Today, we’re getting to know Sheldon Wasson, South City Kitchen Buckhead’s talented front of house service manager. Learn more about him in today’s #FGRFamily Spotlight below!
How long have you been with Fifth Group?
I’ve been with Fifth Group for two years and three months. I was originally hired in 2017 as a server at South City Kitchen Buckhead. After a year as a server, I expressed interest in management and became shift lead for a year. This past September, I was promoted to full time, front of house service manager. In my new role, I’m in charge of staff hiring, non-disposable items (i.e. glassware, plateware), invoicing, ordering, running the floor, etc. I love it!
Can you share more about your background in hospitality?
I’ve been in the industry since I was 15 years old. Growing up, we always went to a Chinese restaurant in my town. At some point, I decided I wanted a job and began working part-time as a dishwasher there. One day, a server didn’t come in for their shift and they threw me into his job. That was my first experience working front of house and I haven’t looked back!
I eventually left home and graduated from Savannah State University with a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in hospitality and human resources management. In school, I worked for LongHorn Steakhouse as a server and corporate trainer. After graduation, I moved to Atlanta and transferred to work at LongHorn’s original location in Buckhead. Soon after, I applied for a job at Emeril Lagasse’s old Buckhead restaurant, Emeril’s, and made my way into fine dining. I started as a busser there, moved up to back server and excelled pretty fast. Wine was a foreign language to me before working at Emeril’s but while I was there, I completed wine training and the restaurant paid for me to take my first two levels of the sommelier examination. I went from not knowing a thing to teaching wine classes!
From there, I was given the opportunity to work for a new seafood restaurant at the time, AquaKnox, in Buckhead. I worked there for almost two years as a server and leading the wine program. After AquaKnox, I was recruited to work at BLT Steak in downtown Atlanta for five years, followed by a stint as corporate trainer for Gordon Biersch across the country.
Where are you originally from?
I grew up in Boone, North Carolina and also spent time in Statesville and Hickory. At 16 years old, I lived in Springfield, Mass. for a year and a half.
Describe your dream order at South City Kitchen Buckhead, from start to finish.
My dream meal would start with pimento cheese and a jumbo lump crab cake topped with zucchini carrot ribbon slaw and marjoram chili vinaigrette. I would pair the crab cake with a glass of Marcel Deiss, an Alsacienne white wine. For my entree, I really love chef Simon’s braised bison short rib served with a creamy parsnip puree and roasted vegetables that we recently served as a special. For dessert, I would definitely choose our fall apple sundae featuring a warm blondie brownie, braised apple compote, vanilla ice cream and a thyme hazelnut crumble. It reminds me of childhood growing up in Boone going to apple orchards and making apple pie and apple dumplings. It’s my favorite right now and I would pair it with a glass of sparkling rose like our Gustave Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace brut rose.
What about cocktails?
I forgot to mention that I worked at Empire State South before South City Kitchen, where I worked with Kellie Thorn and began a huge love for cocktails. Right now, I love our “When the Smoke Clears” made with mezcal. It’s full of mineral, smoky and citrus flavors. I also love drinking “Bloody Marias” made with mezcal.
Who do you admire + why?
I admire pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church. I’m a member and am on the hospitality team. Growing up as part of the LGBTQ community, I went to church and was always confused about where I belonged. I remember listening to the Passion City CDs and then ended up moving to Atlanta right down the street. Louie taught me the message about church as a relationship, not just a religion. It helped me become more in-tune with myself. Also, together we help serve people in the community through organizations like Habitat for Humanity and The Giving Kitchen.
What’s your go-to takeout food?
Hong Kong Harbour on Cheshire Bridge. It recently changed ownership, but is hands down my favorite Chinese restaurant in Atlanta.
What wine would you pick up and pair with your takeout?
I like my Chinese food spicy, so I would most likely choose one of my favorites, Vouvray. It’s a nice demi-sec (not too sweet, mostly off dry) Chenin Blanc. I’ve definitely done that before!
What is the last TV show you binged watched?
Mindhunter – I love forensics stuff! On a fun night recently, I binge watched Floribama Shore. I’m a MTV kid!
If you were given a day off tomorrow, what would you do?
Believe it or not, I’m a huge gamer and streamer. I have a Twitch channel and YouTube. I’m a big nerd and love video games!
Beach or mountains?
Mountains (obviously). I love going back to Boone, sitting on my mom’s porch, seeing my friends from high school and cousins, cooking and eating my mom’s food, going hiking… I just love to be there and relax.
Best meal someone has ever cooked you?
When I was five years old, my grandma would sit me on the counter and we would make twice baked potatoes together. I would hollow out the potatoes and throw them in a bowl, and then she would mix everything up with cheese, scallions, sour cream, salt and pepper, stuff it back in the potato and throw them in the oven. To this day, I still follow her recipe. Before my dad passed away, he would make his famous “double dipped chicken.” He would use one of those black cast iron cauldrons on the porch fry chicken up nice and crispy. After it was fried, he would sit the chicken in a homemade tangy BBQ sauce, cover it and bake it. I still make it and it always brings me back to my childhood!
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
On New Year’s Day, either with my partner or with my family, we always make black eyed peas and collard greens for health, prosperity and wealth. It is one of my favorite traditions!
Would you rather time travel back in time or into the future?
Back in time. I have an old soul and would have loved to live in the 1960s or 1970s. It was such a great era for movies and music.
What is your favorite part about being in the FGR family?
The relationships that I’ve formed, learning and growing. Coming to this company as a server, I would have never thought I would be a front of house manager at this point. I believe in what the company believes in. I’ve been in the industry a long time and they really put their employees first.