Uzay, how did you get involved in “The Restaurant?”
I had not heard anything about the casting call. Then a bunch of my close friends started calling and emailing me about it. Since I have been working in restaurants for so long and an actor, they thought it was a perfect fit. I shrugged at the idea, but hey if I am waiting tables anyway, might as well do it on TV. I waited for 11 hours before I got to talk to Rocco that first day of interviews. He must have liked what I said and here we are.
Did you feel the show portrayed everyone fairly accurately, or were there some who were completely misrepresented?
I don't think anyone is misrepresented. The cameras capture what you give. If you act like an idiot, you are an idiot. If you are professional, then that’s that.
Would you have done anything differently if you hadn’t been in constant view of the cameras?
No. I was Uzay. I didn't really hold anything back, but I tried not to play to the camera too much. I was there to do a job and That was my first priority. I didn't want to do anything that might lead to me losing my job.
Would you like to own your own restaurant someday, and if so, why?
I have always wanted to open a bar. I really enjoy spending time with people at a cool place where we are comfortable. I would like to have a place where other people can feel this way. And hey!! Free booze when you are the boss.
I understand the food is really better than portrayed at the opening by the cranky guests. Which dish is your favorite?
The food is amazing. We have been open for 2 1/2 months now and know what we are doing. My favorite dishes: Mama's meatballs, Lamb Scottoditto, Crispy lemony shrimp, Octopus, Veal parm.
How do you handle “cranky” customers?
I don't let anyone get cranky. The best waiters know how to read a table right off the bat. Some people want the waiter to be a part of their experience. They want to know your life story, share a glass of wine with you, take pictures. Others don't even want to remember what you look like. You treat then accordingly. have fun with the people who want to have fun and be invisible to the others while giving great service to both.
How important is it to have an efficient wait staff?
At a place like Rocco's when you are doing between 300 and 450 covers every night, you need a great staff. Efficient and tough skinned. You must be real good technically but you also have to roll with the punches. Things are bound to go wrong every night. You have deal with it and wipe your feet at the door when you leave.
Do you have show business aspirations?
Sure, I am an actor first. I have been acting since kindergarten. I went to NYU for Acting and studied at the Atlantic Theatre Company with David Mamet and William H. Macy. I do a lot of Shakespeare, and voiceovers, commercials, films.
Have you worked in many other restaurants?
In NYC, I have worked at BRASSERIE, under the Four Seasons. Also at THALIA in the theater district, BUBBY's in TriBeCa. Growing up in Marblehead, MA I worked at JACOB MARLEY's, J&S BRANDI'S, OSTERIA DI BACO, STONEHENGE TAVERN, ROMANO'S.
Would you say that Rocco is a good chef as well as a good boss?
I think he is a great chef. During training Lola and I along with some of the other staff ate at Union Pacific, where the food is incredible. Rocco doesn't really cook much at Rocco's.
Do you feel a solid connection with the staff?
Yeah of course. We spent a lot of time in a high stress situation together. It was like boot camp. I am close with everyone., except Caroline.
Has there been anyone who has left the restaurant who you were happy to see leave? (staff, not customers -- I'm sure there were a few of those!)
Are there many other calamities in store for us viewers?
You have to keep watching
I notice you are still employed at “Rocco’s on 22nd Street.” Why have you chosen to stay?
I like what I do. It is an exciting environment to work in. I have never taken the easy road when it comes to any aspect of my life. I chose to stay because every night is a new adventure and I make money to pay my bills.
What is your biggest ambition or dream?
I just want to make my mom proud of me. I also want to make a living as a theater artist.
Do you enjoy living in NY? Have you always lived there?
I LOVE NYC!! This is the center of the world. The most interesting people and lives are here. I came here for school and stayed. Been about 8 years.
If you had one wish, what would it be?
I want my own apartment. I want a Vespa. I want my sister to figure out what she wants to do with her life. I want my mom happy. I want to be out of debt. I want to travel the world. I want my best friend around all the time. One wish could never please me.
What are the worst and best aspects of your job?
The best is definitely connecting with people every night. I make complete strangers happy. I also get to work with some incredible people who become my family. There is nothing really that bad to say its the worst. Wipe your feet on the way in and wipe your feet on the way out.
If you could pack your bags and go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would get on a sailboat with my best friends and sail around the Med.
Thank you very much, Uzay. I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions and give us your "insider's" viewpoint.