Between a rock and a Lobster

(Bradley Massman | Grand Central Magazine)

A speeding ticket was all it took to change the life of Central Michigan Alumni Ryan Selke.

After his first speeding ticket almost a decade ago, Selke was in dire need of a job to pay for his fine. His mother, Julie, decided she would get him a job at Red Lobster located in Mount Pleasant. He first started working back in 2001 and since then has covered many positions in the restaurant. His job descriptions include: server, certified grill master, bartender, production, back-up and lastly making those delicious Cheddar Bay Biscuits that all customers seem to love.

“When I first started at Red Lobster it was amazing,” Selke said. “I got to work with two of my roommates whom I also went to high school with.”

Being a working student helped Selke in the long run. He paid for his first two years at Mid-Michigan Community College with his Red Lobster money. Transferring to CMU debt free was a huge relief for Selke because he didn’t have to worry about student loans. Yet, a soon to be accountant, knew every penny was going to count.

“I worked a lot while going to school, so there were times when I had to decide which was more important for my future.”

Being employed by Darden Restaurants for 10 years, Selke has witnessed a lot of managers come and go.  Jason DeMonte is easily his favorite. DeMonte just made the job an easy work environment and other crew members found him very enjoyable, he said.

Selke has also seen some “interesting” managers in his years there, including one who turned out to be a drug addict.

“He eventually died of a crack overdose,” Selke said of the man.

Customers are not people who easily annoy Selke, but he has witnessed some characters come through the doors. First there was a young woman who made him think she wasn’t right in the head.

“She told me my voice was penetrating her ears and that I needed to work on it if I was ever going to make it as a good server,” he recalled. “She even wrote on my tip bill that it ruined her entire meal and experience at Red Lobster.”

There was also an elderly woman who was convinced the restaurant was lying to her about a dessert they haven’t had on the menu for almost two years. The woman requested to speak with a manager immediately and called them all liars.

Selke hasn’t always been the most pleasant to some costumers at times though. He had a table come in almost an hour after closing time. The table had an expensive meal and Selke was excited to get a nice tip from them. When he discovered he was only given $2 on a $90 bill it made him a little aggravated. While leaving the parking lot of the restaurant, he gave the guests the bird. The customers called the company the next day to report the incident. Selke was fired and unemployed for 10 months before being hired back by different management.

Working at Red Lobster for many years has made Selke more “creative” in the kitchen. He has been working on creations he hopes one day will make the menu.

“I always make myself broccoli bites which are deep fried to my perfection. The managers never knew I was doing it, but when I perfect it to the way I like it, I might just inform them about it”

Leaving Darden Restaurants isn’t something Selke sees himself doing in the near future. With his degree in accounting and 3.0 GPA from CMU, he plans on being an accountant for the company or any other type of job opportunity that opens up. As for now, Selke will continue to work his many positions at Red Lobster to help pay for rent and his treacherous student loans.