Shift - From Chef to Technologist

My unlikely journey from chef to technologist.

As a young boy growing up in upstate NY in an Italian family food was always at the center of everything.  From the family garden to the livestock I was charged with maintaining; an adventurous appetite was formed.  My father, a hunter, and fisherman, consistently came home with wild game and fresh fish of which we would pair with items we would forage from the woods such as wild ramps, fiddlehead ferns, and wild mushrooms.
Coming from a non-traditional family, I am fortunate to have had a second role model and father; My stepfather. He has had a very successful career as a software engineer; predominantly for helicopter simulators. I would spend hours watching him code and problem solving, coupled with the intense hours of video game competition; This gave me a passion for understanding technology and how it works.
As my high school days were coming to a close, I felt the pressure to make a decision as to which one of my passions I was going to explore and shape as my future. I decided on a culinary school, mostly because I could be done with it in a couple of years.  I had no idea that I could have prolonged my entrance into the “real world” had I chosen computer science.  I finished culinary school and began my career as a chef.  I soon came to understand that the chef glamour of television was far from reality.  It took long hours and lots of humbling experiences to work myself into my first executive chef position.


My culinary career took me from New York to Boston and eventually to my new home state of North Carolina.  My culinary path had me working for catering companies, private country clubs, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and my entrance into the compass organization as the Regional Executive Chef for Bank of America. All of these positions helped me to gain different skill sets as they all were very different in operation and expectations. My time at UNC and Bank of America helped me to acquire abilities and insights that would lead me to a position that I couldn’t have imagined I would have ended up. These large positions had a vast scope that required me to become very strategic and process driven. My passion and understanding of technology also allowed me to champion a variety of projects that impacted both customers and operations and helped to build the foundational knowledge of merging the two worlds.

The combination of technology and culinary gave me insights that drove the successes we were able to realize during my time as the Regional Chef for the Bank of America contract. The ability to forecast production down to an ingredient level helped me to drive food cost and waste mitigation. I was able to provide my chefs with detailed production sheets that streamlined labor allowing for them to spend more time on training and creating amazing chef tables. We were able to then utilize that information as part of our sustainability story along with to build a robust wellness platform with “stealth health” and choice architecture within the menu paths on our kiosk. This allowed for us to satisfy and surpass client expectations without sacrificing the customer perception and experience.
My role with Compass Digital Labs has genuinely been able to bring all of my passions together. Some of the allure of being a chef is the adrenaline rush that is realized during a dinner shift or as a party is about to begin and all of the menu strategy and preparation comes to fruition. I have that same feeling as we launch a new technology into the business and can see the customer and associate excitement.

gurbir perhar

Paul Calice , Director of Digital Strategy

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