At Your Service: John Halvorson, Operations Manager at The Grain Exchange

November 07, 2018

What is your role at The Bartolotta Restaurants?

I was hired at Lake Park Bistro as Dining Room Manager in 1996. I am in my 22nd year with the company. I have worked as a Dining Room Manager, General Manager, Director of Catering, and am currently Director of Operations at the Grain Exchange.

The annual Dickens Dinners are a tradition at your venue, Grain Exchange, where did this idea come from?

The Dickens Dinners started as a very small event at the Pabst Mansion with one seating a day or two before the holidays. Over time people realized they are such a heartwarming event, so we grew to two seatings each evening spread over nine days. Because of remodeling at the Pabst Mansion the Dickens Dinners were moved to the Grain Exchange a couple of years ago. Now guests enjoy a beautiful and very historic room, more time to enjoy the evening, and less stairs - the mansion used three floors!

What is your favorite item at the dinner?

The prime rib is perfect, the salad with Stilton cheese is delicious, but I have to say the warm bread pudding is irresistible.

What is your favorite thing about the Dickens Dinners tradition?

The food is so good! But I a l s o l ove ou r re p e at customers. Many of our guests return each year and often they bring new friends and family. We have one group of very special friends who have been coming for over 12 years. Christmas is the perfect time to see the Grain Exchange with 65 foot ceilings, original artwork, and 24 carat gold everywhere. We decorate three huge trees, swag all the doorways, and there are lights everywhere.

How do you typically spend your holiday season?

I was raised in a large family with eight brothers and sisters. Both of my parents come from families of nine children, so Christmas is huge. Often our Christmas dinner exceeds 40 people! Every year we rotate the location, however, I really enjoy hosting Christmas at my house. I put up a huge real tree and cover it with hundreds of antique ornaments. Because the restaurants are so busy this time of year I don’t have a lot of time to prepare dinner. One great perk of working for Bartolottas is that I place my order early with our Chef and he seasons the prime rib, blanches the green beans, and makes the Caesar dressing. All I have to do is warm it up!