Alexis Gelburd-Kimler brings over a decade of dining room experience to West Bridge. She started her restaurant career, as so many do, waiting tables. A communications major at the University of Massachusetts, Alexis had her sights set on a job in television but after taking a position at CBS in NY, she soon realized that corporate America was not her calling. The active pace of the dining room and the camaraderie among restaurant staff were what she’d been looking for all along.
In 2009, she signed on with the Aquitaine Group to be the general manager of their flagship location in the South End, Aquitaine Bistro. Her dedication and commitment helped see the restaurant through a trying economic period—and together, they flourished. Her communications degree has served her well in working with the public and the staff and in avidly promoting the restaurants for which she has worked. It is with that commitment to developing strong relationships with her guests that Alexis moved excitedly toward the opening of West Bridge, alongside her partner chef Matthew Gaudet in May of 2012.
How did you get into the Culinary industry?
I had been working for CBS television straight out of college on the corporate side and realized pretty quickly the 9-5/ day walker life was not for me. I left NYC and was helping a friend out with a new restaurant in the Berkshires during the busy months, and you could say it was love at first sight. I loved being on the floor of the restaurant. I was contributing every night and I felt apart of something. From that day forward I never looked back and have been working on the management side of restaurant for 12 years straight.
Tell us about West Bridge. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the restaurant?
West Bridge was born in the basement of another restaurant. My now business partner / Chef Matthew Gaudet had many hour long conversations of our vision. We were on the same page from day one and that made building our concept together a reality much easier. In a nut shell we wanted a level of fine dining without all the pretentiousness. We wanted to be able to show people you can keep a certain level of food and service and yet still have fun- loud music, sharing, communal tables!
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to West Bridge's success?
I credit the success of West Bridge to the teams we created before we even opened. You are only as good as the people you surround your self with from our accountant, to our general contractor, to the person running your social media. We have always had an extremely supportive staff/ family that works very hard to convey our vision of West bridge every day. It really has become my family.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Social Media: As much as we can all recognize this trend in any area of business, we are having a hard time finding a way to measure the success of it. While we all love to be apart of the conversation, I am still looking for a way to close the circle- such as connect it with a reservation system maybe?
Pause. Breathe. Smile.
Your greatest success as Proprietor of West Bridge? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
Building a restaurant at 31 years old and getting the doors open. Patience. Your patience is pushed to the ultimate when not only opening a new restaurant, but employing 40 employees and being the active general manager. I have had to learn how to wear all those hats with out screaming at the top of my lungs. So I now do a lot of yoga and meditate. Everyone seems much happier now, including me :)
Your advice to an aspiring restaurateur?
Understands the sacrifices that will need to happen, personally and professionally.
Respect and appreciate everyones quality of life that is apart of your team.
Hire the best accountant you can find and trust.
Describe the ideal experience at West Bridge.
A busy Saturday night. The room is alive. People are literally dancing in there seats. The sun is still continuing to pour into the dining room from the extended day of summer- and the beautiful floor to ceiling windows. A table with 4 guests is covered- every inch with food because they are sharing every plate- the colors on the tables are not only coming from the food but the bright cocktails and glasses of Rose.
They are engaged with there servers until the very end and they have most likely learned two new items of food they have never heard of before all the time smiling and finding a few hours of escape from there day.
How important are architecture/design to the success of West Bridge?
Extremely- we worked with a design firm out of Brooklyn called Creme. They did a wonderful job helping to create our vision. The less is more theory can be very tricky- if you are only going to have two pieces of art they have to be a home run- if there is no table cloths your tables and table settings have to be spot on- EVERYTHING is important in the design.
Most popular dishes/drinks and your favorites?
Guest Favorites: Egg in the Jar & Cocktail: Conants Island.
How do you motivate your employees?
By being part of the team- being right there on the front lines with them on those crazy nights.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
A turkey sandwich made by my friend and business partner Matthew (he makes the best sandwiches for late night snacks at work)
Drink is to easy all things pink = ROSE.
What literature is on your bed stand?
Right now- theres a few I jump around a lot. There is always at least one issue of Food and Wine-and book wise right now- The American Heiress and The Art of Happiness at Work - written by the Dalai Lama.
Role model - business and personal?
Business - Garrett Harker- owner of Eastern Standard, Row 34, Island Creek Oyster Bar, The Hawthorne
Personal - I am still working on that one- ask me in a few years.
My meditation practice and TRAVELING more- next stop San Fran to eat my way across the city for two weeks.
Favorite travel destination?
I am hoping to go to Thailand next year.
What's next for West Bridge?
We are always continuing the conversation as what will be next- but my focus remains on West Bridge and how we can continue to grow and learn from what we have.