Forecasting foodservice’s future and advising culinary students searching for employment based on a 35-year culinary career.
By Lisa Parrish, GMC Editor
Editor’s Note: “Chef’s Corner Table” will become a regular feature in upcoming issues of the Gold Medal Classroom. Articles will focus on professional chefs from various facets of the foodservice industry. The questions will delve into their views of current foodservice developments and how culinary students can find positions within their industries.
I interviewed Corporate Executive Chef Richard Hoelzel, who recently joined Idahoan Foods, LLC, in July 2020. After beginning his career in hotels, Hoelzel continued for more than 25 years in contract foodservice working for ARAMARK and Compass Group holding positions including corporate executive chef, regional operations manager and vice president of operations.
“I believe my previous roles built the foundation for my current position,” he said. Hoelzel understands key facets of the culinary industry: the perspective of an innovative chef creating quality cuisine but also an operator’s need for a return on investment. At Idahoan, Hoelzel focuses on how their customers – foodservice establishments - are using their products and “showing them how great Idaho potatoes are and how versatile fresh dried potatoes can be,” he said.
Below, read Hoelzel’s ideas about foodservice trends, the industry’s future as well as what job-searching advice he would give today’s graduating culinary students.
Where do you see the foodservice industry in five years?
The industry right now is facing something we have never encountered in our history. I firmly believe that although this is a disturbing time, perhaps it also will serve as a cleansing of sorts. The industry in recent years has had significant growth, with big chains growing very fast all over the country. The current pandemic has caused some of those groups to pull back, and in some cases, they have shut their doors completely. So that begs to the question, “Were they needed or did they open because they could?”
Describe two current foodservice trends you see in the foodservice industry.
This is something we all talk about often, but we must think about it as more than long term trends or fads. Trends are like fashion - they repeat but with perhaps a different twist.
Two trends we are seeing more of out there are clean label and farm to table. Frankly, these two trends go hand-in-hand, but clean label is something few can explain other than no human-made chemical additives. I would say that clean label focuses on eating well through choosing functional foods that work with the body to achieve maximum wellness. I bring up these two trends because they have been around now for some time, and given COVID, I feel they will stand firm for years to come. Farm to table resonates with food and how we eat related to seasonal availability to ensure maximum freshness and nutrition.
What advice would you give today's culinary students and graduates as they prepare for a career in the foodservice industry?
The one piece of advice I can give is to be a sponge! I have seen it over and over again - students graduate from school and believe they have the knowledge and skills to run a kitchen. Take time to learn both culinary and operations, so that you are a benefit to all aspects. Think of every day at work as a learning experience. Your coworkers, and one day your staff, can always teach you something and vice versa. Never forget your way may not always be the best way, and if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got! “Be Water My Friend” -- adapt and change, or you will dry up.
What steps would you advise culinary graduates to take in securing a position in today's market?
When looking for a role, make sure that you will gain knowledge from that role and that it will keep you engaged. Right now is a unique time to look for a job, but you should always research and be knowledgeable of the company you are reaching out to. If you are looking for a job, don't flood the market with a resume to see what sticks. I suggest you look into organizations that share your core values and vision for the future. This homework will serve you well in your career. Take it from someone that didn't take their own advice and made a wrong decision in the past! There are some excellent sites you can use as a reference, such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and others to see what past and current employees have to say about the company.
Describe Idahoan Foods, LLC.
Idahoan Foods, LLC, is a farm-to-table organization. We use only locally produced potatoes from Idaho, which reduces our carbon footprint. The process we use is one that represents clean manufacturing. I'm proud of how our products are made. We have great respect for our farmers and what they produce and want to ensure that every bite represents only the best that Idaho can grow. We are the only product that is 100 percent Idaho potato, and that is why we proudly are called Idahoan.
Photo courtesy of Idahoan Foods, LLC.