From Hostess To General Manager 35 Years In The Works With The Brigantine Family Of Restaurants - Business

From Hostess To General Manager 35 Years In The Works With The Brigantine Family Of Restaurants

by Alessandra Selgi-Harrigan | Posted: Friday, October 3, 2014 5:20 pm

Eileen Montgomery worked a variety of jobs before she was hired as a hostess at the Brigantine in 1979 at 21 years old. She worked at Miss Bunny’s Nursery School and was a  mail girl at the Hotel del Coronado. In the ‘70s the Brigantine was one of three main restaurants in town with the Chart House (now Bluewater Grill) and Mulvaney’s (located where Costa Azul is today).

Montgomery’s siblings worked at the Brigantine and told her about the job opening. 
“The manager called me and asked me ‘Do you want to be a hostess,’” recalled Montgomery. “Basically I got the job and never left,” she said. 

Over the years she moved from job to job within the family owned restaurants. She was a server, a cocktail server, a bookkeeper and for the last 27 years she has worked in management reaching her current position as the general manager. This year Montgomery celebrates her 35th year with the Brigantine family of restaurants. “One of my mentors was Pam Aldridge (now owner of Café 1134). She was my manager. She came to me about working in management. I was kind of leery and wasn’t sure, but she told me ‘Try it if you don’t love it, it will look good on a resume,’” said Montgomery.

Montgomery also was a manager at another Brigantine’s family of restaurants, Miguel’s Cocina located next door to the Brigantine. She worked at restaurants in Del Mar and La Mesa and she returned to the Coronado location in 2000.

“A lot of people in this industry will jump companies, but this company is very special. Barbara and Michael Morton started this company and built it from the ground up. They are extremely good to their employees and managers and there is a family feel. That’s why I never wanted to try another company or seek other employment,” she said.

The Morton couple is now retired and the company is still family owned and operated by their son Mike Morton Jr. with the help of his brothers Mark and Matt.

When Montgomery first started working at the restaurant she said the bar area was a quarter of what it is today and there were mostly booths. But as the years have gone by the company took more real estate and enlarged the space. Last time the restaurant was remodeled was in 2000 and the company is planning a remodeling in January 2016. The bar will be reconfigured as well as one of the dining rooms. There is talk of an oyster bar possibly conjoined with the bar area. Right now the architect and the owner are working together on the design and Montgomery and the chef are being consulted. Montgomery and chef Sergio Castillo have both worked together since the year 2000 and they have enjoyed their working partnership as well as friendship. 

The restaurant is working on a fall menu coming up in the first two weeks of October. Locals and visitors have enjoyed Brigantine’s dishes since it opened in 1973. Some of the dishes have remained a constant on the menu like the New England Clam Chowder and the Marinated Swordfish with avocado butter. The first Brigantine which opened in Point Loma in 1969 was known for its fresh caught swordfish. Although the restaurant was known for its seafood, steak was always available.

“The menu was limited in the beginning and has expanded over the years. We look at food trends of society and we keep competitive…we have a play with some sections of the menu but the core menu is mandated by our chef Steve Floyd. Tequila Chicken and Calamari Doré are two dishes that have been very popular in the past but are not on the menu any longer. Montgomery said if customers request one of those dishes, the chef will prepare it for them. “It’s a locals’ secret,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery has seen many generations of families come to the restaurant to celebrate a special event. “We’ve made the Brigantine the spot to go and celebrate. A lot of my locals say that our bar is like their “Cheers.” They come here and visit with neighbors and friends,” she said.

Montgomery does not shy away from doing anything that is necessary at the restaurant. She is helped by the assistant general manager Rebekah Dauphin and restaurant manager Eric Winchell.

“They have their own responsibilities outlined for their position. It’s my job to be their mentor and help them grow and teach their goals,” she said. Apart from overseeing between 50 to 60 employees she has other duties like ordering liquor and the daily catch, but the most important job is being the face of the restaurant. “I work the floor. I’m hands on. I clear plates, refill drinks, bus tables and assist in all areas. The administrative work is done at the beginning of the day, the rest of the time is with guests and supporting the employees,” she said.

“I’m in this job for the people. I enjoy the work, I train and develop employees enjoy relating and servicing my customers. That’s what inspires me… my passion,” she said.

Montgomery knows food. “Although I’m not a cook per se I’ve learned a lot from the chef and know how my food should look and taste. My managers and I troubleshoot and stay consistent,” she said.

What has kept her going for so long? “I’ve worked for the company for more than half my life. It’s very important to me. I still enjoy this job. It’s a tough job; that’s why you have to have a passion. Otherwise it’s a grinding job. But I find joy in my work,” she said.