By Gia Miller

Photography by Justin Negard

Waiters/waitresses are the world’s oldest influencers – they tell us what to eat (and drink) whenever we dine out. And we often take their advice without watching hours of their videos to determine if they’re trustworthy. We sat down with some of our local influencers to get to know the folks who influence our choices.

Aran O’Leary
Server, 11 years
The Blazer Pub, North Salem

What is it like being an influencer?
I don’t really think of it that way, but I guess I’m the one who has the information. I have the background to say who is cooking and what you should order depending on who is cooking. But it sort of makes me laugh that anyone would listen to me. I have three adult sons, and they still don’t listen to me!

What is your number one rule when making recommendations?
I always try to ask them what they like first. And I let them know what we’re known for.

Best recommendation you’ve ever made?
It’s always the Cape Cod Reuben – it’s the best sandwich. People are always so pleasantly surprised. If they start asking questions about fish, and I can tell they’re going in that direction, then I say, “You will love the Cape Cod Reuben.” And they do, 100 percent of the time.

What do you wish more people would take you up on?
Try our soups. They can be hard to describe, but they’re really good. We make a chicken tortilla soup that is so good. The other one is to get a smaller order of the fries. Someone will say, “I’ll have a medium fries.” And I’ll tell them, “I’m pretty sure you don’t want that.” But they’ll insist. And once they get the order, they’ll say, “Wow! I should’ve listened to you.”

Please give me at least one recommendation you wish you could make.
Have the dessert! Because we don’t serve dessert.

What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened at this restaurant?
We have a person who comes in and anonymously gives money for veterans to buy drinks and food. They leave money every once in a while, especially around Veterans Day or Memorial Day. And then sometimes other veterans will pay it forward.

What is your favorite dish?
The Celsius burger, which is made with Swiss cheese and bacon. It was the first thing I ever had here. The first time I came here was with my college boyfriend, who later became my husband, and my future father-in-law. We came here to scope the place out because my future in-laws were thinking about buying it, which they did. I remember that we had a giant plate of French fries with a whole bottle of ketchup. The burger still tastes exactly the same today.

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Justin is an award-winning designer and photographer. He was the owner and creative director at Future Boy Design, producing work for clients such as National Parks Service, Vintage Cinemas, The Tarrytown Music Hall, and others. His work has appeared in Bloomberg TV, South by Southwest (SXSW), Edible Magazine, Westchester Magazine, Refinery 29, the Art Directors Club, AIGA and more.

Justin is a two-time winner of the International Design Awards, American Photography and Latin America Fotografia. Vice News has called Justin Negard as “one of the best artists working today.”

He is the author of two books, On Design, which discusses principles and the business of design, and Bogotà which is a photographic journey through the Colombian capital.

Additionally, Justin has served as Creative Director at CityMouse Inc., an NYC-based design firm which provides accessible design for people with disabilities, and has been awarded by the City of New York, MIT Media Lab and South By Southwest.

He lives in Katonah with his wonderfully patient wife, son and daughter.