Prior to 2002, I had been a regular at Monical’s Pizza with my parents. Typically around twice a month we’d have a meal of thin crust pizza, salad, and breadsticks and leave more than pleased. This had gone on for quite some time, as my aunt had worked at one of the Kankakee locations and my cousin worked at the Gilman location.
Towards the end of 2002 we were at Monical’s for one of our regular visits. During this visit, it was busier than normal and my cousin happened to be working alone. I offered my assistance, and while it was declined because I wasn’t employed there, I was given an application and encouraged to turn it in in a timely manner. Not much later I received a call from that location’s manager asking me to come in for an interview. I was eager and ready for the opportunity; it could be my first “out-on-my-own” job. And sure enough, that’s what it became. I was hired as a pizza maker soon after that interview.
Within the first week it was evident that I hadn’t just taken a job. I had never put much thought to the slogan of “Family Pleaser” until that week. Not only did we as a staff exist to bring families together and give them a great experience, we were also a family ourselves. Through my four years of working at that Monical’s location, I can think of hundreds of great moments while working, from customer compliments to laughs with co-workers; enjoyable meetings to late night cleaning events; maintenance tasks to employee get-togethers. It was never just a job that I attended to receive a paycheck. I was interested in learning new positions and everything that I could: I had started as a maker, but I also tended to the ovens, delivered, made dough, did morning prep, took orders, and (only at desperate times) helped serve and bus tables.
As a matter of fact, I enjoyed my job enough to endure forty and fifty hour work weeks while attending at least nineteen college credit hours worth of classes. I lived halfway between college and work, so I would drive to class in the mornings, drive home in the afternoon, change, and head to work. I put a lot of miles on my poor car, but I had moved up to a shift supervisor position at the location and knew I had to keep up with school as well.
When it was time to transfer colleges, I found that I could no longer do both, and chose my education. I don’t regret the decisions I made, but I’d be lying if I said I that I didn’t miss working at Monical’s. From the strange looks that I got from customers while wearing shorts year-round (it was hot in the kitchen!) to the custom food creations, there are plenty of memorable times.
I’m still a customer, whether it’s just my wife and I carrying out or we’re with our parents at one of the many locations. I tend to keep it simple, not asking for any wild concoctions that I may have once created. Although, if I may suggest, everyone should try a pair of garlic breadsticks with all three (nacho, cheddar, and tomato) sauces mixed. Or, if you’re into a little extra spice, try your usual pizza, but ask for it as a “blue flame.” Just after the sauce is spread onto the dough, the crushed red peppers are sprinkled in. It has a good taste, given that you don’t mind it hot.
# Eric Wilborn
# twitter: @ericwilborn
# web: http://ericwilborn.com