For Food Professionals: Welcome Wisdom

Recognize the work behind the work in the food industry. One-by-one, your efforts and experiences stack up. Successes (and failures!) inform your adventure.



People often ask me for career advice and the 'secret paths' to success. My thoughts? Do the work and do it well all the time. Be consistent. Follow through, ensuring your words match your actions. I've made a career working these pieces of wisdom and more. Sound easy?


When we see others performing their work, we may experience their fanfare and fun. It may look easy. Behind the scenes, it's anything but that in real life. At first, the task at hand may be interesting and intriguing. Over time, it may develop into a boring and dull something to do. Not cool, I know. Keep moving.


Persistence and perseverance make up for a lot of little deficiencies


“To get where you're going, keep the hustle real. Invest in yourself and serve others.”

Keeping my career GPS in check proved challenging and difficult. To gain different experiences early in my career (accelerating the career climb!) and to fund my education, I worked a minimum of two jobs (and sometimes, three!). For over fifteen years, I worked both as a food server and a dietitian nutritionist. Some times, I also taught college courses in nutrition and communications. I worked a lot of hours. This time was frustrating and humbling for me because I already had experienced many successes. Stay tuned to learn about my failures in another post. Yet, the expected the professional opportunities and money didn't always follow. Having only one pair of shoes to wear to two different jobs, I cobbled together a career. During this period, I focused on achieving goals and overcoming obstacles. With a solid work ethic, I honed and refined my personal and professional skills in service to others.


Every job in the food industry expands a skill set.


“Whatever job you're in, whether it's waiting tables as a food server or writing a business plan and beyond, many ways exist to develop, grow and learn.”

Some of my fondest memories working in the food industry were as a food server at the Olive Garden, Radisson Hotels and Valentino's, even when I was credentialed professional. Yes, you read it correctly. First, as a registered dietitian nutritionist working a minimum wage job was super humbling. I developed a greater appreciation for my education and empathy for those who may have not had the support I received to earn several college degrees. Second, with employment in the hospitality and restaurant industry, I strengthened my customer-satisfaction skills by anticipating other's needs and reading body language. If I saw a family with small children, I attended to the kids' needs first, giving the parents a break, providing snacks and drinks before ordering (hangry kids = unhappiness for everyone). Always keeping drinks, hot or cold, topped off. Not good to have a guest waving you down for refill. For larger parties with VIPs, I'd mingle to observe what they were drinking. When I noticed the drinks getting low, I'd ask, "Would you like me to refill your club soda with lime?" People love it when you acknowledge their preferences and that you're paying attention to them. Third, I polished my attention to and retention of details, taking meal and drink orders without a pen and paper to accelerate the ordering process (and manage people's impatience) and upon serving their meals, I'd impress customers by not forgetting anything. Small actions make a big difference.


Many of my food server skills are still in play. For one, as long as we're serving and working with humans empathy is always in style. Understanding the feelings of another and offering support or a solution builds trust. The ability to assemble details quickly in the fast-moving environment of the food industry is an admirable and respectable way of working. Employed in food industry's competitive environment, ranging from hospitals to hotels; restaurants to retailers, means carefully and consistently paying attention to the details because margins may be low and employee attrition may be high. Executing the details well is a differentiator.


A day in and day out dedication and a hyper-desire to succeed are definitely requirements for reaching your goals.


“Hustle means having an insatiable hunger for getting to where you want to go.”

A growth mindset is a must-have in the food industry. Investing in yourself is a powerful motivator and sacrifice of time, money and resources. For me, it meant getting up early to go to one job, then to class and then off in the evening to the second job, doing this seven days a week. Yes, it was tiring. It was worth it. Looking back, I learned much about leading and serving others. Acquiring an education and set of unique experiences helped me advance to where I am now.


Despite my position in the starting line, closer to the back than front, the level of success I've attained across the food industry seemed like long shot. Along the way, then (and even now), many tried to discourage me. I took their fears and made them my own by taking calculated risks, eventually succeeding. Ignore the naysayers and the status quo makers. If I would have known about all the starts and stops in my career, I'm not sure I would have pressed on. Yet, a curiosity about the world, thirst for learning and an ambition for helping others awarded my hard-won preparation with unimaginable opportunities.

The 500-plus words you have read here may make it feel like all the work was no big deal. Here's a hint. Once you get the gig, land your dream job and have the moment of having "made it", the work doesn't go away. The green grass is still there, it's neither better nor worse; rather, it's just a different color or type of grass. Your accountabilities and responsibilities may change. You may delegate more or make decisions rather than execute the plan. It’s up to you to keep your ambitions alive. As long as you want it all to be working, keep tackling your to-do list.


Think about the wisdom you’ve either learned or been offered while working in the food industry. How can it inform where you want to go?


  • What wisdom will you use to get you through the high and low times of working in the food industry?

  • How is your job or career situation similar to other successes and challenges you have had before?

  • What are you willing to do and for how long?

Use wisdom to GROW!


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