Featured SEFAPros Archive – 2017

Dave Pearson, Bintz Supply, Salt Lake City, Utah

Dave has been with Bintz Restaurant supply for over 22 years. “I didn’t have any experience in foodservice and Bill Williams, former president of Bintz, took a chance on me,” says Pearson.   Dave happily joined the Bintz team and never looked back.

He worked the showroom front counter for 14 years. There he learned a lot about smallwares, equipment, and the bid process. When an opportunity for an outside sales position became available  at  Bintz, Dave happily took the new position.  When he went into the world of outside sales, he realized that it was a lot different than he thought.  Dave found a whole new excitement for his job, his customers, and the foodservice industry.

Professionalism with a sincere enjoyment of what you do is the way to reach your personal goals and exceed the needs of your customers.

“I enjoy building relationships with customers and helping them find solutions to challenges and issues. After going into outside sales, I built new relationships and expanded existing ones. I was fortunate to increase sales and improve my skills,” says Pearson.  Dave loves his job and enjoys seeing his customers every day.  “This is as close to perfect as a job gets,” says Pearson.

Dave enjoys the fact that the foodservice industry is always changing and there is always something new to learn. With new trends come new opportunities and challenges.

Bintz is always happy to send their valued sales professionals to SEFA training.  Dave is very successful in the SEFAPro program.  He is currently a Level 5 SEFAPro and has earned the upcoming NAFEM Celebration trip. “I’m grateful for the SEFA National Sales Conferences and the webinars.  These training opportunities keep me up-to-date on new foodservice products and innovations and contribute to my professional growth,” says Pearson.

Having the opportunity to learn from a respected and trusted mentor is a great gift personally and a huge launch professionally.

Dave admits that in his first few years in sales, he welcomed help to be the best that he could be for his customers. He says that Mike Bailey, Bintz sales manager at the time, was instrumental in his learning process.  “I learned from Mike Bailey how to be more creative, solve challenges, quote equipment, and better help my customers,” says Pearson.   

Dave has lived his whole life in West Jordan, Utah.  He loves living close to the mountains. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, and being in the outdoors.  He also plays basketball and serves in his church.

SEFA is proud to recognize Dave Pearson as January’s Featured SEFAPro. Dave is dedicated to staying on top of industry trends and learning about new equipment and supply solutions for his customers.  He builds relationships based on integrity, honesty, and trust. He is a true asset to the foodservice industry. Congratulations, Dave!

Richard Hwang, Action Sales, Monterey Park, California

Richard has loved the foodservice industry ever since he was young.  “My family ate out all the time so I visited countless restaurants throughout Los Angeles and Orange County,” says Hwang. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine, he set out to find a career that would spark his interest.  It was his love for restaurants that led him to the foodservice industry.  In 2012, Richard got his foot in the door by working for a small local equipment and supplies dealer. He was one of 10 employees; he learned quickly and after one year, he became part of the management team.  “I realized that I had hit the ceiling at this small company and decided to move on to something bigger.  That’s when I got in touch with Action Sales,” says Hwang.

No one can compete with passion that comes from a sincere enjoyment of what you do

“My current role at Action is to oversee and maintain my existing accounts, as well as continue to build my clientele base with new customers,” says Hwang.  For the past three years, Richard worked on the showroom floor, assisting customers, mentoring and training new hires, and assisting with supervising duties.  This year, he’s had the opportunity of transferring to the Action Sales Special Accounts department, which focuses on chain-related business development and sales opportunities.

“I enjoy the freedom and the opportunities to learn that come with my position at Action Sales.  Not everyone gets to attend great training opportunities such as SEFA events, and I’m just glad that Action Sales has given me the chance to further myself on multiple levels,” says Hwang.  He says when it comes to the industry, he enjoys meeting all of the different foodservice operators and owners who come through Action.  “It feels great to solve our customers’ problems or lead them to something that they never even knew existed.  Helping them to achieve their goals is just another bonus that we get for working in this field,” says Hwang.

A dedicated and loyal team can move mountains

Action Sales invests in their team. They believe in acknowledging hard work and professionalism and providing opportunities that result in success for everyone.  “SEFAPro training has helped me not only gain immense amounts of product knowledge, but has helped me build valuable relationships with more people in our industry.  Networking is such an important tool and knowing the right people to help you solve your problems is definitely worth a lot these days.  On a personal level, SEFA Academy has helped me improve my personal brand,” says Hwang. Richard is very successful in the SEFAPro program. In fact, he will be one of the 54 SEFAPros attending the NAFEM Celebration Trip on February 8th.

