For this month’s #PeopleOfThePalace post, we would like to showcase a face that may be familiar to anyone popping into Pomme Palais for their morning Cup ‘o Joe. An amazing Counter Attendant who has been instrumental in building a loyal customer base within Pomme, Cindy Fong has been part of The Palace team since our cafe first opened its doors in 2013. Below is the full interview for this month’s Employee Showcase:
[The New York Palace]: How long have you been at Pomme Palais?
[Cindy Fong]: I have been here for 1 year 10 months.
[NYP]: What were you doing prior to Pomme Palais?
[CF]: I was actually working in non-profit for about 5 years. Afterwards I was recruited by a consulting company where I worked for another 3 years. I worked with a lot of internal and external clients, and was always told I’m efficient and that I’m a people person. Because of that, I just always felt that I should be in the service industry. So here I am. I applied for The Palace, and at that same time Pomme Palais was born. I got an interview for this position and thought to myself, ‘What better way to be in customer service than to start everyone’s day with a cup of coffee?’ So now I’m here, working my way up. I personally start my day with a cup of coffee, and one of the best ways to interact and provide that customer service I was looking for, is the morning cup ‘o joe. It felt right, and I wanted to really get to know everything and see how this outlet operates and where I can go from there. Working at Pomme Palais is the first point of communication with a customer; you’re starting their day off with a cup of coffee – it’s very relatable.
[NYP]: Would you like to get into management role eventually?
[CF]: Definitely. I look towards managers and supervisors for advice and it’s nice to hear how supportive they are and how much they are able to help and guide me.
[NYP]: Tell us a little more about what you do here – what’s your day-to-day?
[CF]: I personally start my day at 3am, commuting from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. We have to be on the floor at 5:30am, so what we do once we get in is we coordinate with the kitchen and pastry team, bringing all the fresh daily offerings downstairs into Pomme Palais. We have one hour to get everything ready to start the day, and then that’s when the coffee starts brewing. I think maybe people can smell our coffee from outside, because by 6:30am when we open we always have a line out the door! Once those doors open, it’s non-stop, but there’s something very rewarding about that.
[NYP]: Do you have repeat customers that you’ve gotten to know?
[CF]: Oh my goodness, yes! Of course there are familiar faces that we all know as a team, many of whom have been here since Pomme Palais’ grand opening. But then each of us have our own customers that we may interact with more. I actually keep in touch with about 3 or 4 customers on a regular basis. Two are from the UK and one is from South Africa. She actually comes to The Palace once a year with her brother to celebrate his birthday, and she’ll always bring me tea [from South Africa]. I have one that’s from Burma and we are now pen pals. One lady from the UK has become a close friend, and we actually send each other Christmas gifts and things like that. So it’s examples like these that really touch me and make me feel like I made the right career change – I just feel like I am in the right industry. Just last week there was the sweetest couple who told me how nice I had been and one thing they said to me was that I made their trip and I just wanted to cry! I was so touched. Reasons like these are why I chose hospitality.
[NYP]: What’s your favorite part of The New York Palace?
[CF]: First is the history. Compared to other hotels I’ve visited, The Palace has the richest history. During my orientation I was taken around the hotel, and just hearing about the deep history and the architecture that was preserved makes you feel like you’re in a museum. It was so amazing, especially because I love museums.
Something else I love is that The New York Palace attracts so many international guests. Seven days a week, I have the opportunity to meet people from different countries. One day I may meet someone from Spain, the next from Italy, and another from the UK. Being born in Hong Kong, it certainly resonates with me, since I’m international as well. It’s a great bridge in relating to people. When they tell me a story, I can share one with them, too. It helps me relate to the guests on a more personal level.
[NYP]: What’s your favorite part about working with the Pomme Palais team?
[CF]: I remember during our training, Justin (our Director of Food and Beverage) told us that while we all have our own unique personalities – which is part of the reason we were hired – at the end of the day what we had in common was that we were now a family. I don’t know how else to describe it. We may not agree with everything, but at the end of the day we’re able to get through whatever situation it may be. It’s a type of teamwork that I’ve never had before. I’ve worked with teams, but never as closely as I do here at Pomme. For us to work so closely for 8 hours each day, we sort of build this unique bond that I really appreciate.
[NYP]: Do you live in the city? Where are you originally from?
[CF]: I’ve been living in the states for over 20 years now. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my family moved from Hong Kong to Brooklyn. We have family here and have never left Brooklyn since. I currently live in Sheepshead Bay.
[NYP]: Do you have a favorite restaurant in the city?
[CF]: I’m a mix of South East Asian: my mom is Malaysian and Singaporean, and my dad is Indonesian, so the Asian culture definitely resonates with me. Something people may not know about me is that I love Malaysian food. There’s this Malaysian spot in Elmhurst, Queens called ‘Taste Good.’ It’s a tiny restaurant and everything is home cooked. It really makes me feel at home and cures any homesickness I may have.
[NYP]: What has been your most memorable moment you’ve had since working here at The Palace?
[CF]: There’s been a lot of memories since I first started. Right off the bat I would have to say my most memorable moment was when I was first hired. I had been going through a month of training and Pomme was still being built. I remember my then-manager walked us in, and everything was under construction – counters were still being installed and the finishing touches were being added, you know? Just that moment, seeing it in the works and coming to life, made me feel so proud to know that I was going to be part of a team that would help open this café. How often are you able to say you took part in launching something like this? It was such an amazing, amazing feeling. I can’t describe it. It was a very special feeling.
[NYP]: Is there a fun fact about yourself that we may not know?
[CF]: I do yoga. And I LOVE museums. The Museum of Natural History is my favorite by far. I also love The Met. My brother lives in Kansas and when his family comes to visit, we’ll take them to museums. I used to volunteer at the MoMa, and getting those free passes were such a great way to explore the new exhibits regularly and learn how a museum operated. I just love modern art.
[NYP]: Do you have a favorite event you like to go to in NYC?
[CF]: You can find me volunteering at Green Markets on the side. It’s really cool to meet local farmers, and I try to volunteer regularly. They’re all over New York – Brooklyn and Union Square are huge spots for these farmers’ markets for example. It’s interesting to hear about a farmers’ day-to-day and to show your support for local food. I love the idea of farm-to-table dining.
Thank you, Cindy for sharing your experience with The New York Palace. We’re happy to have you!
Join us on the first Monday of each month to learn more about the amazing talent here at The New York Palace. We will be posting through our social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn), as well as including a fully-transcribed interview right here on our blog. Whether they are right in the center of the action, or behind the scenes making sure the hotel runs smoothly for our guests, The Palace appreciates each and every one of our employees for bringing a unique personality to the hotel.