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.
On 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
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.