After a long career in hospitality, we say farewell and happy retirement to Jaier Vlessing this month.
After more than two decades as a friendly face and familiar fixture in the Gotham Steakhouse & Bar front-of-house team, Jaier Vlessing — one of the original members of the team that opened the Vancouver steakhouse in 1999 — is hanging up his server’s jacket to spend more time with his family.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Vlessing began his hospitality career as so many did — in his teens, with a part-time job in the fast-food industry. After graduating from BCIT’s Hospitality Management program in 1983, and in between traveling far and near, he cooked, served, supervised, and managed in many of Vancouver’s most iconic rooms. As fate would have it, it was while serving at Il Giardino that he met his future wife Biyun. But it would be an exciting new downtown steakhouse that captured his heart and would become his home for an extraordinary 23 year run.
Now Hy’s of Canada Chief Operating Officer, Megan Buckley was the opening GM of Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar. She recalls purposefully setting out to build an eclectic team of true professionals who could make Gotham an institution. She and Vlessing had worked together at Jonathan’s on Granville Island in the early 1980s, and crossing paths again, she knew he would be great at Gotham.
“Opening Gotham was a big deal,” says Vlessing. “It was a glorious room, and we were busy from day one with people who wanted to check out the new kid on the block. We pulled out all the stops to wow the guests and we had a great team, but we just kept getting better and improving over the years.”
“Jaier exemplifies old school hospitality,” says Buckley. “He genuinely cares about great service without pretension, which we like to think is a hallmark of Gotham. He connects with his guests on their level, whatever that may be. And he has passionately put Gotham’s success first, acting as a leader and mentor to those who have joined the family over the years. We will miss him very much – but fully expect him to be one of our best new regulars.”
At the 2017 edition of its annual Restaurant Awards, Vancouver Magazine singled Vlessing out for one of its prestigious Premier Crew Awards that pay homage to the top front-of-house talent in the Vancouver restaurant scene. “If there’s such a thing as a classic steakhouse waiter, Jaier Vlessing is it,” the magazine wrote of Vlessing in its April 2017 edition. “He’s been taking care of business at Gotham for 18 years, and the pride he takes in putting on the white jacket is evident in everything he does. Beloved by the restaurant’s family for his dry wit and the way he delivers great experiences to guests each time he works, Vlessing is a true pro.”
“I feel very strongly that Gotham is part of me, and vice versa,” says Vlessing. “My connections to the Gotham family and my relationships with the guests have been a big part of my life, and this job has made it possible for me to support my wife and two sons. I am so grateful to the entire team at Gotham — from Megan, Chefs Bala Kumanan and JC Douget and my fellow serving team, to GM Ben MacMaster and the management team, to Neil Aisenstat and Rob Macdonald for making it possible for myself and so many others to work in a great company with great people. It’s been a great ride, and I feel sad that I must leave, but I have spent the last 23 years raising a family, and a Steakhouse, and it is time to take care of myself.”
Jaier’s final service will be April 14, so be sure to make a reservation in his section, if you’ like to experience one last Gotham evening with him.
He spoke with CBC’c Gloria Macarenko recently about his time at Gotham