Occupation: General manager of Tomato Head Maryville.
Tommy Bateman is a familiar face in Downtown Maryville.
The Memphis-native is general manager of The Tomato Head restaurant on West Broadway Avenue and while he never aspired to be in the restaurant business, he’s happy with how life has turned out.
After taking time off from the University of Memphis to play music he returned to school, but chose to follow his brother Trace to the University of Tennessee in August of 1999. He majored in music and a month later took his first – and only – restaurant job.
“My first job in Knoxville was waiting tables at Tomato Head and it is the only job I’ve had since. I had never waited tables before. It was a great work environment and I really enjoyed it. It was a mix of hard-working people, smart people, creative people and excellent food and that was a really good mixture of elements that resonated with me,” he says. “I kept getting opportunities at work and eventually decided I was going to have a good job at the restaurant and play music and that was in my junior year.”
After his junior year Tommy left school to take more responsibility at the restaurant and more opportunity followed. In May of 2007 he became general manager when Tomato Head owner Mahasti Vafaies and her husband Scott Partin opened the Maryville location. “I was dedicated to excelling in this environment because I enjoyed it. As I was offered more responsibility, I have tried to recreate that environment for new people,” he says. “Creating that opportunity for other people has been big part of what I hope to do.”
Tommy says accepting more responsibility has changed him in a good way. “I’ve learned a lot about myself as I transitioned from being a student and musician who stays up late every night to someone who is responsible for the environment for both co-workers and guests,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot about myself. One thing I’ve learn in working and managing other people is generalizations are pretty useless. You have to work with people on an individual basis.”
Tommy says he has more confidence because of his responsibility. “That bleeds outwardly into the rest of my life. Certain skills as it relates to being responsible and paying attention to details - those things are necessary to do this job. Getting used to doing those things has been helpful in my life outside of work.”
Here is Tommy Bateman:
What are you guilty of?
“Talking more than doing.”
What are you reading currently?
“I recently finished ‘The Monster of Florence,’ by Douglas Preston.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“Causing my team to involuntarily forfeit an intramural soccer game at UT, under circumstances related to a horrible misreading, on my part, of a wink from the referee who was attempting to politely eject me from the match. Lesson learned: What may be terrifically funny to one person is not necessarily amusing to the next.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“The only thing I can think of is tall, that’s commonly used to describe me because I am.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I feel like if there is something about myself that I could change I should probably be able to change it.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“Steve Martin and Graham Greene. I think they would get along quite well. The conversation would be lively, humorous, and insightful, ranging from the state of American art to geopolitics to women.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“I’m torn between two eras. First it would be fun to be my age now when bands I was influenced by when I was 13 were at their peak – REM and U2. I would also like to experience living from 1905 – 1930 to see works by Stravinsky and George Gershwin performed by orchestras conducted by the composers.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“My acoustic guitar, which was a joint effort from friends and family; I think about them when I play it at home.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“Dr. Doug Lemon was a music professor at the University of Memphis. I had the pleasure and good fortune of studying trombone with him at a crucial and transitional part of my life, and he taught me a lot about balance. ”
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
“Oscar Wilde used a quote from Buddhist teachings in his story ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray,’ and this quote comes into my mind often: ‘I myself am heaven and hell.’ The good things and the bad things in life, there is a good amount of each of those residing in each of us.”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
“Used to, just started and no.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“Working the register at Blockbuster Video between 8 and 10 on a Friday night.”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
“Classic Looney Tunes, the music was great and it was clever, not just silly.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“Amburn’s Drive-In. That’s assuming everyone likes hamburgers and milkshakes.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“Don’t tear yourself up about disregarding the seemingly sound advice of others. It will make sense eventually.”
What is your greatest fear?
“That the past is stronger than the future - that the things I’ve already done or decisions I’ve already made have already determined how the rest of my life will unfold.”
I still can’t quite get the hang of...
“These two-handed, fourteen-buttoned video game controllers; but honestly, I just haven’t really put in the time.”
If you could do one impulsive thing, what would it be?
“Commit to being less impulsive.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Remember who you are, what you are, and act accordingly.”