Whether she’s hula-hooping at a concert or serving up delicious BBQ, Damaris Fontanes, manager of Delaney Barbecue’s SmokeLine, does it in good humor and with a contagious smile. In this installment of Faces Behind the Food, Damaris shares stories about international visitors to the High Line who find creatively sweet, wordless ways of saying thanks and how she began her career in food. For hours and locations of all of our vendors, see High Line Food.
Tell us about yourself and your passion for food and drink, including any fun or unusual facts that we might not know. (Any secret talents, perhaps?)
I am born and bred in Long Island by way of Brooklyn. Despite growing up a stone's throw from the city, this is my first time living here alone. I couldn't be happier! Hard to believe that it was five years ago that I stumbled into Food Service and Restaurant Administration at SUNY Oneonta. I started working in the food industry when I was fourteen years old, like many teens, but an opportunity to combine my love of people with my love of food drew me into this career.
I joined the staff of Delaney Barbecue soon after it opened its doors in Brooklyn under the original name, BrisketTown. I lucked out in finding a company immediately after college with passion for the food we cook and serve every day. We’re regularly featured in food columns and blogs, with the best descriptor: “Amazing.”
Fun fact about me: I'm a diehard hula-hooper. If I'm not behind the counter, you can also find me at a music festival. My love of food service is only rivaled by a love of live music. When you do spot me, I'm that girl hula hooping by the stage. Every concert needs one of us [laughs.]
What do you love about your location on the High Line at West 16th Street?
I can say a lot of nice things about Darren at People's Pops or Olivia saving my mornings with an iced coffee from Blue Bottle. But my biggest love is for visitors of the High Line. It's exciting for a small-town girl to meet tourists from countries around the world, every day.
It can be a fun challenge, sometimes, deciphering what foreign tourists want to order when they don’t speak English, but it makes for an encounter we hopefully both remember. I am also good at reading between the lines to get my customers what they want. It’s sweet when tourists, through hand gestures and smiles, find that special way to tell us how much they love our food.
You interact with hundreds of customers each day. Share your favorite memory with us.
Often, visitors expect the High Line food vendors to have as much knowledge about the park’s history and programming as do the friendly park Rangers. I’m comfortable helping these visitors as a burgeoning New Yorker. The other day, a visitor asked me where she could find a water taxi. My coworker thought he had it all figured out, sending her to Battery Park. I was stoked when I realized I could point her in a closer direction at the nearby Chelsea Piers. After giving her instruction, she wanted to buy me a gelato. My coworker didn't get any [laughs].
SmokeLine is located on the High Line at West 15th Street, and is open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily through October 18.