Garrett Cowie: The Man Behind, In Front, and Around the Kitchen Counter

Garrett+Cowie+is+the+general+manager+at+the+asian-fusion+restaurant%2C+Ginger+Street%2C+located+in+the+heart+of+downtown+Salt+Lake+City.+Feb.+28%2C+2021.+%28Photo+by+Jack+Gambassi+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

Jack Gambassi

Garrett Cowie is the general manager at the asian-fusion restaurant, Ginger Street, located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. Feb. 28, 2021. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jack O'Leary, News Writer

 

Sitting on the corner of 300 S. and Main Street, Ginger Street SLC is not hard to miss with its bright pink neon sign. Ginger Street is a restaurant that specializes in “southeast Asian hawker-style street food” according to their website.

The restaurant has an interior design that tries to bring that theme to life with basket-covered lights, lacquered wood tables and a company motto of “keeping it real.” 

Ginger Street, referred to by the Salt Lake Tribune as “bold and refreshing,” has a general manager whose story is just as unique as the drunken noodles or cha mano iced tea on its menu.

Part of the menu at Ginger Street SLC, an Asian fusion restaurant in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. Feb. 28, 2021. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle) ( Jack Gambassi)

27-year-old Garrett Cowie, has been the general manager at Ginger Street for the past eight months, but he originally started as a dishwasher and a server at the Thai restaurant at the start of 2019.

“The general manager is essentially the support. In my opinion, it’s a support position for the entire restaurant. You’re the therapist or the big brother, oftentimes the security,” Cowie said, “It’s a universal roll across the restaurant, you should be able to cook, you should know every single position.”

Cowie moved to Utah in 2019 and as he put it, “hit the ground running.” He worked at the Marriott in University Park before moving to Ginger Street and then left the restaurant to bartend at Punch Bowl Social. After being laid off during the pandemic, as many workers in the culinary industry were, Cowie rejoined the team at Ginger Street as the general manager.

“It’s about who you are as a person, and how you affect your guests. There was a time where early on in the pandemic [when] a lot of restaurants were having trouble bringing people into the dining room because of you know everybody was scared,” Cowie said, “but having a friendly face, a person to talk to you and have a conversation with — it’s relatable.”

Cowie was raised on a farm in the small town of Romney in West Virginia, with eight other siblings. It’s the place where he first learned to cook. According to Cowie, his family is primarily Italian, so he grew up cooking a lot of pasta.

“Gosh, I can remember being like six-years-old waking up with my grandmother. You know, on Thanksgiving starting the turkey, we did very traditional stuff, you know, put the stuffing in the turkey and everything,” Cowie said.

At a young age, Cowie’s parents decided to school him and his siblings at home rather than in the local school system. He said he had to learn everything on his own. 

” I taught myself out of a library and online. I’ve always learned the best by looking at stuff, or just doing it by myself,” Cowie said.

 Being the oldest son in the family, Cowie said he had to learn how to be a dad and a leader in a sense. At age 16, Cowie was certified as a firefighter EMT, the youngest in West Virginia. Then two years later he went on to enlist in the army. Cowie served as a Sergeant in the Army Rangers from 2011 to 2017 and was certified in airborne assaults, jungle warfare, as well as sniper section for a brief period.

“I remember being 18 years old walking into this village and they hadn’t seen anybody other than the people from that village in 40 years… and it’s just one of those things that you look at it and you’re like, the world’s a wild big place,” Cowie said.

Cowie has taken his training from the military and his past life experiences with him into the restaurant business. Lacie James is the assistant manager at Ginger Street. James spoke about Cowie’s work ethic. 

“To see his dedication to running [Ginger Street] properly and even though stressful, he’s just about it, you know, he’s like I’m never, ever gonna give up on this place until you know like I reach my goal,” James said.

James has worked at Ginger Street for almost two years and is currently studying business administration at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC). According to James, the word “real” in the company motto stands for respect, that everyone matters, accountability, and love.

“I remember one day, Garrett referenced something and he said, ‘we have to hold the umbrella for everybody else. While all this stuff is going on, you and I, Lacie, we have to hold the umbrella,’ and that really got me thinking how I responded and how I reacted to things,” James said.

 

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@jacktoleary