I have been with Delaware North Companies for five years this January. Joining this company has been wonderful for my career and has provided me many new opportunities that I many not have experienced with other employers. Some of these opportunities have been very positive, and some quite challenging.
Even the challenges have, so far, produced positive outcomes. Some of these have been working in an isolated community at a large resort in Northern New Hampshire. There, not only did I have a chance to guest chef at the James Beard house, but I also got to visit the bears and moose on a regular basis. I also learned to adapt to the seasonal guests who were sometimes visiting for a ski vacation and other times for a golf/tennis getaway.
Now, working in Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium, I have been able to learn a whole new aspect of the industry in working for Sportservice. Providing meals which have very specific nutritional guidelines for the players, while still needing to taste good, as well as preparing food for the most upscale client in the private suites and clubs of the stadium is a new challenge.
And now the ultimate challenge. While still in the throws of football season, I have been preparing for my certification, which is required by Delaware North for all of their chefs. Because of the demands of the job, I have several times had to reschedule my certification, but now “it’s finally my turn.” Knowing that I still have to manage my facility as well as prepare for this process, I probably should be careful what I wish for.
The challenge is not necessarily actually completing the certification process successfully. The challenge is continuing to be efficient in your responsibilities at the property level, which sometimes means working a 60-hour week and taking the time prepare and study appropriately in order to be successful with your certification.
In my situation, I was lucky enough to be in a “bye” week with the Buffalo Bills, when I traveled to Yosemite for my practice run. The weeks leading up to the practice however were filled with off-property catering, daily player feeding of at least two meals a day, and a home game. I am currently 50 percent down in staff, so the added stress of making sure I covered for those staff shortages as well as giving myself time in my day to prepare was a heavy load to carry.
I’ve now completed my practice run and have been told I performed well. I’m pleased with that outcome, but now have to begin the process of preparation all over again. Since returning from my practice in Yosemite, I now have three weeks to prepare for the “Real Deal.”
My actual certification will take place in Napa Valley, at the CIA at the end of November. In the coming three weeks, my regular job will continue. I have two home games, a few off-site caterings, player feedings, planning client holiday parties, and somewhere I will find time to study and practice for my exam. I know all the hard work will pay off, and hopefully my family will recognize me and welcome me home again when this process is all over.
Happy Cooking and Happy Holidays.
Chef Larry Johnson.