Andrew Staniewski never imagined he'd find his future in the 11th century.
Last year, he was out of work and bummed out. Since graduating from Lansdowne High School in 2007, Staniewski had the usual starter jobs—working in a bakery, behind the snack bar of a movie theatre, marking underground cable for a utility company—none of which were personally rewarding or lasted long.
"I couldn't find a job," the 22-year-old Staniewski said.
One day he was cruising through Arundel Mills Mall with a friend and saw that Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament was hiring.
It's one of those dream jobs—dressing up in period costume, engaging in action-packed fights, putting on an immersing experience for patrons.
"I'd always been interested in horse-riding and sword fighting," Staniewski said. "But I'd never been on a horse before."
It turned out to be a good day for knights.
Staniewski was hired, and immediately began training in stage combat and horsemanship. He learned the strikes and blocks of the weapons used during the performance. The dozen or so knights who rotate through performances use short swords, long swords, maces and other weapons.
"My second week, I learned to ride a horse," he said. Once that skill is mastered, the knight-in-training learns to joust.
Each evening, Medieval Times invites diners to travel to the 11th century as guests of King Carlos, and cheer for one of six Knights of the Realm representing historic regions of medieval Spain.
In April, Medieval Times unveiled a new menu and a new show, featuring music recorded in the Ukraine. The meal still centers around finger food served on pewter settings. Included in the meal are tomato bisque, roasted chicken, ribs and potato wedges. The major changes to the menu appear to be a focaccia bread with olive oil and seasoning instead of garlic breadsticks, and a larger rib portion.
Tim Lemke of Odenton-Severn Patch .
What's it like to work as a knight?
"It's the best job I ever had," Staniewski said. "I always wanted to be an actor or stunt man growing up. I get to be both."
While the fights are carefully choreographed and practiced in rehearsals, the routines are physically demanding and occasionally, injuries occur.
"We practice for complete safety," Staniewski said. "Sometimes somebody gets hurt, if he didn't put his shield up quick enough."
"It keeps me in shape," said Daniel Davis of Glen Burnie, who has worked as a knight for about three years.
After engaging in chivalrous rivalry, the knights and squires who assist with setting up props and handling animals often hang out at Arundel Mills Mall for wings after work.
"This job is a blast," said Demetrick Smith of Severn, who has been a knight for about seven years. "Riding the horses is really fun. Each one is a little different."