Need a Gift Right Away?

Meet Christina Stopielo: Unstoppable AGM at Fish Cheeks

Naomi Banks | 13 March, 2024

            Meet Christina Stopielo: Unstoppable AGM at Fish Cheeks

In honor of Women's History Month, we interviewed Christina Stopielo, Assistant General Manager at Fish Cheeks. Joining in August 2021, Stopielo swiftly rose through the ranks in the familial atmosphere of the restaurant. With over 20 years in the industry, she values the unique contributions of predominantly female staff, especially their keen intuition and attention to the individual needs of staff and customers. Inspired by her parents' work ethic and supported by fellow female managers, Stopielo reflected on personal growth and resilience, grateful for the grace and solidarity found at Fish Cheeks.

Her responses have been edited for length and clarity. Check out the interviews with owner Jenn Saesue and managers Aditi Sonajirao and Pud Dechkla by clicking on the hyperlinks.

Purchase the only print signed by the owner to support a worthy cause. 100% of the proceeds of the signed print benefit the Brooklyn Community Service's Transitional Living Community women's shelter.

What does it feel like to work at Fish Cheeks?

Stopielo: This is like a family, I felt that almost immediately. We seem to always find great people that just help with the environment and vibe that we want to have. Everybody works hard and has the same motives. It's been a pleasure to work here.

Talk me through how having a women-dominated staff impacts the flow of the restaurant.

Stopielo: I've been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years and managing for about half that. It’s not that male-dominated manager teams don’t do a great job; I just feel that as women, we pay a bit more attention to each person. We think of a team atmosphere, but also individualize everyone. You can't be the same kind of manager for every person. I’m able to see that everyone is a person trying to make it in this world and in New York City, which is not an easy place to make it in. 

Most of our team is all women, our head chef is the only one, as far as the management team is concerned, who is a man. A woman's intuition is something that is privy to just women. Having staff that is able to anticipate people's needs and multitask during rush times has really been helpful. When hiring, Aditi tends to look at – how can we make you the best Fish Cheek's employee? I'm more on the training side – how can I get to know you, so I can get the best out of you? Then Pita, being Thai, encompasses what the culture is here. For example, teaching why we serve everything family style. We all have different ways of tapping into everyone that's working here to pull the best out of them. 

As far as the guests' experience, I love connecting with people. I make it a part of my day to get to know every detail that people are willing to share, so that I can do a better job. 

Who are the elders that have influenced your work ethic?

Stopielo: Both of my parents had a very strong work ethic. They did not work in this industry, but they just showed me what it is to get up every day and go to work, regardless of what's going on in your life. In this neighborhood, I have befriended other managers of restaurants local to us that are also mostly women. It's good to talk to somebody who you don’t work with, so that you can get the most cut and dry perspective. 

From Aditi, I'm learning from her how to regulate my emotions, look at things analytically, and be the devil's advocate. I see things with rose colored glasses, as they say. She pulls me back down into the real world and breaks it down for me, so that I can handle every situation the most professionally.

How proud are you of yourself?

Stopielo: I am extremely proud of myself. As a woman, it's hard to say that you're proud of yourself. You saw the Barbie movie, that whole monologue about how we can only do this and we can't be that. I came into this restaurant, with management experience, wanting to be a server, but I’m so grateful that I said yes to being a manager because I've grown as a person and a woman since that day. 

The first six months that I was here, I lost my mother, so I changed completely after that. They didn't even know me, but they carried me through all that. They gave me a lot of grace because, for about a year, I was in the dark. That kind of situation brought us closer. It showed me that this world can be tough, but there are people that care. I learned that I'm in the right place and I’m proud to be here.

Fish Cheeks is located at 55 Bond St,. New York, NY 10012 and is currently open on Sunday through Thursday from 12:00 p.m. to 10:15 p.m, and on Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 11:15 p.m., with happy hour from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00pm. (212) 677-2223

Support Brooklyn Community Services. Buy print signed by owner.