Justin Gillette

Gillette trained staff to be proficient and enhanced their skills.

Details

Executive Chef (Sodexo), Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, Ga.
Age: 29
Education: A.S. in culinary arts and B.S. in food service management from Johnson & Wales University
Years at organization: 3

Why Selected?

Andre Burgess, operations manager for Sodexo at FVSU, says: Justin’s creativity, passion and high energy level have created a great work environment among employees and great communication between the customers and staff. Justin trained the staff here to be very proficient and enhanced their culinary skills and knowledge through dedicated continuous teaching. Justin has also taken the time to become very knowledgeable about how the entire business works, from finances to client relations to marketing and keeping in place the Sodexo standard. 

Get to know

Q. What has been your proudest accomplishment?

Achieving the title of executive chef. It was a goal of mine. While there are plenty of aspiring chefs, there are many that do not achieve that title. 

Q. What would you say you excel at over more seasoned colleagues?

Training and developing employees, which requires a lot of patience. Many colleagues get discouraged when it comes down to training new and/or current employees, but you have to understand different types of learning styles. Most of the employees that I have trained have moved on to higher positions within the company. 

Q. What's the best career advice you've been given?

When someone tells you “no,” stay focused because it will soon turn into a “yes!” Another good one is your team is only as good as its leader. 

Q. What's been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome?

I had to do a plated dinner for 600 customers, but the kicker was there were four different entrées and the customers were changing their minds as the plates were coming out to the tables. It was a huge headache, but the job was completed and when it was finished we got rave reviews. 

Q. What would you like to accomplish in your career in the next two years?

I would like to become a regional/district chef for
Sodexo. This may seem like a long-term goal but with good hard work this feat is accomplishable.  

Q. What's been your funniest on-the-job disaster?

I needed to make three dozen red velvet cupcakes and I thought I had grabbed the box of white cake mix, but I had grabbed muffin mix instead. I didn’t realize it until the cupcakes were actually baked and my sous chef congratulated me on what a great muffin I’d made. 

Q. What can you look back at now and laugh at?

My first days as an executive chef were when I was only 22. I wasn’t scared, but I had life-size butterflies in my stomach. Though I had run other kitchens as the second and third in charge, this was the first I had to run on my own. 

Under 30