college of culinary arts

college of culinary arts

Feeding Facebook
img Body CUL Desimone Spinks Bondurant

As culinary overlord for Facebook, Chef Josef Desimone ’02 manages the food end of the social media giant’s 25 offices around the world including the Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters. Desimone himself rarely gets to cook, spending time on planning, budgeting, designing and developing new cafés (each building has its own). His Palo Alto staff of close to 90 includes Desimone’s Charleston Campus classmates, Michael “Dean” Spinks, executive chef, and Shane Bondurant ’01, sous chef.

Desimone’s culinary team prepares more than 4,600 meals every weekday. Employees are treated to breakfast, lunch and dinner cooked from scratch and prepared from mostly organic, natural and locally sourced ingredients. All are coded for “level of healthiness” and food allergens. Vegetarian and vegan options are also offered.

The menu for every meal follows a different ethnic theme and is never repeated. “We try not to cycle the same thing,” says Desimone. “If it’s Cuban for lunch, it’s going to be Vietnamese for dinner, and the next day it will be French bistro.”

Charlotte student Stephen Owens ’13 interned with Desimone and crew over the winter 2011 term. On a typical day Owens and his co-workers cook for more than 1,000 employees in 2 ½ hours. “It’s a lot to juggle,” he says. “You need to be efficient and quick, but you also need to take pride in the food and make it taste good.”

Desimone and Spinks met during entrance exams freshman year and have been friends since. They work well together, each with his own strengths. Spinks is great with customer service and unbelievably creative with menus, food flavors and profiles, says Desimone, who describes himself as a “systems guy.” “I can take any business and make it very efficient — less waste, less cost.”

Both agree they wouldn’t be where they are today without having gone to JWU. “It got me into working in nicer, higher-level places and thinking of [culinary arts] as more of a career than just a job,” Spinks says.

JWU did two things for Desimone: opened his eyes to cuisines around the world and legitimized his skills. “You had to have a degree if you wanted a real job with any of the big players,” he notes.

When he takes to the kitchens himself these days it’s for high-level events like board meetings, company-related meals at the home of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and charity events Facebook supports. Players don’t get much bigger than that.

Image top l-r: Facebook culinary masters include Josef Desimone ’02, culinary overlord; Michael “Dean” Spinks, executive chef; Shane Bondurant ’01, sous chef; and Stephen Owens ’13, student intern at Facebook head quarter’s Café 6 in Palo Alto, Calif.

JWU Magazine 2011 Spring Culinary Flavor Food 170x150On the Cutting Edge of Flavors and Food

Aspen Hoffman ’07, ’09 and Stephanie Heiser ’07, both Denver culinary nutrition alums, work in culinary research — tracking and creating the latest trends for anything from seasonings and sauces to frozen foods.

Hoffman, a research chef at Illes Seasonings & Flavors in Carrollton, Texas, spends much of her time concocting flavor profiles to use for marinades, dips, glazes and more. Her clients include food manufacturers, chain restaurants and meat processing companies.

Hoffman is seeing a fusion of Korean and Mexican cuisines. The sweet and savory mix became popular thanks to Kogi® BBQ trucks in Los Angeles, Calif., serving dishes like Korean-Mexican tacos and kimchi quesadillas. To wash down the tacos, she suggests a beverage with antioxidants like yumberries, goji berries and phytonutrients, the organic components in plants. All are popular ingredients used to promote health.

Food trucks in general have really taken off, selling everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to cupcakes, says Hoffman, who has degrees in both food service management and culinary arts.

On the restaurant side of food research, Heiser, a culinary technologist for Heinz®, in Pittsburg, Pa., works on T.G.I. Friday’s® frozen food products from conception to creation, followed by consumer and market research.

Even for frozen food, the health factor counts. “We definitely have nutritional values we work against … We target a certain amount of fat and sodium and calories based on an entire day’s portion,” says Heiser. “We’re also incorporating more whole grains,” she adds.

Heiser is one of the few chefs where she works. “Most of the employees have a food science background … I lean on them for technical information I’m not familiar with, and they rely on me to help provide flavor guidance. It’s pretty fun.”

Email Stephanie Heiser, Aspen Hoffman and follow their tweet

Image above: Left, Stephanie Heiser ’07, culinary technologist at Heinz®, in Pittsburg, Pa., and right, Aspen Hoffman ’07, ’09 at work in the test kitchen at Illes Seasonings & Flavors in Carrollton, Texas.

quick take:culinary
The Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University won a grant from the RI Council for the Humanities to support the creation of an exhibition on African-American cooking. Included will be an oral history document of African-American chefs, restaurateurs and church cooks, and a booklet listing venues with Black food in RI and recipes from the Black community.