Americans have a deep and abiding love for people who take unique paths in life. One of the most popular poems of all times is The Road Not Traveled by Robert Frost, a poem that ends this way:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The poem is generally misinterpreted, but our point is that the notion of taking the road less traveled resonates. So does this quote from Henry David Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
At Roots 2017, attendees got to enjoy an inspiring conversation about the ways in which chefs can diversity their own careers and forge their own unique paths. Moderated by journalist and author Douglas Trattner – who began to write professionally fulltime after he left the practice of law, making him someone who understands major career change – the presentation started with Chef Rich Rosendale, a master chef who is one of most experienced competitive chefs in the United States.
Rich was the team leader for Bocuse d’Or as well as the executive chef of Greenbrier, overseeing 185 chefs with a $50 million budget at 18 locations. In June 2013, though, he quit his job. Resigned. Without another job. People, he said, thought he’d lost his blooming mind, but he told Roots attendees that a career is about much more than money. It’s also about fulfillment. Rich now travels around the country, providing consultation services to people in the culinary industry, along with offering monthly classes that are as much about finding your own inspiration as they are about cooking. There plenty more to his story, and you can find additional information about Rich Rosendale in our blog. Meanwhile, here is part of his comments at Roots.
Chef Matt Del Regno shared his insights next. Matt is the executive chef and general manager of the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland and Global Center for Health Innovation. He discusses how he went from picking spinach all day long for Jacobs Field at $7 per hour – something he figured was a “stopover” before he found a real job – to working for the largest food service company on the planet. He has been involved with more than 50 venues in his career with Levy/Compass Group, participating in events that include three Super Bowls.
He appreciates how his bosses have been so willing to toss him the keys to projects, trusting him to figure out what to do. They’ve listened to what he calls his “crazy ideas” and then encouraged him to run with them. Here is more about Matt, along with what he says about providing the best of food in venues associated with the NFL, MLB, NBA and much more.
Next up: Bradford Thompson, who got a job washing dishes at Tony Roma as he was finishing up his political science degree. He chose the job because he’d get free food, and he got promoted when the grill cook got arrested – meaning, handcuffed and taken out of the kitchen – for breaking parole. The kitchen manager handed Brad a set of tongs and told him he’d be flipping ribs that day. Brad discovered that he liked hanging out with the cool guys on the line and not having to wear a suit every day. After that, he applied for restaurant jobs that he says he had no business applying for, working his way up until, at the age of 40, he lost his job with only two days’ notice when the restaurant closed. His wife was pregnant and that triggered a sense of panic. But, this also gave Brad a chance to breathe – and he became a consultant, a career that he loves. He provides builders, owners and more the perspective of a chef, opening 19 venues so far. You can listen to more of his story here:
Finally, Chef Manny Slomovits – the master of positive thinking, of having the winner’s mindset, of taking chances and of always failing forward – is currently the chef of the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ball Park. He has served as a chef on the yachts of multi-millionaires and even billionaires, serving kings, dictators, celebrities and more on yachts, private islands and more.
He was first exposed to famous people and “crazy wealth” at the One & Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas, and a man who owned a shipyard paid Manny to cook for him on his yacht. Eight months later, the man sold his yacht and Manny was out of work, but because he was hungry for a quality life, he creatively marketed his service. This included dropping off his business card at docks where wealthy people kept their vessels, sending food he’d cooked to their business locations and more. You can find plenty more about Manny and his journey in this blog post.
You can see much more of The Road Less Traveled presentation here: