In Short Order
August 2021 Issue
by Edwina Hoyle
T.R. Love, T.R. Media World
Paula Brown is the small, but mighty kitchen manager of Palmetto Bay Sunrise Café. At a height of only 4’8”, she is like a world-class maestro, orchestrating with precision as she barks out orders to the servers and kitchen staff. She reads the tickets and keeps everything—and every one—in line. She peppers the orders with shout-outs to both regular customers and returning visitors who come back year after year.
“When I’m working, I’m a little monster. But only at work,” Paula said. “Everything has to be in order and the preparation must be done. They all do what I say, and it works. We all get along here, and it’s nothing personal. We know each other and at the end of the day, it’s back to normal. All the ladies here are like my sisters. People actually come in to see the interaction and communication. My job is very stressful, and I try to do it with grace. I gave myself the name, ‘monster.’ I’m loud and everyone says, ‘You’re the boss!’”
She has several other monikers: Captain, Big Mama, Boss, Queen, Princess, but her favorite is “My Bunny,” the pet name that owner Leslie Stewart gave her. Not only does she have many names, she has a contagious, laughing smile that lights up the dining room. In the blink of an eye, her face changes from a battlefield general to that of a child sitting on Santa’s lap with a crinkled nose, squinted eyes and a wide, ear-to-ear smile.
Paula said, “I am a people person. That’s my personality, joking, flirting, it’s all part of my job. People laugh, and I try to make customers happy. When I see regulars in the parking lot, by the time they sit down their meal is ready. I always try to learn as much as I can about a person because it makes them feel special. You can manage a lot of people with a good heart.”
“My world is all around Sunrise,” she stated. Paula moved to the United States from Colombia (South America) 19 years ago, and her first job was at the Café. “When I moved here, I spoke no English, and the owners started to teach me a few words. They treat me like family.” Paula shared how one regular customer paid special attention to her, and they ended up getting married. Lucius Brown, at six feet tall, towers over Paula. “He’s a wonderful guy. I’m crazy and energetic, but he’s very quiet. We complement each other and make a good team.”
She works from 5 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and when she gets home, the first thing she does is take her shoes off. Then she soaks her sore feet in Epsom salts and lavender. This is her daily routine, and her well-trained husband, Lucius, spoils her with foot rubs. “At home I’m very quiet and my life is very relaxing. I love to enjoy my time with my daughter and husband.”
Her 11-year old daughter, Sophia, also loves to cook. It’s their shared dream to start their own business together. Paula said when they go out, Sophia studies the layouts of various restaurants, the menus, and imagines plans for their own eatery. For the time being, however, Paula is grateful for her job at Sunrise Café and will wait to see what happens when Sophia is older.
“I really love my work in the kitchen. I develop recipes and come in with ideas. I say I want to try something new, what do you think? I always get support to experiment and create. I’m very loyal to everyone here. I am responsible and honest, and I give my best, and I always respond in my best way; so that’s why they love me. My parents taught me a lot, especially respect so I can have good relationships,” she said.
“I love this island,” she said. “When I moved here I was really blessed because this island took me in. I have the opportunity to meet a lot of people, and they come in to see me from all over. It makes me feel very good. They are wonderful people with good hearts. I think it makes you strong when you do what you love.”
Why HHI? When Paula finished school in Colombia, she wanted to experience a different style of life and learn to depend on herself. Her sister lives in Hilton Head so she decided to come here.
Time Off: Getting a pedicure and enjoying a drink with her sister is Paula’s favorite things to do when she’s not working.
Total Love: Paula loves spending time watching Sophia at her tennis matches.
Puppy Love: The baby of the Brown family is a six-pound, white Maltese.