Jaier Vlessing is considered something of a “unicorn” among restaurant workers.
The 62-year-old server at Vancouver’s Gotham Steakhouse has been hailed as a role model, not only for putting his customers first, but for the empathy he shows colleagues and the extra effort he puts into the job.
“I don’t know if I’m ever going to get to work with another person like this,” Gotham general manager Benjamin MacMaster said in an interview.
Vlessing plans to hang up his server’s jacket for good later this month, after two decades at Gotham and nearly five decades in the hospitality industry.
He is one of the original members of the Gotham team, serving at the high-end restaurant since it opened in 1999.
“After working 23 years and raising a family in a steakhouse it’s time to take care of myself,” Vlessing told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.
Vlessing got his start as a part-time worker at a fast food restaurant when he was a teenager.
Over the decades, I have honed his skills and built a reputation as a stellar server.
His dedication to his career was recognized by Vancouver Magazine’s Restaurant Awards in 2017.
The magazine described Vlessing as a classic steakhouse server that everyone in the industry should look up to.
“He’s the gold standard,” said MacMaster, noting Vlessing reminds him of an “old-school” waiter.
“He puts his heart and soul into it in every way imaginable.”
In addition to being a “unicorn” of a server, Vlessing is known for taking on less glamorous tasks behind the scenes, like changing light bulbs and doing other odd jobs, MacMaster said.
Vlessing says as much as he loves meeting new people and working in a fun, social environment, he was inspired to take the leap into retirement after being off work for three months because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“A friend passed away at the same age as me and I thought, you know, the runway is getting shorter and so we have places to go,” he said.
As an avid traveler, he said he plans to use the next chapter of his life to visit destinations on his bucket list and spend more time with his family.
“When you work in the restaurant business, you miss out on a lot of what’s going on because I work evenings,” he said.
“I’m a big traveller, so in the fall I’m off to Greece and Portugal.”
Vlessing will serve his final table on April 14, but his Gotham family says his legacy will live on.
“There’s going to be a piece of him in this restaurant forever,” said MacMaster.