Familiar Faces: Mama G of the Curator Shares How Her Love for Talking to People Led Her to the Service Industry

July 11, 2019
Familiar Faces is a series that seeks to bring attention to restaurant employees who have worked on the floor for several years, whom we consider to be unsung heroes in the restaurant business.

As soon as we enter The Curator, Mama G (as Giann is fondly called by the coffee community) greets us as if we are welcome guests entering her home. She’s one of their long-time baristas, having joined the team six years ago when the coffee to cocktails concept opened shop in Makati. In one fell swoop, she helps us feel comfy, seating us by the window with glasses of water at the ready. Right off the bat, you already see how she embodies one of the core values of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 37th placer: service.

“So basically, I love talking,” Mama G starts off. She speaks to us (well, to everyone actually) so openly, it’s like she’s conversing with old friends.

Mama G has always been passionate about communicating with people. So she moved towards a path that would let her interact with different personalities. While pursuing a degree in Public Relations, she started applying to coffee shops in the city. She landed in Starbucks; and when asked why she wanted the job⁠, she simply said “I love talking to people.” She worked there for eight years, starting as a cashier wherein she was encouraged to do “suggestive selling.” She reenacts her old spiel with a laugh, “Would you like to make it a Venti? It’s only a 10-peso difference.” During this time, she learned how to adapt towards different people, occasionally changing her tone and attitude based on who was in front of her. She felt like, that way, she was developing better relationships with everyone she met.

Before settling in The Curator, Mama G also had a very short stint in the corporate world, to which she remarked My God, para akong mababaliw (‘it felt like I was going crazy’).” She also worked in an independent production house. She loved being in production because she got to hear new stories from the people she worked with. She also enjoyed being able to see things she’s worked on from scratch come to life.

I realized service [is a] general [thing]. You can actually do it [in whatever] job you have… Once [you’re used to taking] care of people, it comes out naturally in your work. [For me], service is not a job—it’s a natural human [instinct]. You can give it to anyone, not just your customers, but [also] to anyone you work with or talk [to].

Mama G shares that she just came back from a coffee competition where she was asked to be a judge. She then proceeds to fix us up a few cups using beans she picked up during her trip.

Mama G found The Curator on JobStreet. They were looking for a barista, so she sent her CV. The next day, she came in for an interview. Armed with her experience from Starbucks, she answered their coffee-related questions with ease. When they finished, the co-founders asked her for some water. The request came across as weird for her at the time, but she later figured it was a test on her service skills. She was just a few steps out the door when she got a call offering her the position. She immediately started the following day.

For Mama G, what sets The Curator’s service apart is that it comes out so effortlessly from everyone in the team. Mama G’s service extends towards a special bond that she nurtures between her and the rest of The Curator family. She’s a present motherly force in everyone’s lives, occasionally checking up on each individual. That’s the story behind her nickname, “Mama G” (well kind of; it actually started as a “Big Mama” inside joke, but it’s become to mean more than that over time). When she interviews people to join the crew, Mama G’s main criteria is their personality, whether or not they exude a connection to herself, the rest of the group, and the brand. She encourages everybody to be their “actual selves.” And she constantly reminds them to go the extra mile when they can and to be easy on themselves when they make mistakes. The candidness, relatability, and warmth exuded by the team help grow and sustain The Curator’s coffee community.

[One important trait to have in the service industry] is being welcoming. Always make a good first impression… It’s [a good feeling] when you welcome someone that [was initially] intimidated [when they first walked in].

As if we needed more proof of her stellar service, she ends our conversation with “You want food? Drinks?”

Mama G explains that there also off days: “Complaints are the number one challenge for us.” There are instances when their service fails to work for some people. When this happens, they try to do “service recovery,” adding that, in this field, it’s important to be a listener. She also says that educating people about coffee is a bit of an uphill climb, especially when faced with customers who like to mask their joe with sugar. Although, it’s also one of the greatest rewards when they are able to convert them into black coffee drinkers.

To conclude, she tells us how lucky she is to be part of The Curator, doing something she loves. “Now, I can’t leave. I don’t see myself not here. Sometimes, I think growth is somewhere out there; but I’ve [already] come to be part of this family.”

Note: Some parts of this interview were translated for clarity.
Jica Simpas Jica Simpas

Jica hopes that by writing about food she'll actually learn how to cook. But for now, she'll happily just eat everything—especially cookies.

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