Finding Your Purpose
A Personal Reflection from Kern Halls
I have had the privilege of working in food and beverage for more than twenty years but the most rewarding part has been my experience in school food service industry. I spent eight years in the United States Navy as a Culinary Specialist. This was my first real job out of high school. I had a chance to meet people from all over this great nation. I traveled around the world and learned various ways to enhance my customer service and culinary skills.
I knew I did not want to make this a career so I transitioned into working for the happiest place on earth — Walt Disney World. We all know the level of customer service you get when visiting their properties. It’s top notch — which impressed and stayed with me.
Although I had a great time working there, I wanted more balance in my life. My wife kept encouraging me to check out school food service. But all I remembered from back then was the square pizza, corn and chocolate milk (my favorite meal). I kept telling my wife I didn’t think working in this field was for me. But one day I came home from work and saw my son outside watching his friends ride their bikes. He wasn’t riding his bike because I hadn’t made the time to teach him.
After feeling like the worst dad in the world I put in my notice and went to work for Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida. In less than a week on the job I realized I found my purpose and passion in life. I would not be telling you the truth if I said the road I traveled was easy. It was a long and stressful road, but it was well worth it. I became the students’ voice and advocate.
I remember a time when I took all the french fries off the menu and replaced them with side salads. Everyone told me I wouldn’t last a month on the job — that the kids would stone me in the parking lot. I chuckled because they didn’t know I had met with the students in advance. I told them about the changes and asked what they wanted on their side salads. Consequently, the first day we offered the side salads on the menu we sold 250 of them! The next day I received my first positive phone call from a parent thanking us for adding side salads to the menu.
Sometimes when we find our purpose, we have to “go against the grain.” It might not be comfortable, but ask yourself, “Is it right?” School food service has been taking some lumps from the media lately, but new data has revealed that what we do every day is working. Obesity is leveling off and the consumption of fruits and vegetables is rising.
We have to continue to work on behalf of those students who need our help. If you can change one or two lives then you are on the right track, because you have changed the next generation in that family. So I challenge you to reenergize yourself if you haven’t already and to find your purpose as to why you do this every day!
Dedicated to bringing your customers to the table,
Ingenious Culinary Concepts
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