John Smith

It's been a long time since Stephanie Plunkett has lived in Texas, where she was born, but she's found her way back to a down-home establishment with southern soul -- and to the coffee house she'd dreamed of for her future. The fit is so natural that, although she applied to Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery as a barista, she was promoted to manager within weeks.

Of course, it had something to do with her drive and experience, too. Plunkett grew up in northern Virginia, and thrived as a team player in competitive swimming, soccer, and volleyball. At William & Mary, she earned a degree in Psychology with a minor in Management and Organizational Leadership. When coffee became a part of her routine, she found herself drawn to the coffee house atmosphere -- so much so, that she dreamed of having her own boutique coffee place one day. During her senior year, she learned her way around the barista business by working at Starbucks.

After graduation, however, Plunkett took the expected path and worked for two years in the corporate world, first as a strategic consultant for a non-profit, and then at an accounting firm.  She did well, but her heart wasn't in it, and she decided it was time to go for the dream. She applied on-line for a barista opening at the Capitol Hill location of chef Guas' Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery. Soon after, her father arranged for the family to attend a Rotary Club dinner event at which a number of chefs were competing: one of the judges was Guas. 

Plunkett introduced herself and was hired as a barista in short order. She acknowledges how lucky she is that Guas overlooked her relative lack of experience and offered her a managerial position after only a few weeks. The seasoned proprietor, who himself was given unlikely professional responsibilities at an early age, recognized her hard work and zeal for her new career -- and took a calculated risk. "David is so smart and charismatic, and it makes me want to be as good as he is," says Plunkett. "He loves his business, and cares so much about every aspect of it. It's an inspiring management model."

"I feel so blessed to be where I am," she continues. "It's rare, around here, to walk into a place and feel at home.  But Bayou Bakery is like that -- so relaxed and laid back. The first time my mom came to see where I work, she said it reminded her of the Texas hospitality that she's missed since we left." Plunkett began recognizing regulars after her first few days at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery -- a sign of a good, healthy business, she says -- and already knows that if she ever does achieve that coffee house of her dreams, she wants it to have the same comfortable, welcoming vibe. Meanwhile, together with her mentor and her staff, she's making sure everyone's happy in this outpost of Louisiana in the shadow of the nation's capital.