So he would come over all the time. And then I went to work at Vesta & we just became really good friends. And then one thing eventually led to another. Once it clicked we fell in love very quickly. He swept me off my feet. He’s very sweet. He’s just awesome.
Q: Does networking help in making your business a success?
A: Absolutely. I just know for myself it matters. I think that everyday I’m at work, I’m networking. I’m where I’m at for a reason. The universe put me there.
Q: To anyone looking to open a bar or restaurant or even start a new business what would you advise?
A: Have passion in what you do. Do it because it’s a business you love. Don’t do it because you think it will be fun or make you a ton of money. You have to do it because you love it. Restaurant business is incredibly difficult, time consuming, all consuming. You have to be willing to give up everything for it.
Q: What would you like to change in your life?
A: I’d like to have more time.
Q: Is being a woman in the restaurant biz tough? Does it make your job harder?
A: Sometimes yes but for the most part no. For me, I don’t have any fears or reservations about dealing with people, dealing with business owners who might be men. I think I get treated equally. At least at this point, it doesn’t matter. Except when I’m behind the bar, I’ll use every thing I got. All my womanly charms. I’m stronger than a lot of men. I’m a woman & I’m a badass.
Q: Describe who you are.
A: I am passionate; I am strong. I love people. I love laughing. I’m happy. I think my energy is happy. I find the beauty in everything; I find the good. I get frustrated most often by negativity. I don’t want it around me. I want to change people who are negative. All you have to do is look up, see the sun. It’s so easy to find beauty. I want to share happiness with everyone. I’m so grateful for the little things. I was driving to work the other day, & there’s this jeep in front of me, & he had a sticker saying “Life is Good.” And it just made me smile. And that’s what keeps me going everyday. There are so many people in my life that I’m so grateful for; I’m so grateful for all the love.
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About the Author: Tania Van Pelt is the creator of Happiness Series. She is a writer and content creator, working in film, tv, and online. She wrote the popular lifestyle book "Ageless Diet," published in late 2015. And she is currently working on her next book. She also developed a sitcom pilot set in the restaurant business called "Employees Only TV" and is developing another web series comedy about Denver.