The ubiquitous chef?

It's somewhat of a miracle that chefs seem to be everywhere in non-commercial foodservice.

By Paul King, Editorial Director

The June issue of FoodService Director will focus on the increasing role of chefs in non-commercial foodservice. As I began to organize my notes and plan my calls for the feature, I started reflecting on just how far these segments—particularly schools and hospitals—have come in a culinary sense.

When I began covering foodservice 30 years ago, chefs were a rare commodity outside of restaurants and hotels. But for those chefs who were working in colleges or B&I operations, one common theme seemed to emanate from their histories. Most came into non-commercial operations because they were burned out, tired of working 80-hour weeks, weekends and most holidays. They wanted a life outside the business so they could raise a family or at least just feel human.

Most students in culinary schools considered work in a hospital or a nursing home or college to be beneath them, a role reserved for those students who weren't quite "good enough" to make it in a restaurant or resort. And, truth be told, most culinary instructors didn't really talk up the non-restaurant side of the industry.

Things are quite different today. More and more, chefs are entering non-commercial foodservice so they can make a difference. Sure, there's still a lot to be said for working conditions, but chefs are seeing just what is possible in the non-commercial world and they like it. If chefs can teach schoolchildren the wonders and complexities of food beyond burgers, fries and pizza, and can instill in them a profound appreciation for food, they've changed lives for the better. If a chef can make a patient's day when everything else about their hospital stay is going wrong, he or she may help that person heal just a little bit faster.

This is why we're examining the role of the chef in today's foodservice world. And we'd like you to be part of it. I would love to hear your stories of why you chose a career at a college, hospital, school ot other facility over the "glamour" of a restaurant or hotel. I'd appreciate your sharing a tale about some small way you made a difference in your institution. Email me at pking@cspnet.com with your stories.