About 75% of my work is related to safety—private health inspections, audits, documentation and processes. For restaurant clients I often do safety training, sometimes just for the kitchen staff and other times for the entire team. Clients tend to bring me in before they open and many do annual updates to remind staff of best practices and bring them up to date on anything new. I also work with a variety of food production companies.
My background is in science; I have a master’s degree in molecular biology. I originally thought I’d go into environmental work but when I graduated it wasn’t an area where it was easy to find a job. That isn’t the case now!
I spent the early years of my career in biotech and pharmaceuticals and had a lot of exposure to documentation, quality control, ISO 9000 and similar—I started to build up a fairly unique range of regulatory experience. When I got tired of that environment, I decided to go into restaurant work, which I’d always enjoyed.
I was working as a manager at Barrique’s, which I loved—all the moving parts were fascinating. But my husband’s company went out of business and I needed something new. My sister suggested I put my years of restaurant experience to use and thought I’d be a good health inspector. I was hired by the City of Madison.
Monty Schiro, president at Food Fight Restaurant Group, was one of my mentors and he approached me to ask if I’d be interested in becoming their internal health inspector. I thought “I guess!” and that was the start of my new career. I never intended to start my own business and I really owe that leap to Monty. Food Fight has been my client for 10 years and it’s a pleasure to work with them.
Over the years, my clients have approached me to provide a wider range of hazard analysis and safety services, including reviewing their processes and managing their documentation and quality control. In food safety, you focus on three areas of risk—biological, chemical and physical. And you need to look at your own practices and those of your suppliers.
One big change I’ve seen over the years is the enormous rise in allergens. At my core, I’m a scientist and I’d love to crack the code for what’s behind this huge increase in children having allergies out of the womb.
My most memorable caffeine experiences were two delightful coffees I had when I was visiting a friend who was living in Paris. One was at a café on a side street by Notre Dame. It was so unhurried and lovely—just like you see on TV! The other was at a café in the Louvre. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
My current caffeine of choice is a double espresso. It’s so efficient.
My favorite place for caffeine is hard to pick. As a restaurant consultant, I’m always checking out new places. That said, I still have a fondness for Barriques and always like to see my old bosses. My husband and I like to spend our Saturday mornings having a “date morning” at a coffee place. It’s hard to turn off my brain from an operations point of view: When I’m out, I’m always looking for ideas, spotting what’s going right and wrong.
Danny is the leader of a big restaurant group that includes Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack. Plus, he was heavily involved with Eleven Madison Park, which was once voted the best restaurant in the world.
I’d love to hear about the lessons he’s learned during his decades in the industry. What’s worked and what hasn’t? How do you know when to get out—that’s a big one.
I’d pick Amelia Earhart because, of course, I’d love to know what happened to her, but, more important, because Amelia was such a trailblazer. She didn’t believe in labels; she was a visionary who didn’t let fear hold her back.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: food waste. I see this problem every day and I think a lot about how we grow, process and manage food.
There is incredible waste on the production end—how we get food to people. And there’s terrible waste on the consumption end. The former might be more common in developing countries and the latter in developed countries.
We need to be much more aware of how much food we buy and how much we throw out. We need to eat our leftovers! Mindfulness and education are critical and chefs are very concerned about this problem. There are a lot of hungry people out there and there’s got to be a better way.