Culinary Careers at Upcoming American Culinary Federation Convention
By Trish Freshwater
Attending the American Culinary Federation (ACF) National Convention is an exciting opportunity for chefs all across the country. For those heading to Kansas City, Mo., later this month, they’ll get to hear from a number of leading chefs, including Sodexo’s Chef George Castaneda, an ACF Culinary Team USA member, who will lead a session called “Modern Applications for Ancient Grains” — how to incorporate light, healthy and trendy wholesome ingredients into modern menus.
But perhaps the best thing about the convention is networking among chefs to not only talk about the latest industry trends but hear how some of the best have navigated their careers in the food industry.
At the convention, Sodexo’s top chefs and culinary recruiters will be on site to talk about careers with the company.
We asked Executive Chef Catherine Theresa McKiernan to share a little bit about herself and the ingredients for a great career at Sodexo. Catherine has been with Sodexo for seven years — rising from general manager at a private school to her recent promotion to regional brand manager.
How did your career path bring you to Sodexo?
I have been in the food/hospitality industry for more than 25 years. Some of those years were in Glasgow, Scotland. When I came to America as a college student, my first job was a dishwasher/utility worker in a summer camp in Wisconsin. As I learned and grew in my culinary career I had a variety of jobs, both front and back of the house.
I learned of Sodexo during a new job search when my husband and I decided to move out west to be closer to family, after 10 years as executive chef in a private club. I began to see the Sodexo name crop up in job postings — and they had such a variety of positions throughout the U.S. that I realized Sodexo was actually a pretty big deal.
How do you use your culinary background as a General Manager?
It would be almost impossible to be a GM in Sodexo Food Service without a culinary background. As a GM, I used my culinary knowledge every day, whether it was creating menus, training the cooks or meeting with the clients for catering events and special menus for different groups within the school. My culinary background also gave me the discipline to organize my time and focus, as working in a kitchen is by definition being able to multi-task.
How has Sodexo assisted in your professional development?
I am always looking to refine my strengths, so in turn I have been given assignments and tasks that will challenge me while at the same time train and educate me. In regards to my certification process, I was already a certified executive but I had to recertify. Sodexo provided the support needed for this continuing education.
What advice would you have for someone seeking a culinary career path with Sodexo?
Understand that Sodexo is a very large organization, with many opportunities to use your culinary knowledge as a foundation to learn a multitude of other skills. Because our chefs do so much to help clients, we do everything we can to support our employees. In addition to employee benefits that address your professional, personal and financial well-being, Sodexo’s support for our culinary professionals includes work schedules that encourage work-life balance, reimbursement of association dues, continuing education and much more. Of particular interest is Sodexo’s Expertise in Action Mentoring Program that is part of our Spirit of Mentoring Program, where our Culinary Board teams up with the ACF to offer mentoring to Sodexo culinarians seeking to obtain ACF certification. Sodexo also offers Culinary Career webinars for Sodexo culinarians interested in planning and growing their careers with Sodexo—including webinars on career planning/professional networking, resumes and interviewing.
Meet top Sodexo Chefs, like Catherine and George, and our recruitment team at the ACF National Convention, July 25-29, at booth number 321. Please join our Talent Community to express your interest and tell us more about yourself!
Trish Freshwater is senior communications manager in talent acquisition at Sodexo.
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