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At your service

Mary A. Castillo

She is:

A people-oriented person who aims to please.

Everything happens in ‘15s’


Fifteen is a good number for Lori Henely.

It’s the number of years she’s worked in the restaurant business,

it’s the age of her youngest daughter, Nicole, and it was the number

of restaurants she scoped out when she arrived in Laguna ready for a


new life.

“I wanted to do what makes me happy,” she said, sitting near the

window looking out at the brick-paved path through Peppertree Lane.

“It was the opportunity to right the rest of my life.”

In July, she moved from Sacramento to Laguna Beach. She paid off

her credit cards and her car; she even admitted that she made a pact

with her daughter to send her home if she hated Laguna.

As soon as Henely, 39, arrived in town, she visited 14 different


restaurants before she walked into Partners Bistro.

“I fell in love,” she said of that fateful evening. “I knew this

was where I wanted to work, and that’s what happened.”

A comfortable place

As waiter and day manager, Henely’s job is to make someone’s

experience memorable -- whether it’s a lunch or anniversary

celebration. According to her, the ingredients of a fine dining

experience are simple: freshly whipped cream served with coffee,


dignified yet charming ambience and an exceptional server.

But she has to think for a moment when asked what ingredients make

up the exceptional server.

“You can’t be taught. It’s part of who you are,” she said, keeping

an eye on the server whisking glasses of white wine from the bar.

“You can have a lot of technical knowledge -- wine list or food --

but you have to be able to read the guests and meet their needs and

exceed their expectations.”

Henely knows the signs of a job well done.

“They enjoy the food, have a few drinks and laugh,” she said. But

one thing that has been unique to her experience at Partners is when

customers come back from an after-dinner walk to order a souffle.

“It’s nice to contribute to someone’s experience,” she said.

A town where everybody knows your name

When Henely first arrived in Laguna she knew nothing about the

community other than it was perched right on the coast and it boasted

nearly every kind of dining experience anyone could want.

Now, she sees that it’s something much more than a pleasant

sea-side town that bursts at the seams with summer tourists.

“People wave at you, they get used to your routines, and I like

that,” she said.

With work experience that ranges from family-style to fine-dining

restaurants, Henely feels that she’s found a second home of sorts.

Although she knows that the physical demands of the job might slow

her down in the long run, she relishes the life she’s established

here and now.

“This is the happiest I’ve ever been,” she said.