July 19th on a balmy summer night in Louisiana, in a crowd of thousands of Chefs, our Executive Chef Michael Thrash was presented with the Presidents Medallion from the American Culinary Foundation.
A little background about the American Culinary Foundation. It was started by three chefs' organizations in New York City in 1929. It is the premier professional organization for culinarians in North America with more than 20,000 members today. Chefs of the culinary arts come together, learn more about their craft, and inspire a passion for food.
Interview with the Chef
After leaving Louisiana, Chef Mike had a few more stops before returning to our corporate office. One of those stops was in Alabama to oversee the progress of our state wide launch. Finally back in the office, I was able to sit down with Chef and ask him about the conference and his amazing achievement.
What made you want to become a chef?
Growing up I was always fascinated with cooking, restaurants, Wegmans Grocery Store and watching PBS cooking shows (Julia Child, Graham Kerr, Martin Yan etc.). I grew up in a very large female-dominated family of great cooks including my Mother. I remember always having “my nose at the stove” as a kid interested in what my Mom was cooking. As soon as I found out that you could actually make a career out of it, I was convinced that was what I wanted to do for a living. I started as a dishwasher and a bus boy. I spent half days at vocational school in the Culinary Arts program during my Junior and Senior years in high school.
I enrolled at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI where I planned on earning my A.A.S. in Culinary Arts, but actually stayed on, re-enrolled and graduated with a B.A.S. in Culinary Arts. I now have over twenty years of experience in restaurants, hotels, country clubs, higher education and corporate environments.
How did you first get involved with ACF?
I first heard about the ACF while working at the Rochester Yacht Club. I worked under a certified executive chef (CEC). I saw these letters on his jacket and asked one day what they meant and he told me about the ACF. When I got to JWU and saw there was a student chapter, I immediately joined on.
What are some of the beliefs/ core values of ACF? What do they mean to you?
ACF Vision: “To be the leader in professional and personal development for the culinary community, while promoting current culinary techniques and preserving the history and skills of our craft.”
ACF Mission: “The American Culinary Federation provides accredited educational programs, certifications, competitions and networking designed to enhance professional growth for all current and future chefs and pastry chefs.”
Culinarian’s Code: “As a proud member of the American Culinary Federation, I pledge to share my professional knowledge and skill with all culinarians. I will place honor, fairness, cooperation and consideration first when dealing with my colleagues. I will keep all comments professional and respectful when dealing with my colleagues. I will protect all members from the use of unfair means, unnecessary risks and unethical behavior when used against them for another’s personal gain. I will support the success, growth, and future of my colleagues and this great federation.”
These beliefs and values of the ACF have brought me into this family of Culinarians that I could, now, never be without. I have made lasting relationships and friendships with Chefs from all over the country. Through the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) I have now grown that family to include Chefs from all over the world. The second part of the Culinarians Code where it mentions Honor, Fairness, Cooperation, and Consideration really represent how I act as a Chef, Businessman, Citizen, Teacher, and Colleague. This is the true Professional Chefs Organization that has good ethics and fairness at the core.
How do you live those values at GA Foods?
I portray these traits and values on a consistent, daily basis here at GA Foods. They mirror very closely our own core values and expand upon the amazing actions we take to "Touch Lives" every day. These attributes are truly at my core and am proud to be apart of both organizations.
Did the ACF influence your decision to work at GA Foods?
ACF did influence my decision to work at GA Foods. The role of Corporate Executive Chef has been a goal of mine for many years and to find an organization that closely mirrored the goal of the ACF was a perfect match.
What are some of the best and/or worst things to happen to you since working at GA Foods?
One word: Hurricanes. That answers both.
What is your favorite thing about working at GA Foods?
My favorite thing about working at GA is the impact we have on the lives of our clients that we provide nourishment for every day as well as the family of employees that are here. We are surrounded by astoundingly great, smart, talented, and big hearted people.
Being honored with the Presidents Medallion is a tremendous honor, what was going through your mind when you find out?
I was shocked and very proud of being honored this way. It brings great justification and validity to the almost 25 years of dedication to my craft. It is sometimes easy to see the success of a person, but what you don’t see are the sacrifices, scars, late nights, hard work, and dedication it took to achieve those successes. I am extremely proud to receive this award and it energizes me to keep growing, making an impact, and find a new “Everest” to climb.
What was it like to meet Iron Chef Morimoto?
Meeting Chef Morimoto was amazing. He is one of the icons of the Culinary World and has been an influence on my career for a very long time. Whenever I get to meet a major Chef in the industry it always makes me want to get better and to keep sharing knowledge to the next generation of Chefs.
Congratulations Chef Mike on your much deserved achievement!