Iraj Fernando: Elevating Culinary

At Bosch LLC, Iraj Fernando implements his commitment to restaurant-quality food.

Accomplishments

IRAJ FERNANDO has transformed the foodservice at BOSCH LLC by:

  • BRINGING creativity to menu selections, which often rival fine-dining restaurants, through fresh cooking and a No Repeats philosophy
  • INCREASING daily participation to as high as 80% through impeccable customer service
  • MENTORING his staff to encourage them to produce the best food possible
  • BECOMING an ambassador for Southern Foodservice to bring in new accounts 

“Fernando began a campaign to keep at least some of these events in house,” DeLeonardis says. “He started by convincing a couple of meeting planners to give him the opportunity to develop a menu similar to what the event planner was looking at from a particular restaurant. Iraj and his staff not only succeeded in pulling off the event, but the guests said his selections and the quality of the food rivaled any five-star restaurant they have been to in a very long time.”

DeLeonardis isn’t the only one to take notice of Fernando’s attention to high-quality food. “Typical cafeteria-type food is not acceptable [to Iraj],” says Mike Barclay, president of Southern Foodservice Management. “He goes the extra mile to make sure each meal or catering event is special and possesses his own signature touch.”

Teaching staff: Fernando must train staff to be able to provide that signature touch. Mentoring his employees to broaden their culinary horizons is something on which Fernando prides himself.

“I want [the staff] to become more than just cooks,” Fernando says. “I want them to be good people. Most of the cooks in our side of the business never get to go out to eat to see the kind of food I want them to deliver. So I put together information on different foods and countries. Those give the staff the global knowledge of where this stuff comes from so they appreciate it.”

Fernando also leads by example. He feels it’s important to show staff the dedication it takes to get the most out of the job, which means not being afraid to try new things.

“A lot of B&I contractors come into an account, put their programs in place and then forget about the location,” Fernando says. “Working with the staff is how you keep the account fresh. You have to do cool things every day to keep the audience interested.”

“His can-do work ethic is contagious,” DeLeonardis says of Fernando. “He would never expect any more from his employees than he does himself. He takes the time to properly train each employee, from cooks to dishwashers. He is demanding but fair and he pays attention to every detail and expects his employees to do the same.”

Barclay has seen the success of Fernando’s mentoring skills first hand.

“Iraj developed his assistant, Ivonne, from a person who couldn’t boil water to an extremely talented sous chef,” Barclay says. “Ivonne had no cooking skills prior to joining our team 13 years ago, and today she can help prepare all meals in Iraj’s location.”

Fernando says he sees himself as a personal chef, especially since he still prefers to be on the floor cooking at Showplace.

“A lot of times the staff were not taught well,” Fernando says. “I had to believe in what I do and to share what I want to share and say what I want to say—tell it like it is. Some people didn’t like that at the beginning, but they have to know that over the years I’ve experienced these things. I’ve failed and succeeded, so I know what is the best way to go. I like to be out there with them because if you teach them enough, people find their talents.”

Company ambassador: Fernando’s success has elevated him into a role as Southern Foodservice ambassador, someone who can present the Birmingham, Ala.-based management company in the best light to other accounts and potential clients.

“Someone a long time ago told me you write your own check. I believe that,” Fernando says. “If you make your operation all about the food, the clientele will recognize it and be surprised. If you take away [the client’s] burden of finding a new contractor every two years, they know Southern is doing their part. I always find that it’s important for the people who pay our bills to see what we do.”

Barclay says Fernando’s dedication to the company has made him an ideal ambassador to potential clients.

“He has often been out promoting our company, not by praising himself, but by doing what he does on a daily basis,” Barclay says. “His client has written letters to prospective Southern clients expressing what a great job we do and why they should select our company for their on-site dining services. Iraj is the most humble foodservice professional I have ever met. He is always giving credit to his staff and the company that employs him.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Menu Development
chicken tetrazzini bowl

The No Whey station in the main dining hall at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga., offers students meals that are free of the eight most common allergens. When Brittany Parham, the dietitian who oversees the station, polled food-sensitive students on which favorites they missed most, “comfort foods” was the overwhelming response. Parham, who herself has food allergies, worked with chefs on the 20,000-student campus to focus on allergen-free versions of pasta bakes, biscuits, banana bread and other down-home dishes. Recently, the chefs reworked the school’s traditional chicken...

Ideas and Innovation
university chicago medical center renovation workers

As The University of Chicago Medical Center prepared for the revamp of one of its kitchens to feed an additional 202 patients, it wasn’t just foodservice executives coming to the table to make decisions. The process, which began in fall 2014, involved hourly employees from the ground up, says Daryl Wilkerson, vice president of support services. “They actually helped build this [kitchen], which is why I think this is so spectacular,” he says. “Normally what you’ll get in a lot of projects is senior people sitting around in shirts and ties making decisions.”

The hospital follows the...

Ideas and Innovation
idea bulb innovation concept

There’s no feeling quite like the “spark of inspiration” that Dawn Aubrey , associate director of housing for dining services at the University of Illinois, cites in this month’s Steal This Idea-themed cover story. That rush of blood and endorphins to the brain when everything comes together is like nothing else, and often finds me falling over furniture because I’m so excited to start putting plans into action. Unfortunately, I also bruise easily.

Throughout this issue, we’ve highlighted stealable ideas in all realms of noncommercial foodservice, from protein-focused sides to...

FSD Resources