Framed on the wall of her new restaurant is Kelsey Sturtevant’s first dollar earned as a part owner of Red Cork Bistro & Catering in Mukilteo, Wash. “I earned that first dollar from my former professor Mark Beattie. It says ‘Go Cougs!’ and it’s going to stay there forever!”
The restaurant is described as a “warm and cozy hangout,” offering home-style cooking with diverse influences from around the world. The restaurant, which hosts up to 45, is already generating buzz.
It’s common for hospitality students to strive for a specific job after graduation. Sturtevant, for example, was dead set on event planning and working for a large company. She said never in a million years did she imagine she’d be an owner of a restaurant a few miles from her home in Bothell.
Now she jokes that she’s the only Coug who has never been to Pullman. In hindsight, she says, everything she needed was in Everett. “It was important for me to get my degree in my community because it allowed me to work full-time while attending WSU,” she said.
The path to ownership
Sturtevant worked two hospitality jobs while she earned her degree. “I was able to bring my experience from work, that maybe other classmates didn’t have, and bring a new perspective to different situations in the classroom,” she said. ”Working full-time really helped me apply what I was learning in the classroom to my jobs and vice versa.”
In high school Sturtevant kick started her career in hospitality as a hostess and server, later moving onto a local catering business in Bothell. After earning her associate’s degree from Edmonds Community College in 2011, she focused on work after buying a house.
She met one of her business partners when she began working at the Harbor Pointe Golf Club in Mukilteo for extra money.
The two were planning on starting a catering and food truck business. Then word spread that the Red Cork Bistro was for sale, so they jumped at the opportunity. “I couldn’t imagine doing event planning now, and it’s only been a few months since graduation,” she said. “I love it.”
Sturtevant says the human resources and accounting courses she took at WSU helped her prepare for the back end of the business. “A big part of the job is problem solving. I think if you’re interested in the hospitality program, problem solving naturally comes with it,” she said. “Knowing what to look for and how to pick out a good employee, how to pick out a good resume, and how to approach a tough situation are just some of the challenges.”
Sturtevant says she loves being able to contribute to the economic growth of the region. In Snohomish County, the industry has seen steady growth recently. Outside of the ownership group, Red Cork Bistro employs six people.
‘Just go for it’
Drawing from her own experiences, Sturtevant advises future hospitality business management graduates to ‘just go for it.’
“Take the opportunities as they come,” she said. “I went on a lot of interviews toward the end of college, and I learned something from all of them. I have been able to meet and network with so many people, and including Mark, the entire WSU community is supportive of me.”
Being in a place where she is able to oversee more of the business is something Sturtevant would like to see in the next 10 years. “Right now, because we are so small and so new, we’re all running in different directions,” she said. “I want to be able to focus my energy on just catering or just the restaurant and watch those business areas grow and support themselves.”
“It was such a moment of pride to present Kelsey with her first dollar on the ‘friends and family’ soft opening of Red Cork Bistro,” professor Beattie said. “As a teacher, I live through the successes of my students and to share in a moment like opening a new restaurant makes me burst with pride.”
Sturtevant and the rest of the Red Cork Bistro ownership team held their grand opening on Sept. 10, 2016. They are open seven days a week: Monday – Friday for lunch and dinner; Saturday for dinner; and Sunday for brunch.
Find your way to Red Cork Bistro at 11700 Mukilteo Speedway, #405 Mukilteo, Wash. soon.