People of Point Park: Carmella Salem, '93 has seen it all from behind the bar Monday, April 4, 2016
Degree Earned: Theatre Arts
Class Year: 1993
Current Occupation: Owner of Carmella's Plates and Pints
Current Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Carmella Salem, '93 graduated from Point Park University poised to take the stage in any theater in the world. Instead, she created her own stage behind the bar of her restaurant, Carmella's Plates and Pints located in Pittsburgh's South Side, where she emphasizes fine dining with creative cocktails.
Following graduation, Salem discovered her passion for bartending, which gave her the opportunity to embrace her love of entertaining and socializing while doing work she loved. After several years of working for other establishments, Salem felt the itch to strike out on her own. "I was at a point in my life where the last couple of years there I felt like I needed to do more. I wanted to own something. It's time to use what I have already learned and to learn a lot more. I just wanted to feel more fulfilled."
Salem has embraced the role of chief operating officer, rather than just head bartender. "I can't be behind the bar because I have so much other work to do, pulling me away from what's familiar. I have been getting more comfortable in my job (as owner), and realizing that it's bigger than just bartending." Part of her learning curve has been practicing the art of delegating - and she started in the kitchen. One of the first decisions Salem made as the owner was to hire an accomplished chef, since her expertise is in cocktails and not entrÃ©es. "I never was a cook and I don't really know how to cook, so being able to eat great food every day is a plus."
She's Seen It All
In 20 years of tending bar, Salem has lots of stories - some shared by her customers, some about her customers, and some about people in the neighborhood. She laughed when recalling some unruly neighbors. "We had people go outside our back door and up on our roof to sit and drink. I don't know how they found out they could get out there. They literally just hopped out on the roof and were sitting on the roof with their drinks."
While she joked that she should write a book with all the stories and experiences she has heard over the years, she knows that she has more to offer future restaurateurs. "People are always telling me that I am living their dream. It is a dream, but it's also lot of work. I don't think people realize how much it takes to make it successful because that is why restaurants fail. I feel like I could help people understand this business more."
Mixing Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy
When she's not tending bar, paying invoices, or chatting with her customers, Salem makes time for an organization close to her heart - the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She is passionate about supporting the fight against two deadly diseases that have affected those close to her and does so in multiple ways; as a volunteer, as a runner with Team in Training and as a donor. Salem hosts two bar crawls a year at Carmella's where a percentage of the profits go toward the Society.