Mirja Haynes has been a part of the Fifth Group family for years. With a long resume in the restaurant industry, she is the perfect fit for her role at Lure. When she’s off the clock, she enjoys doing yoga, traveling to brand new places and combing through all the items at local thrift stores. Read more about Mirja below!
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I really have only done the restaurant industry. I started working in college at an Athens hotel to pay the bills and I was quickly promoted to banquet manager. Then I went to work at a country club in the area, I got promoted to clubhouse manager there and I never looked back. It was nuts. I was working 80 hours a week and loving every minute of it. Then I went to work for the Old Edwards Inn & Spa, a luxury resort in Highlands, North Carolina, because I had the opportunity to work for a four-star wine program. The executive chef was from the Essex House in New York, the beverage director came from the Ritz-Carlton in DC. I really wanted to expand my horizons, get out of Athens and learn a little bit more. So I did that, but I also realized living in a 1,000 person town year-round is terrifying to me. It was all work, no play and no diversity. When I left there I went to work at Ansley Golf Club and I was the food and beverage director there for eight years. It was a big operation. There was never a dull moment. I liked it but I was also working a whole lot. In country clubs, it’s still at the point where you’re very subtly being told that as a woman you may get a management position, but you’re never going to get THE management position. Then I worked in sales for a company who’s based out of Brazil for about a year. Then I went to work waiting tables again at Bacchanalia. But I was still looking for a job. Then a good friend of mine called me and told me there was a beverage manager position open at Alma Downtown. So I interviewed and got the job! After about two years doing that, they approached me about a general manager job at El Taco and I did that for about two years. Then they brought me over here to Lure!
Can you describe your role with Lure?
I’m the general manager, so my role is everything. I do the budgeting, I make sure we stay profitable, I make sure that we hire great staff, I make sure the chef is happy and also doing his job. So, a lot of different hats, but I love it.
What is your favorite part about being part of the FGR family?
I like that it really is a family, so there’s lots of support. No matter what happens, I can pick up the phone and call somebody who either has an answer for me or can offer some support. You never feel like you’re all alone or like you’re on an island. There’s always somebody to catch you and by the same token, I enjoy being able to provide that support to other people. I really like the values at Fifth Group. We have a strong set of values and we live by that and we always try to think about what the right thing to do is before we think about what the profitable thing to do is. There’s definitely a mindset of thinking about what we’re doing and what the repercussions are and thinking about it from the good old karma point of view and I’m a big believer in that.
What’s your favorite dish and drink at Lure?
Anything that Eric puts in front of me. Anything. But I love the scallop set right now. There’s a tomatillo salsa verde with burned corn that’s really nice and fresh and spring-y tasting. I love our octopus and pork lettuce wraps. I think those have been on the menu since we opened. I like it all, really. As far as drinks, I like the Commissioner here and I love our Aubry champagne by the glass. I’m more of a wine and champagne drinker than I am beer and cocktails, but when I do drink cocktails, I like a strong one.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Germany. My biological parents and all of my biological family is from Germany. My mom met my stepdad, who’s American, when I was nine. He was working for the Pentagon overseas doing all their networking administration. They met and dated for awhile and when I was 14, he “military retired” and then took a job in Athens, Georgia at UGA. That’s how I wound up here and that’s why they married. So I went to high school in Athens, I went to college at UGA and then moved to North Carolina, but have been in Athens for the rest of it. But all of my maternal family is still in Germany.
What was your favorite meal as a child?
My mother’s creamed spinach and sunny-side up eggs, on the same plate together. It’s bizarre, but delicious.
What is a fun fact about you?
I am completely fascinated, in love with, and terrified by nature, all at once. This has made for some interesting and mildly traumatizing camping and hiking trips. I hated all cheese until I was in my late teens. I am not sure if the two are related.
What part of town do you live in?.
I live over in East Atlanta, about a mile outside the Village.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Atlanta when you’re not working?
I like gardening, so I like spending time outside. I like to get out of Atlanta a lot, too. I do a lot of yoga, mostly for the attitude adjustment – so that I scream on the mat, I don’t scream at work. I have a dog and a cat, so I spend time with them. I like thrifting. I’m a minimalist, so I try to actively get rid of things rather than buy them, but when you’re looking for things to wear for work or in the garden, I like to thrift it.
What’s your (food-related) guilty pleasure?
Fridge-cold Haribo gummy bears. If they’re fridge-cold I will straight up eat an entire bag. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I stress-eat candy. Nutella is another one. If I have a jar of Nutella at the house, I have to put it in the fridge or the freezer so it hardens so that I can’t eat it out of the jar with a spoon.
What’s your favorite travel destination?
I love to travel. I love Florida’s forgotten coast for the obligatory beach trip, so St. George Island, Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, and those areas. For international travel, I like to go to new places. I went on a yoga trip to Mexico City with my yoga studio, which was a bunch of crazy women and three days of yoga, wine and food. I’ve been to Cartagena, Colombia, which was great. My best friend and I just went to Paris last year. When I lived in Europe we traveled all over the place. I like cultural travel, places where you’re not just sitting on a beach but where you can explore a new country and play the tourist. I really, really want to get to Asia. I’d like to visit Vietnam and India. I have really dear friends in Australia that I’d like to visit.
I like all kinds of music. My mom is a big hippie so I grew up with a lot of Joan Baez and Cat Stevens. My cat’s name is actually Cat Stevens. Leonard Cohen, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Fleetwood Mac. My stepdad, surprisingly for a military guy, is actually a huge ABBA fan. He has every single ABBA record and he would do these ABBA revivals when we were kids where he would just blast it through the house. But I love The Roots, I love Mos Def, I love old school hip-hop. I love Lizzo, I love jazz. I don’t love country music, but I do love Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash and some of the old school ones.
What are three adjectives that best describe you?
Tenacious, fun and restless. I hate sitting down.
Who inspires you most in your career?
I’d have to say it’s probably one of my mentors. I’ve had many of them in my career that have really believed in me. A lot of times, people will hold you back by telling you that you have no experience, but I’ve always been of the mindset that somebody has to give you an opportunity to get that experience, otherwise you won’t have any experiences. I was very fortunate that I’ve had mentors and a really supportive family. I think my mother is the one that has inspired my work ethic. She cares a lot about her work and she’s just never not worked. That was inspiring, especially as a young girl. She was a single mom before she met my step dad and it was inspiring to see her take care of my brother and I, go to work every day and find fulfillment and joy in that. And also still balance that with being a great mom and being around for us. She’s an inspiration in so many ways, not just in my career.
If you could invite one person, living or dead to dinner at a Fifth Group Restaurant, who would it be, where would you take them and why?
My mother. I would take her to La Tavola because she swears up and down that there is no good authentic Italian food in Georgia and I would prove her wrong. And we’d have a great time. She’s fantastic company.