Mary A. Castillo
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
“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.