Taking its name from the old, stately manor homes surrounding it among the bucolic horse farms and rolling countryside of Monkton in northern Baltimore County, the Manor Tavern has been reinvigorated over the past few years as a major dining destination under the helm of Executive Chef, George Batlas, who took over in 2015.
Last year, George was named Maryland’s Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Maryland. This distinction not only reflects his culinary skills, which he started acquiring at the age of ten, and years later sharpened in France, but also reflects his commitment to quality, education, and the community – the latter through the restaurant’s support of area schools and foundations, as well as through diversity in the workplace.
One of the Family
Longtime Penn-Mar resident, Elmer Euler, 61, can’t remember a time when he wasn’t working. Most of the jobs he’s held over the years have been in the food and restaurant industry, where he’s put his skills to good use and developed a stellar work ethic. When he landed his part-time kitchen job at the Manor Tavern this past spring, after 12 years at Hunt Valley Catering, he not only found himself working for one of Maryland’s top chefs, but also being embraced as a new family member by staff.
“The staff at Manor Tavern have really taken to Elmer, and he to them,” said Penn-Mar Employment Support Coordinator Heather Laser. “Elmer loves to work, he loves to help, and takes pride in what he’s doing. Like anyone, he likes to feel important and included, and cares about people letting him know that he’s doing a good job.”
Both Heather and George noted that Elmer is always making sure he’s doing a good job. “He’s very thoughtful of other people,” said George. “He brings all the attributes that you could want from a good employee. He represents that well in our group of culinary team members.”
Elmer’s personality shines through when talking with him. He’s outgoing and engaging and as Heather vouched, likes to laugh, and his laugh is contagious.
“I did three buckets of potatoes today,” chuckled Elmer in a recent interview. “I like my job and I like the pay.” Among his tasks, which include processing vegetables for stocks, and helping out wherever he can during the two days a week that he’s at Manor Tavern – Elmer peels potatoes, a job, as George said, he’s taken full responsibility of. “We try to give him ownership of one thing and include him in other things as well,” he said.
(A professional kitchen operates on what is called a “positional kitchen hierarchy” based on the French brigade system called the “Brigade de Cuisine.” This system of positions – from the head chef to the dishwasher – ensures the kitchen is operating as smoothly as possible.)
It was through George’s wife Sue, that Elmer became connected to Manor Tavern. Sue has worked as a nurse for Penn-Mar for 17 years and knew Elmer through her visits to his home. For some time she asked George to consider some Penn-Mar residents for employment possibilities. This was in 2015, when George had only just taken on the job of putting new life into the restaurant.
“It took me a couple of years to do some infrastructure changes and evolution of staff, until I got to a point where I was able to consider hiring a Penn-Mar resident,” said George. “Sue had mentioned Elmer, and Penn-Mar’s Employment team had stopped by to discuss possible opportunities for him.”
George was able to evolve operations well enough where he knew he had the time to ensure that Elmer would be a good fit and that staff understood their role in supporting Elmer get assimilated and become one of the family.
An Inclusive Workplace
For George, who also recently took on the role of General Manager for Manor Tavern, one of the biggest benefits of hiring people with disabilities is that it creates a culture of community within an establishment, through employee relationships and by evening the playing field for the way people approach and think about things and situations within the workplace dynamic. “Elmer helps everybody kind of change from the singular focus and rounds out their environment on the days he’s there,” said George. “In short order, he’s a hoot.”
“It’s good to have people of all walks of life in our employee base,” he explained. “I think that when there are people that introduce a broader concept to others, it helps them actually operate in a different mental position. Elmer has brought so much to the Manor Tavern, and is giving us all an opportunity to continue to grow and progress as individuals, a team, and a business. He rounds out our sense of community, as everyone is pulling their own weight to make our operation better.”
“I like what I do,” said Elmer. “I’m looking for five days a week, but I’ll take it one step at a time. I told George I wouldn’t leave this job for anything in the world.”