Founder & Culinary Sustainability Consultant at Forward Dining Solutions, LLC.
“Being a chef has allowed me to persevere through the darkest of times and that work ethic of pushing yourself has led me to opening Forward Dining Solutions and becoming the nation’s leading expert in electric kitchens.„
I had to endure tragedies in my life that helped shape who I am today. I grew up in an abusive household in neighborhoods surrounded by crime. I’ve had my home robbed, family members murdered, and for a time was homeless. These experiences serve as a reminder of what is waiting for me if I fail to take my foot off the pedal.
When I was younger, whenever life got hard, I turned to food as a source of escapism. I watched shows like “Good Eats” to satiate my fantasies of food and learn all I could about the science of cooking. I watched “Iron Chef” to see how culinary competitions took place and studied how a chef moved and focused. By watching how focused these chefs were, I realized I wanted to be just like that. No matter how stressful things got, these chefs were cool as cucumbers and persevered.
I’ve been fortunate to have been taught many things throughout my career. I’ve learned how to persevere no matter what the obstacle. I’ve managed to surpass my own limits and work well beyond 30+ hours in a row. I’ve learned to tap into my passion and determination to push myself past my peers and my competition.
Of all my lessons learned, I think the one lesson that sticks with me the most is to find inspiration everywhere. Inspiration can come in a form least expected and it’s important to have an open mind. If you approach everything in life as though you’ve never seen it before you will be amazed at how the world around you can influence you and allow you to create things you’ve never considered previously.
I would say the best skills a chef or chef consultant can have are empathy, curiosity, and humility. You need to know that you don’t know everything and that seeking out answers from those who know is the best way to grow and become better at anything you set out to do. Not having humility to say “I don’t know” or “I need help” has led many professionals into stagnation or worse, irrelevancy.
Being curious and wanting to learn is an amazing quality to have. Wanting to learn will not only make yourself grow into a better professional, but through the seeking of knowledge you will inevitably come across people who will help you achieve that knowledge along the way.
Empathy is incredibly important if you’re going to become a great leader. As a chef consultant I come across chefs who often don’t want to adopt what I’m there to promote. It takes an empathetic leader to work with those chefs and clients to understand their concerns so that you can begin to move forward.
I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for having mentors to help me realize what qualities are important and how to foster them. It’s served me greatly and I hope to help the next generation of chefs learn the same lessons.
I’m inspired every day to want to help lead the industry into a more sustainable and responsible direction. I hope to help create kitchens that foster creativity and learning while staying focused on speed, efficiency, and thermal comfortability. For decades chefs have had to endure working in conditions that leave much to be desired and through my work I hope to allow chefs to focus more on their craft in a more comfortable and equitable environment.
I’m constantly reading, watching videos, and seeking council from my peers. It’s partially what led me to start my podcast “Sustainable Overload”. My thirst for knowledge has led me to talking with top professionals like Gerald L. Ford CMC, Brady Seals, and Rachelle Boucher to name a few. If I don’t know something I immediately look it up and when I have free time, I immerse myself in the topic.
I’ve been blessed to say that I have a few places that have impacted my career; mainly two places come to mind. (1)The first is my time as an apprentice at the Greenbrier of West Virginia where I worked for a world-renowned Certified Master Chef Richard Rosendale as he prepared for the Bocuse d’Or (a very prestigious global competition). It was in the middle of one of the greatest experiences of my professional career. I learned from several Master chefs and past culinary Olympians while having world renowned chefs cycle in and out of the resort to help train him. My time there accelerated my career by decades and gave me insights I never dreamed I would have. (2) The second place that has had the most impact on me and my career is when I was at the helm of Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus. This was the world’s first fully self-sustained university campus, and I was tasked with developing the country’s first all-electric campus kitchen. It was here that I developed my passion for sustainability and learned all there is to know about commercial kitchen electrification and decarbonization. This job set me up to be the nation’s leading expert in commercial kitchen electrification and work with the William J. Worthen Foundation on developing “The Design Professional’s Guide to Decarbonization of the Built Environment.” So essentially, I helped write the book on the electrify-everything movement!
Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.
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