Cavin Sullivan: Artistic Aspirations

“Before this facility was built, the company didn’t really have the space to accommodate a lot of these meetings, so they would take a lot of them off-site,” Sullivan says. “Now that we have the facilities, these meetings can stay in house, so we’ve been doing between $6,000 and $15,000 in catering sales per week.”

Employee golden rule: Sullivan is quick to point out that none of his accomplishments or successes with the new foodservice could have happened without his staff. Beth Gurdock, marketing coordinator for Metz & Associates, says Sullivan’s hands-on management style has helped him maintain good employee morale, which has translated into a low turnover rate— Sullivan says since he’s been at the Smucker Company, only three positions have turned over—and high employee satisfaction. Edwards also says he has been impressed with Sullivan’s interaction with his employees. “He is really calm and cool when talking with the staff,” Edwards says. “Most chefs and people in our industry can sort of fly off the handle when they get passionate about what they’re doing. They go a little crazy, which is how I tend to act. But whenever I see him deal with something, I always think ‘That’s not how it would have happened for me.’ It would have turned into this big ugly thing and there would have been yelling but it never turns out that way for him.”

Sullivan says his flexibility is the key to his management style.

“I take the Smucker’s philosophy and I provide my staff with a great place to work,” Sullivan says. “I think you can create a positive environment within your workforce and it just makes everything more productive. I treat them how I’d want to be treated and I find I pretty much get that in return. I think that’s why I have so little turnover, which is uncommon for our industry.”

Cavin Sullivan, FSD of the Month, fruit carvingBorn into food: Sullivan didn’t realize he was cut out for foodservice until he graduated high school. He was born in Belgium, a country with a rich culinary history, and he lived there until he was 7. Then his family moved to Akron, Ohio, where he grew up, graduating from Ellet High School. After graduation, he began his culinary career working as a fry cook at Arthur Treacher’s, a quick service restaurant chain. After working his way through several restaurants, he answered a blind ad for  a position at the Goodyear headquarters in downtown Akron.

“At Goodyear I met a great woman named Lynne Ohlson,” Sullivan says. “She recognized the artistic talent I had for presentation. She was the first person to give me garde manger books that taught me to do a lot of neat things that I still do as far as carvings with fruit and vegetables. I found I had a knack for that stuff and that is really what launched my career to the next level.”

After five years at Goodyear, Sullivan spent some time working for several foodservice management companies. One of his jobs during that period was at the National Football Hall of Fame, where his carvings of football helmets out of melons won him at least one famous fan. “Dan Marino came over to check out the Miami Dolphin melon helmet,” he adds. Sullivan also worked at healthcare and higher education accounts before settling at the Smucker Company.

“Smucker’s had a great reputation for being a very good company to work for,” says Sullivan. “They’ve really leaned on me to assist them, such as in the design of the new facility. They’ve also been very open by letting me staff in a way that provides as high a quality of foodservices as possible.”

Carving out community: Sullivan has taken his love of foodservice to the community by partnering with Heartland Point, a local community center that is part of the Smucker Company’s community education initiative partnership with the Orrville community.

“I’ve taught a few garnish classes, where I demonstrated how to make flower bouquets out of vegetables,” Sullivan says. “My next class is on melon carving so I’ll show how to carve sea creatures out of melons. It’s my way of jumping in on what Smucker’s is trying to do with the center.”

The garnish classes are illustrative of what makes Sullivan passionate about foodservice.

“The artistic aspect of foodservice is my best interest. Not that I can’t cook, but the catering, the displays and making food beautiful, as well as taste good, is what I’ve always felt I was good at.”

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
frozen raspberries

“As a chef, I pretty much have grown up through the business thinking that fresh was always better—produce, fish and meats, especially,” says Ryan Conklin, executive chef for UNC Rex Healthcare’s culinary and nutrition services. “But the more ‘re-educated’ I get, the more I’m learning that some frozen options may be more appropriate for me to be using on my menus.”

Right now, the perception of frozen foods doesn’t match the reality, especially for high-volume foodservice operators, says Conklin. Often, chefs and operators picture not-great product that’s been sitting in a block of...

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce eat dining

Forced to battle crumbling infrastructure and a constant churn of trends, sometimes the best way to save a foodservice operation is to change it entirely. As Steve Mangan, director of dining at the University of Michigan, puts it, “At some point when your building starts to fail, the cost of maintenance stands out.” But for operators with limited budgets, the challenge is discerning the right time to do so—and how far to take it.

At Jefferson High School, change came because little worked anymore. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, school’s cafeteria hadn’t been updated since 1957; students...

Managing Your Business
farmer produce

The seeds of farm-to-table 2.0 have officially blown into noncommercial foodservice. Since the movement has caught the attention of the segment during the past decade, operators have broadened agricultural collaborations outside of just supply. As a result, a new strain of the movement has been created that treats farms as allies in events, training and innovative growing systems.

The 500-bed Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J., didn’t start out sourcing produce from local farms; instead, it administered its own growing programs, including an on-site garden and honeybee apiary...

FSD Resources