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CHEFS™ program holds third mentor training at the Culinary Institute of America’s Texas campus

group_1-2942547Delaware North’s Culinary & Hospitality Excellence for Future Success (CHEFS™) program continues to expand, with nine executive chefs from Gaming, Parks and Resorts, Travel and Sportservice participating in an immersive training at the Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) Texas campus in San Antonio.

The executive chefs emerged with CIA ProChef® Mentor designations after the Jan. 16-20 training, preparing them to join the second cohort of CHEFS mentors. The CHEFS program was launched last year by Delaware North’s Culinary and Hospitality Academy.

“After our first cohort, we learned that our executive chefs would benefit from more practical training to enhance their technical, communication and leadership skills,” said Lou Piuggi, vice president of culinary, food and beverage for Delaware North.

The CHEFS program pairs emerging culinarians with executive chef mentors, preparing them for career longevity at Delaware North. Nominated by local units, emerging culinarians are typically sous chefs who demonstrate strong foundational culinary skills and a passion for hospitality. Through the program, these team members receive 12 months of individualized support through formal mentorship, CIA coursework and culinary experiences beyond their assigned unit.

The five-day training in San Antonio was designed specifically for the second cohort. It included instruction from CIA Chef and Instructor George Shannon and leadership development curriculum driven by Delaware North’s Culinary and Hospitality Academy.

“We pivoted the CHEFS program’s mentor training to offer a learning environment that simulates the actual workplace,” Piuggi said.

The executive chefs were put on teams for three cooking demonstrations – each being assigned roles as chef mentors or emerging culinarians – to prepare full-service meals in a professional environment similar to their own kitchens.

“Having our executive chefs do live demonstrations alongside their peers allowed them to practice how to provide good feedback and listen more effectively,” Piuggi added.”

A key aspect of the mentor training is to put our executive chefs in the shoes of their mentees,” said Deborah Pratt, director of emerging talent for Delaware North. “The executive chefs participating are leaders within our company, so we hope the experience they gain through the program can help them support their entire unit."

The new emerging culinarians will be selected to join the second cohort in the coming weeks.

“The training has truly been an eye-opening and career-changing opportunity,” said Molly De Mers, executive chef at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. “I’ve learned more about myself and my peers, and about how good mentorship can impact a team. We are nothing without our people, so investing in them will help Delaware North continue to innovate and break barriers in the industry.”

PHOTO CAPTION: (Left to right) Executive Chefs Gary Davis (Great American Ball Park), Juan Velez (Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport), Richard Bolton (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport), Larry Johnson (Busch Stadium), Lou Piuggi (vice president of culinary, food and beverage), Molly De Mers (Climate Pledge Arena), John Macklin (Mardi Gras Casino & Resort), Brian Waters (Niagara Falls State Park), John Greenwald (Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack), and Phillip Dumlao (Petco Park) from Jan. 16-20 participated in a five-day mentor training at the Culinary Institute of America’s Texas campus in San Antonio.