The 21-year-old has worked at the
"Mongo's is an experience; it's just not a meal. It's an experience -- it's entertainment while you're building your own stir-fry," Manager
"To be a Mongo's griller, it takes endurance, but more than anything, it takes an incredible personality and a willingness to get out there."
The grillers are a boisterous bunch -- joking with each other and the surrounding customers, bursting into song at the drop of a hat, flipping ingredients and tossing bowls to each other.
"We are just a close-knit group that wants to make work not seem like work and give people an experience and food they cannot get anywhere else," said Walz, a
Fjellestad said, "They create the experience of Mongo's ... the lightheartedness of it, and they are still cooking an incredible meal while they're doing it."
Walz is in constant motion as he shuffles around the flat, circular surface that is the center of
"I just got sick of cleaning doctors' offices and thought to myself, 'Well, I'll give this a shot,' " Walz said of his job, which combines artistry, showmanship and culinary skills.
Fjellestad said of the training: "We throw you on the grill immediately; on a Friday or a Saturday night, we throw you to the wolves because that is how you are going to learn to do it the best."
"It's manual labor; you're scraping the grill, but you get past that because you just don't cook food for people," Walz said. "You get to talk to the people you're cooking the food for."
Walz is an aspiring music producer whose only experience in the food service industry prior to becoming a Mongo's griller was as a grill cook at a fast-food restaurant in
"In high school, all of my friends worked here -- and they still do work here -- and they talked about how much they loved it," Walz said.
Bowls of rice often fly across the large grill where several cooks can work simultaneously. Eggs are sometimes mixed in the rice.
"It's like a theater. ... You're doing your job in front of hundreds of people that come through the restaurant every day and having no fear of making mistakes and messing up," Fjellestad said.
"I've been beaned by rice bowls. I've had an egg in the middle of the forehead, which to this day, I'm still not sure whether was intentional," she said with a smile.
Walz has noticed that his hand-eye coordination improved as he worked in the job.
Fjellestad said she grills every time she works as a manager at
"The most enjoyable thing about being a griller is seeing the guests' expression as you're back there flipping rice bowls and throwing things and creating an incredible meal," she said.
"But that's also what makes it fun back there. It's that level of intensity. They work very hard, but they play hard at the same time, and they enjoy themselves."
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