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Articles / Majors & Careers / 9 Celebrities Who Have Discussed the Importance of Their Early Food Service Jobs

Feb. 18, 2020

9 Celebrities Who Have Discussed the Importance of Their Early Food Service Jobs

9 Celebrities Who Have Discussed the Importance of Their Early Food Service Jobs

Elizabeth Lies/Unsplash

career as a comedianAlthough they certainly live glamorous lives now, many celebrities were once just like us, working regular jobs to earn a paycheck and support themselves and their families. While the new side job of choice for aspiring actors may have shifted to driving for hire, gigs in the food service industry have long been a staple for up-and-coming professionals. Here are nine familiar names that not only started in the food service industry but also gained valuable skills that helped them get where they are today.

Eva Longoria (Wendy's)

Before she was one of the Desperate Housewives, Eva Longoria learned the value of hard work, the importance of making her own money and supporting her family, and the secret to stacking the perfect burger by working at Wendy's. Growing up as the youngest in a family of four girls, she knew that her parents wouldn't be able to financially support her quinceañera, so at 13, she took the initiative and found a part-time job at Wendy's. Longoria ended up staying until she turned 18, becoming a manager in the process. She speaks fondly of this first experience in the world of work and credits it for her fierce work ethic and ability to persevere and work hard until a goal is achieved. Not only has she not forgotten the place where she first built a skill set, Longoria has also joined forces with her former employer to support charitable initiatives.

Barack Obama (Baskin-Robbins)

When he was 16 years old, former President Obama got his first job working at the Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu during the summer. Though scooping frozen ice cream was hard on his wrists and made him worry about its impact on his basketball aspirations, he admits that the job taught him lessons about responsibility, hard work and "balancing a job with friends, family and school." Realizing the value of this first opportunity for himself inspired him to launch the Summer Opportunity Projects during his presidency.

Barbara Corcoran (Fort Lee Diner)

Before becoming a real estate mogul and a shark on ABC's "Shark Tank", Barbara Corcoran started by working any job imaginable -- in fact, she had held over 20 jobs by the time she turned 23. It's her stint as a waitress, however, that taught her the most valuable lessons. Corcoran argues that being a waitress is the best way to learn about sales and entrepreneurship because "it's a commission-based business based on your tips."

Jenna Fischer (Long John Silver's)

In 2017, actress Jenna Fischer shared on Instagram a photo of her younger self running the register at Long John Silver's. In a message accompanying the image, she highlighted the value of holding a job since the age of 15. "My parents taught me that if I wanted something I had to work for it and earn my own money." In addition to a paycheck, the experience helped her develop what she refers to as "a strong Midwestern work ethic." As she shared in an appearance on the late-night talk show CONAN, she requested a move from the register to the fryer when she found out fryers earned more money per hour. It's no doubt what helped her persevere through the many years of hustle in LA before becoming Pam Beesly on the US hit The Office.

Jay Leno (McDonald's)

One of Jay Leno's first gigs was cutting potatoes and working the fryer at McDonald's. Physically demanding, the experience helped him work out his forearms and it also taught him about the value of "producing a great product." It's a lesson he took to heart as he grew his career as a comedian, spending hours writing and delivering jokes. No wonder he traces his exceptional work ethic to learning how to do the job right as a teenager at McDonald's. Not to mention that it was at a McDonald's regional talent show that Leno first made money telling jokes; he won first place with his comedy routine.

Jon Hamm (Sweet Rose Greek Restaurant)

In a 2017 interview with Wealthsimple, "Mad Men" actor Jon Hamm shared the story of his early introduction to the value of hard work. As a teenager, he got a job as a busboy and a dishwasher at a Greek restaurant and eventually moved up the ladder to become a waiter. Hamm recognized the experience as one that taught him a valuable life lesson: how to empathize with and be nice to people. "Understanding other people's problems -- that's the cornerstone of the service industry, and it's essential as an actor, or whatever field you are in," Hamm says. It is while working at the restaurant that he also "learned to love work and find meaning in it." It's no surprise then that Hamm recommends that everyone should work as a waiter or a bartender, another job he's held.

Queen Latifah (Burger King)

Queen Latifah learned from a young age the importance of hard work and hustle to securing financial success. As she emphasizes in an interview with Parade, "if my brother and I wanted money in our pockets, we had to get jobs -- my first was at 15, at Burger King. We had to come up with ways to create an income." She also credits her parents for teaching her financial literacy and encouraging her to save and manage her money. As she writes in her memoir Put On Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom, when she received her first paycheck after a week of work at Burger King, she put most of it in a savings account: "It was money I earned through my own hard work." And hard work it was; in fact, she chose the job because it was "serious work;" she "did everything from working the cash register to cleaning the toilets."

Jeff Bezos (McDonald's)

Before making it to the top spot in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as the richest person in the world, Jeff Bezos entered the world of work as a grill employee at McDonald's at the age of 16. The experience introduced him to the impact of automation and helped him learn about customer service. By observing his manager, Bezos also gained insights into keeping employees focused, especially during rush periods. What seems to be the biggest takeaway, though, and something any teenager or young adult should pay attention to, is his insistence that you can "learn responsibility in any job if you take it seriously." Gaining value from working in the food industry is possible but only if you put in the effort.

Lin-Manuel Miranda (McDonald's)

"Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda had his first job working the counter and running deliveries for McDonald's, which served as inspiration for his song "Delivery" from Working.

Written by

Krasi Shapkarova

Krasi Shapkarova

A longtime careers writer and coach, Krasi Shapkarova serves as an associate director of coaching and education at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School in Washington, DC, and is also the editor-in-chief of Carey the Torch, the official blog of the Career Development office. She is a Certified Career Management Coach with The Academies, an MBTI Step I and Step II certified practitioner, and has completed training in the Career Leader assessment. Prior to joining the Carey Business School staff, Krasi worked as a counselor at the distance education department at Houston Community College. In that role, she assisted students with career exploration, degree planning, course selection and study skills. In addition, Krasi has extensive experience as a writing tutor assisting students with resumes, cover letters and scholarship essays. She also interned at Shriners Hospitals for Children and has a background in the non-profit sector. Krasi holds a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a Master of Arts in International Human Rights from the University of Denver. When not in the office, Krasi enjoys hiking and camping.

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