Hundreds of patients and their family members visit the Red Brick Bistro at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) each day. The café serves as a safe haven from the stresses of treatment, where guests can count on a nourishing meal and dose of Café Manager Mimo Boumrar’s welcoming smile. To many, Mimo’s laughter practically is medicine, earning him such nicknames as Ambassador of SCCA and Café Doctor from the physicians on campus.
“What stands out about Mimo is his customer service and relationship skills. I don’t want to take any credit at all, because Mimo came to us with that skill set,” remarks Bon Appétit General Manager Chad Gross. Chad initially hired Mimo in 2007 to restock nutrition center fridges on different floors of the buildings, but soon promoted him to supervisor of the bistro so that Mimo could directly interact with guests daily.
Over the past 10 years, Mimo’s cheery disposition and dedication to serving his customers have inspired many, garnering him much-deserved praise and recognition, such as All-Star Hourly honors at a Bon Appétit regional meeting in Seattle and a Be-AStar National Hourly award in 2015. Chad proudly recalls a moving letter a patient’s daughter wrote about Mimo’s profound impact on her father’s experience while receiving treatment at SCCA. When Chad tried to read the letter to his wife, he couldn’t get through it without crying.
When asked where he learned his customer service skills, Mimo credits his family and upbringing in Algeria. An immigrant, Mimo brought his culture and values of always respecting elders, especially mothers and grandmothers, when he came to the United States in 2001. “I know how to butter them up,” he laughs. “I just treat them like I treat my mom.” He cherishes children and says, “They are the future. When I see someone sick, I have a feeling. Naturally, I want to be good to them.” He fondly shares a memory of a five-year-old patient who would cry everywhere at SCCA — except the bistro. It got to the point where the child’s doctor called Mimo to come see the boy in the doctor’s office so that the little one could relax and be happy again.
“When I see a patient come over, I try to make them smile. When they give us good news like ‘Today is my last day, I’m not coming here anymore,’ I am so happy to hear that the patient feels good.”
Mimo goes on to talk about his brother, who once played soccer on the Algerian national team before he became sick two years ago, losing his ability to walk and take care of himself. Mimo hasn’t had the chance to see his brother in Algeria yet. “When I see a patient, I think of my brother. I want to treat the patient like I wish someone is treating my brother,” he says, with tears flowing. “When I see a patient come over, I try to make them smile. When they give us good news like ‘Today is my last day, I’m not coming here anymore,’ I am so happy to hear that the patient feels good.”
In thinking about his career, he expresses deep gratitude for the opportunities that Chad and Operations Manager Jayson Tolman have given him to grow his skills and responsibilities at work and to learn about food, sustainability, and what it takes to be a manager. Additionally, he treasures his work-life balance, spending time with his growing family — Mimo recently welcomed the birth of his first baby and son, Omar. “[Bon Appétit] has a very different atmosphere, nice people, and good food. At Bon Appétit, we help people with our food. [Patients] say, ‘We love your food, we’re going to miss it!’ That’s my day at work every day,” he concludes. “I worked [other jobs] before and never found what I find at Bon Appétit.”
Everyone is thankful for this exemplary man who treats guests like his own family every day. The café doctor is in at SCCA!