Sivi Mennen: AQUA by El Gaucho General Manager

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle’s poignant observation is Sivi’s favorite quote. Known for her drive, as well as being a fair and honest person, anyone who knows Sivi Mennen would not be surprised that this is how she approaches work and life every day.

Born as April Siv Mennen in New Haven Connecticut, she grew up in West Seattle and attended Seattle Lutheran High School and University of Washington. Her Swedish parents thought the name Siv was too unusual, so they added April as her first name. She’s always only been called “Sivi,” however; a nickname for Siv.

Sivi has been with AQUA (then the Waterfront Seafood Grill) since the beginning, when it opened in May of 2000. She was in real estate sales, looking for some extra income, and had always admired El Gaucho and its founder, Paul Mackay. She started as a part time server, and “I was hooked!” she exclaims. She was eventually promoted to Private Dining Director, and when her mentor, General Manager Chris Sparkman, announced he was stepping down, she was asked by both he and company President Chad Mackay to throw her hat in the ring for the position. “That was five years ago,” she recalls. “Taking on the challenge of General Manager was the best decision I have ever made,” she says, and adds that it’s also her proudest accomplishment.

People is what Sivi loves most about her job. “I love all of the different personalities that I get the chance to work with, as well as those I meet each day. I am truly blessed to have met some of the nicest people in the world through AQUA,” she exclaims.

Her love of people was recognized in 2014 when she was named a Tourism Ambassador by Visit Seattle, the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. She notes that it meant a lot to be recognized by her peers.

Sivi is also known for her generosity and involvement in local non-profits. For over seven years, once a month the AQUA by El Gaucho crew prepares, cooks and serves lunch to 300 people at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM).

“I really like the monthly UGM service,” she says. “We have a chance to truly connect with the gentlemen (and sometimes ladies) who come through, and it puts life into perspective. I notice a real difference in my staff after we’ve been there together too; they are gentler with each other, more kind toward one another, and more humble. It makes my heart happy. I wouldn’t trade that opportunity for the world.”

Another organization Sivi has been involved with is the USO, through their annual golf tournament and gala fundraisers. “Seeing the difference that the USO makes on a daily basis for those who sacrifice everything for our freedom is amazing,” she says.

Family is important to Sivi, and they are extremely close. She has three sisters, a brother, three nephews and a niece. Spending time with her parents is time she treasures. “As I get older I realize the time I spend with them is priceless,” she says.

Her strong family connection also carries over to the restaurant. “We are a group of individuals who come together to make an incredible team,” she says. “We appreciate each other’s attributes and lean on each other for support. We truly are a family, and we love what we do.”

While the team works hard to take care of their guests, they also love to have fun. “We play ‘AQUAball’ during the evening,” she explains. “We shoot wine corks into a vase behind the bar service well each night, all night, as we collect the corks from opening wine,” she smiles. “Guests get a huge kick out of it, and often they get to play, too.”

In the restaurant, having a special relationships with older guests is something she’s known for. “I just love, love, love getting to know them and learning from them,” she expresses.

Besides spending time with family, she enjoys the beach, water and shopping. “I am slightly obsessed with sea animals, so when I vacation, it’s always to go spend time visiting whales, turtles, and dolphins,” she says. Sivi also loves king crab and lobster, champagne and Gucci, the movie “Shawshank Redemption,” TV shows “Criminal Minds,” “Law and Order,” and all of the “Real Housewives.”

A little known fact about Sivi is that she works on Sunday, which is typically a night off for restaurant General Managers. “I grew up as a preacher’s daughter, and was never allowed to work on Sunday, as it was family day, and a day of rest,” she explains. “As a result I have always rebelled a bit and enjoy working on Sundays,” she laughs.

Rebellion aside, the best piece of advice she received was from her dad. “He’d say, Sivi, the world does not care about the storms you encountered. Only if you brought the ship in.”

As captain of the AQUA ship, you can count on Sivi and her crew to deliver excellence, and a world-class experience, every night starting at 4pm.

  1. James Ouderkirk

    We brought my parents to AQUA to celebrate their 64th anniversary on March 19th. The evening was an unqualified success. The service was first rate and the little touches like the signed card and the decorated dessert plates were especially appreciated. The only thing that surpassed the service was the food. My wife had asked that her prawns and scallops be cooked through and they were perfect. The custom cocktails we ordered were just as envisioned. The menu description for the Seared Ahi Tuna does not begin to do that dish justice. It was magnificent. My parents were so pleased with their dishes that each of them probably ate more in one meal than they had in the past 2 days. A 5-star meal all the way around. Thanks to your staff for making it a perfect evening.

  2. Greg Giles

    My wife and I dined at Aqua on Thursday night …. WOW what a wonderful experience. We travel 4 – 5 months of the year around the world and truly the TOTAL experience we had at Aqua was WORLD CLASS – congratulations to you and your team. Our server Mikita was just amazing and made our experience their very enjoyable and Tom our Sommelier went above and beyond – we do have some favourite restaurants around the world and for sure Aqua is well and truly high there on our list .. we will be back for sure and we hope it is sooner than later.
    Cheers Greg Giles
    Roberts Creek, BC

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