Melinda Dorn

Melinda Dorn

I lead my team by role modeling. I find ways to stay inspired, motivated and teachable myself, and I don't keep it a secret. I talk about my mental health, doctors visits, family trips, a new podcast or musician or movie. I connect the dots for folks so they see how it all relates to how we show up at work.

I see hospitality as the intersection between foodservice and human service. We need the skills to succeed at both. I spent 30 years focusing on food, food cost, and bottom lines. I have a lot of catching up to do on how to be a human being in service to other people, in a more meaningful way.
Be creative. Being a chef doesn't have to mean working on a line every day until you die. Chefs are influencers and activators. Whether an army of one or the leader of a cultural movement, the choices a chef makes can challenge stigma, break old destructive work patterns, redesign entire food systems, and make sustainability about more than just picking the right produce and meat purveyor.
Advice that has stuck with me throughout my career is: take the chance. Apply for the job you're not sure you are qualified for. Taking a job you are sure you can do will lead to stagnation. Unless you are making the safe decision out of dire necessity or to be able to nurture a separate passion project, lean into the discomfort and uncertainty, then aim high.
I have always seen food as a catalyst for connection. Human beings are wired for connection, and lately I see that there are many ways to achieve this that don't rely on food or drink.
Any organization is merely a collaboration of organisms, so it's important that those organisms are healthy. Healthy folks are teachable. I look at what sort of self-care or rejuvenation practices folks have in place to prevent burnout to measure whether they understand their own boundaries so I can trust they'll respect mine. I'm looking to see what sort of relationships they have outside of work, so I know they won't become morbidly dependent on the workplace for providing all of their social, financial, physical, spiritual, or occupational needs. I'm not buying a piece of equipment, I'm hiring a whole human being.
CHOW's Executive Director, Chef Erin Boyle, and CHOW Founder, John Hinman, inspire me to continue to work and excel in this industry. As well as other chefs and thought leaders who are trying to make the restaurant industry a safer and saner place to be. Folks like Maria Campbell, Tristin Rogers, and Zia Sheik, Hassel Aviles, Lauren Paylor, Mickey Bakst and Patrick Mulvaney.
“The Incestous Workplace” by William White taught me more about leadership than any restaurant management textbook ever has. As for cookbooks I’ve found essential to my career, I would run into a burning house to save my copy of Wayne Gisslen's “Professional Baking” (2nd Edition) and Dornenberg and Page's “Culinary Artistry”.

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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