Mountain Characters: Aspen waiter kills them with kindness (and honesty)
Donnie Rey doesn’t trust people who don’t like bacon.
The Justice Snow’s waiter says he wishes he could invent an alarm clock that produces the savory, unmistakable aroma of hot strips of bacon sizzling in a grease-pooled pan.
“It’s like the glue of the kitchen,” he said. “You can slap it on anything and it just fixes everything.”
Order your burger sans bacon, and Donnie may ask what’s wrong with you.
“I have no filter,” the 31-year-old English-born, Filipino American said.
While Donnie admits this gets him into trouble at times, his former manager Sean Robison said complete honesty to a guest is one of the best characteristics of a service-industry employee.
“Donnie always tells people what the situation truly is,” Robison said.
That even can be when Donnie is telling his customers they’ll be charged for bacon and that he’ll probably eat it himself.
“That’s why his tables love him,” Robison said.
But there are a lot reasons Donnie’s customers and co-workers love him, as Robison pointed out.
“Donnie treats everybody in his life with an overwhelming amount of love and care,” Robison said. “The guy would literally jump in front of a moving train for any of his friends.”
It’s this overwhelming love and care that has allowed Donnie to thrive at Justice Snow’s, despite having moved to Aspen with zero serving experience in June 2014.
“I had no idea how to serve,” Donnie said. “But I love to host. When I’m not working, I host. I just like to get people around.”
Donnie’s perspective on serving has been simple from the start: He treats his customers the way he treats his friends and family, which is “a five-star experience,” said Sam Gemus, Donnie’s co-worker and close friend.
Gemus said if you are lucky enough to be invited into Donnie’s humble abode for a home-cooked meal, don’t miss out on the opportunity.
“Donnie is a blessing to have as a friend and co-worker,” Gemus said. “He’s always positive and always working hard, even after his shift ends.”
But Donnie admits that serving others isn’t always as easy as serving your friends and family.
“You’ll meet people from all walks of life,” he said. “And it can be hard to deal with people sometimes. You can be the ripest peach in the world, but there’s always going to be that somebody that doesn’t like peaches.”
While Donnie said this affected him for a long time, after about a year of working in the service industry, he’s learned not to take things personally.
And even if he did, you’d never know by his beaming smile and warm disposition.
“The service industry can create alarmingly stressful situations for its employees,” Robison said. “Handling this stress makes or breaks the employees.”
Rather than showing his stress or creating additional stress for others, Donnie will make a silly joke or comment, Robison said.
“He has his own unique way of diverting the unwanted stress and allowing everybody around him a few moments to compose and smile,” Robison said, adding that, “nobody quite nails that technique like Donnie.”
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Kevin Warner started his career with the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness ranger in 2001. Now he’s taking over the key position as Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.