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A tip of the hat to these local restaurant employees

This is our chance to recognize and thank those individuals who make our dining experiences so pleasurable. Next to the quality of our meals, service is the next best thing. It takes a strong team, from the front to the back of the house, to make your dining gratifying.

Front of House

His business card says he's the operations manager of Black Thai restaurant, but he says he does a little bit of everything. That means he not only sees to the day-to-day management of the restaurant, he, also, helps out where ever he's needed, says Mark Brendan Martinez. "I can bus tables, wait tables, seat people and help out in the kitchen, if I'm needed."

This Man About Restaurant started his 14-year career at age 13 busing tables. From that time on, he's worked in some aspect of the restaurant industry. So it's a natural procession that he now oversees the complete operation of a restaurant. And, as fate would have it, he loves where he works.

"I love Thai food and this place is great," says Martinez, 27. "I love the complexity of the food."

Ten- to 11-hour workdays don't interrupt Martinez's personal life. He's single with no kids and spends seven days a week at the restaurant. "Even though we're closed on Sundays, I still go in. There's always something to do," says Martinez.

Other than making sure all is right at Black Thai, Martinez spends time creating wine lists for area restaurants. "I've had extensive training in wine. I've got a number of certifications in wine tasting and wine pairings."

At Your Service

She's self-described as a busy woman. And those around her can attest to the fact that she does have a full plate. The mother of two, wife, dance instructor and full-time bartender could have "I'm Every Woman" as her theme song. "I'm really a busy woman," says Shelley Perez, 32-year-old bartender extraordinaire.

For 12 years, Perez has been behind the bars of some of the most popular watering holes along the Grand Strand. Currently, she's mixing up potent potions and passing out sage bartender's advice at Tommy Bahama's Tropical Café. "It's my calling," says Perez. "I like making people happy."

It all started when she was working for a friend's father. She was waitress, bus boy and kitchen help. Then, when help was needed at the bar, she was "thrown in" to help out there, too. "I had hands-on training. While I worked at my friend's father's bar, I did some of everything. And, when I was needed at the bar, they trained me as we went along."

An avid Maryland Terrapin fan, Perez says meeting people is the best part of being a bartender. "You make all kinds of contacts especially in a resort town." When she's not working at Tommy Bahama, Perez is a dance instructor for toddlers at her Twinkle Toes dance studio.