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Wed, Dec. 11

Slice of life: ClayAnn Cook

ClayAnn Cook, Grand Canyon Dinner Theatre and Steakhouse general manager, takes a rare break. Clara Beard/WGCN

ClayAnn Cook, Grand Canyon Dinner Theatre and Steakhouse general manager, takes a rare break. Clara Beard/WGCN

What does your job at the Grand Canyon Dinner Theatre and Steakhouse entail?

Well, today I got here at 9 this morning and I probably won't leave here until 9:30 or 10 tonight. My role at the theater started over a year ago in the planning process and I actually got to work with the construction workers, carpenters and masons to build this theater. When we were building this I don't think I had a day off from Feb. 1 until almost June. There's not anything in this room or in the other room that I didn't touch. I bought it all and designed it. I got to pick the wallpaper and worry about the color on the computer screen. Almost everything I had to buy on the Internet because obviously there isn't a Lowes or Home Depot here. It was really specialized stuff. All the lighting fixtures for the stage, like the antler lights I bought from a gal in Winnipeg, Canada for example. That has been the last year, getting ready to get this open. Along with that was auditioning the entertainers, working on the script, picking and helping to decide the music, lighting, props, everything.

How did you end up in Tusayan?

I came to Tusayan to be the General Manager of the Grand Hotel. I love the Grand. I felt at home the minute I walked in, because I'm kind of an old cowgirl so that worked perfect for me. Then I went to work for Elling Halverson and in the last 10 years I've been given a lot of autonomy to just do what I thought was right in creating Canyon Flight Trading Company. When I first took over Canyon Flight, I think we had four stores, then we built it up to seven and then we consolidated down to six, so there was a lot of growth and a lot of opportunity. I did all the design work for everything that was sold to the guests. I enjoyed all of that, but it was nothing like this. You don't mind getting up at six in the morning when it's snowing and you're living in a Bleaker Box. I lived in a metal box for almost three months.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced? Most rewarding part of the job?

I underestimated how much marketing needed to be done. Here's where I'm coming from. When you open a dinner theater, you have to hit it on both ends. Your food has to be extraordinary and your show has to be extraordinary. People have to enjoy both. You don't want anyone to come in here and walk out and say, 'wow, that show was absolutely incredible, but the food was horrible.' Or they walk out and say, 'the food was just amazing, but where did they get those people.' You have to hit the ground running and it had to be good on both ends. We succeeded, which has been rewarding for me. The show is phenomenal and the quality of the entertainers is amazing, they have tremendous credentials. Two of our new actors came to us from Chicago and they've been doing musical theatre there and national tours and so the talent pool is amazing within the actors. We hit those marks.

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