Get to Know Chef Michael Kelly

Chef Michael Kelly EveridgeMichael Kelly is a sales manager for ThermalRite and the Everidge corporate R&D chef. As one of our newest employees working on menu development for ThermalRite’s specialty products, we got to know him a little better.

Why did you decide to be a chef?

My love of food started when I was really little. My parents owned their own business, and I stayed with my grandparents a good bit. My grandmother is the one who taught me to cook. When I was 14 I got a job as a bus boy just so I could buy hockey equipment. Eventually I took on a few more roles in the kitchen, and by the time I graduated from high school I was a line cook and knew I wanted to go to Le Cordon Bleu’s International Culinary Academy in Pittsburgh.

After you graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, did you start working as a chef right away?

Right away I took an internship at West Virginia University as a full-time chef. I discovered while working there that as a state employee I got a pretty hefty discount on tuition. I decided to go ahead and take classes while I was working and ended up earning my bachelor’s in business. I missed Pittsburgh, though, and moved back, getting a job with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a sous chef.

What was it like working for the Steelers?

I like to say it was the best and the worst job I ever had. It was the best because I was able to work hand-in-hand with the in-house nutritionists to feed the staff and players. It was the worst because during the season an 80-hour work week was typical, and the only day I had off was Sunday — game day. So after several years there I moved on to other campus settings, starting as executive chef at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary then Chatham University as director of dining. But it was my job as executive chef at Mt. Lebanon School District that piqued my interest in foodservice construction.

How were you involved in foodservice construction as an executive chef?

The K-12 school district was opening a brand new facility when they offered me the job, and I was immediately interested because it was a chance to be involved in a kitchen from the ground up. I was able to give a lot of input on kitchen design and layout and even equipment choices. We moved from a commissary style to one central kitchen that served 1,300 kids each day in a food court-style setting. We served made-to-order food from scratch, and ended up saving money on pre-made foods.

What made you decide to work for Everidge?

I remember there were times when I felt lost as a chef. There were times when I wasn’t 100 percent comfortable, and I didn’t have all the knowledge I needed — and I remember the people who helped me.

I want to be that person to other chefs. I want to be the one who reaches out and helps. That’s the opportunity Everidge has given me. I’m a firm believer that we never stop learning. So while I’m still learning, I hope I can also be part of someone else’s learning process.

The best part of the foodservice industry is the camaraderie that comes from working with chefs. I definitely enjoy being able to be a partner to them and not just trying to make a sale.

What does a day in your life at Everidge look like?

It really can change from day to day. I’m frequently looking over quotes, blueprints or even drawings people send us. I was recently working with a barbecue catering company that wants a blast chiller, and I was able to talk through how to redesign their kitchen so that it flows better, they get better usage out of their blast chiller and their operation times are faster. I like to dig into customers’ overall goals to make sure they’re getting the right piece of equipment to meet their needs.

I’ve also been tagging along with our technical director to help repair equipment in the field. And of course I’m connecting with dealers and reps and attending tradeshows.

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?

Of course chefs get asked this question all the time. It’s funny because I’m actually a very picky eater. My wife makes fun of me because I like very basic foods. One of my favorite things to make at home is Chicken Kiev. It’s also a very simple recipe, but it is frequently made incorrectly.

To make Chicken Kiev, after you pound the chicken breast, you soften the butter and roll it with herbs, then bread it. But it must be rolled and sealed correctly or it will not turn out right. If it’s done right, all the fresh herbs will fall out onto the plate when you cut into it, and it will be delicious.

Look for more to come from Chef Kelly in the future, but in the meantime, learn about his role in this press release.