Sometimes, no matter what you think you want to do with your life, you just can't argue with genetics. "My mom has always loved people and has a true heart for hospitality," says General Manager Carrie Van Lanen. "When I started working at the Nitty Gritty while going to UW-Madison, I discovered that I also had this 'hospitality gene.'" Born and raised on the north side of Madison, Carrie has many family members who worked in food service at different points in their lives, and she knew it was a fun way to make a decent wage. "I began working as a hostess at the Nitty Gritty, and advanced to a serving position in less than a year. Once school was complete I worked in my chosen career field of Conservation Biology for a little over four years as a Restoration Ecologist. I was considering pursuing my Master's degree and began working as a server at Benvenuto's Italian Grill to make some money to pay for school. From there I got hooked. I eventually became the General Manager and enjoyed my time building the business." Carrie started with Food Fight as a server and bartender, but quickly rose through the ranks. "Soon thereafter, I also assumed the role of Training Manager and was responsible for creating a training program, hiring, overseeing new hire training, and scheduling," she says. "There are so many different types of people who work in restaurants for so many different reasons," she adds. "While staff turnover is high, it means you get to see many different perspectives in your time at a restaurant." An avid outdoorswoman who enjoys most sports, Carrie also likes to run, camp, explore prairies, rock climb, disc golf, hunt, read, and bake. "A fast pace is something I thrive on," she says. "I also love being an ambassador, giving guests new experiences whenever I can. Knowing that everyone you serve is ready to have a good time, but it's dependent on you to make it happen for them, is exciting."