5 Questions with: Lesley Anderson, General Manager at Poole’s Diner

Meet Lesley Anderson—she’s been the general manager at Ashley Christensen’s James Beard award-winning Poole’s Diner, and is now transitioning into a role at the soon-to-open Poole’side Pies. She’s also a panelist at the upcoming In the Parlour event, hosted by CurEat. It’s the second in a series of discussions celebrating the hospitality community in our Triangle. On Sunday, June 9 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Anderson along with Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner and Caroline Morrison of Fiction Kitchen will gather at Baldwin& “discuss the impact, power, and support of the LGBTQ+ community.” We talked with Anderson on her experience in the hospitality industry and what she hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community in the food scene and in Raleigh.

credit: Baxter Miller From left: Lesley Anderson, Kaitlin Ryan

As told to Catherine Currin

Tell me a little bit about how you got into the hospitality industry, and your overall experience at Poole’s
I officially entered the service industry three days after I graduated from college. Having a passion for people and operations/systems—the service industry catered to both! Graduating with an English degree and Sociology minor—I didn’t have a highly specialized degree.  Applying for a few jobs within my field of study came up dry so I began to look elsewhere. Chris Powers at Trophy Brewing Company was the first person to call me back after answering a Craigslist ad. I took the interview and was offered a job as a server a few days later. I will forever be grateful for Chris and Woody for taking a chance on me. My 18 months with Trophy gave me a crash course in serving in a high volume and new restaurant.  

Working for Poole’s and AC Restaurants has forever changed me. I have had the privilege of growing up with the company. AC [Ashley Christensen] has believed and supported me through dreams I didn’t even know resided within. Putting in a lot of sweat equity and heart have led me to General Manager of the sacred space. Poole’s will forever hold a special place in my heart. There is a magic that exists within those walls that I haven’t felt in other restaurants before. I’m happy to call it home. 

What made you want to participate in this forum with CurEat?
Being passionate about people—it’s important to have conversations and create relationships. I made a commitment to myself a long time ago to not turn down opportunities for growth. I consider this panel one of those opportunities.  

What does it mean for you to be representing the community in this way (both in this panel and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community)?
I am honored to be a part of both the Raleigh hospitality community and the LGBTQ+. Being my authentic self has been a journey with safety being the number one priority. Working for a company that is founded on kindness and equality has helped me feel confident to live my life out loud. Also, a loving relationship with my fiancée, Kaitlin, and the full support of my family. Visibility and normalizing our community is important. Panels like this are helping in this endeavor. Plus it’s run by a team of passionate and amazing people! 
How do you feel the food/beverage community is influencing the rest of Raleigh as it expands?
The food and beverage industry, specifically downtown, is drawing people to this area everyday. Just last Saturday night—I met guests from eight different states in one dinner service, all here to enjoy the food but also explore Raleigh. This kind of exposure will help Raleigh to grow and create opportunities for more diversity. There are so many passionate folks owning, operating, and working within these establishments that help to create an amazing tapestry and team in our community. The people truly are the heartbeat of Raleigh.
What are your hopes for the hospitality industry as the community grows in Raleigh?
I hope that our industry continues to advocate for social issues, support and create opportunities for professional growth, and find a clear path to remedy the wage discrepancy between service and kitchen teams—unifying the entire house.  

To purchase tickets to In the Parlour, click here.