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.

Ivana Salies
Bistrot Captain, 1 Month
Cenadou Bistrot, North Salem

How many years have you worked in the restaurant industry?
Ten years. I’m from Brazil originally, but I lived in France for 16 years before moving here.

Do you consider yourself an influencer?
I think we have a lot in common with influencers. We have to inspire people, otherwise, how can they trust our advice? We must give the best of ourselves, share love and happiness, and we have to be sincere so people can really connect with us. I know that influencers do that, and that’s the kind of what we do, so yeah, why not?

What is it like being an influencer?
I want to understand what people want to eat or what experience they want to have. For example, it’s a French restaurant, so do they want to try something new or try something they had in Paris 20 years ago?

The biggest part of my job, and my goal, is to make them travel. I always try to give them a cultural immersion. And by that, I mean that I try to explain how the French do it and why they do it, so they feel connected with the culture. And I think influencers do that, too. We take a product, and we put it in a real situation, and we give people a reason to like it.

How do you view your role at the restaurant?
Now that I know the chef very well, I like to be his voice in the room. He has something to say, and he’s very creative, so I want to be his voice. I imagine it’s like a theater. He wrote down the text, and we are the performers.

What do you wish more people would take you up on?
Escargot – I know it’s not for everyone, but if you want to try it, try it here, in a French bistro. I always like to try new things, and I want people to do the same. I understand they have their limits, and that escargot is one of the limits sometimes. But it’s an appetizer, and there are about five, so you can share.

What is your favorite dish?
The baked black sea bass because the flesh is similar to what you find on the Mediterranean coast. It’s the whole fish, but they debone it, so it’s very simple for the client. And it’s made with a delicious vierge sauce from the south of France, saffron potatoes and grilled fennel. It’s delicious.

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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.