Here’s what Jack Chang, Vice President of Action Sales, had to say about their Featured SEFAPro nomination, “It will be Action Sales’ honor to accept the Featured SEFAPro nomination. Thanks to SEFA’s education and training, our SEFAPros are  professional and very successful in their careers.  Richard shares his knowledge with our team and has become an important trainer in our company.  He is energetic, eager to learn, and has a strong desire to provide the best for our customers.  SEFAPro training is valuable for both Richard and for Action Sales.  SEFAPros are certainly the leaders of the future.”

In addition to being grateful for the opportunities he has gained from Action Sales, Richard says his parents have always inspired him and continue to inspire him to be the best that he can be at anything and everything that he does. Richard lives in Arcadia, California. He enjoys eating good food, playing video games, watching Netflix, and spending time with his family.

SEFA is proud to recognize Richard Hwang as February’s Featured SEFAPro. Richard is dedicated to staying on top of industry trends and learning about new equipment and supply solutions for his customers.  He welcomes new industry relationships and maximizes every networking opportunity that comes his way.  He is a true asset to Action Sales, his customers, his colleagues, and the foodservice industry. Congratulations, Richard!

Noe Ayala, Jean’s Restaurant Supply, Corpus Christi, TX

Some people are just born for this industry.

Noe Ayala got his start in the foodservice industry in 1986 as a part time dishwasher while attending college. What started as a part time job, ended up being a significant part of his career and the launch into the industry he loves.  He worked his way up to become the GM of the restaurant. He takes pride in the fact that he worked for 25 years at the #1 store in the franchise. That’s a lot of foodservice experience!

Noe made a couple of career changes before joining Jean’s Restaurant Supply.   He was a sales rep for a foodservice company for three years and held the position of district manager/sales for a pizza franchise program for eight years.

Sometimes you find an opportunity that you have prepared for your whole life.

After gaining experience on multiple levels of the foodservice industry and developing a true passion and understanding for operations, Noe found his place at Jean’s Restaurant Supply.  He has been with Jean’s for two years and he loves it.

“The best part of my position is having the opportunity to provide knowledge to our customers and provide ways to help them become more efficient and profitable,” says Ayala.  Noe is dedicated to Jean’s customers and sincerely enjoys contributing to their success. “My motivation and passion is right in line with what our boss, David Mostaghasi, has taught us about our role to our customers. It can be best illustrated in our vision statement which is, to provide the knowledge to our customers (and employee’s) so that success is the only option.” says Ayala.

Noe enjoys his role of working with customers on new projects, helping them with equipment replacements, updates, installations, and consulting with owners of completely new restaurants. “We include layout and design services through our CAD department and we coordinate with contractors to verify equipment set up and make sure all utilities are in place.  We handle the final installations of hoods, walk-ins, and other equipment purchased.  Basically, we are there throughout the project and stay until the exciting and successful opening of the new restaurant.  Our goal is to build relationships that last a lifetime,” says Ayala.   

The combination of knowledge and passion is very powerful.

Noe is successful in the SEFAPro program.  In fact, he recently earned and attended the NAFEM SEFAPro Celebration trip.  He is grateful for the training opportunities he receives from Jean’s and through the SEFAPro  program. “It’s true, Knowledge is Power.  When you are able to show your passion for what you do and back it up with knowledge, it makes your job much easier and a lot more gratifying. I don’t see my job as selling, I look at my role as an opportunity to serve the customer and help them succeed,” says Ayala.

An example of Noe’s desire to educate and share his knowledge, is the following message he wanted to share with fellow SEFAPros and SEFA Dealer sales reps. “SEFA provides many opportunities to assist you in product knowledge and personal growth. They strive to help in any way they can to set you up for success.  At the SEFA Conferences, you have the opportunity to get to know the leading manufacturers in the industry and receive hands-on equipment training. You also get the benefit of meeting people just like you, with a passion for the industry and willingness to help. As I’ve heard many times through SEFA, we are family,” says Ayala.

We asked Noe who has inspired him to be so successful and genuine.  He told us the answer to that question is his Mom.  “From the beginning, my mom first taught me to thank the Lord first in everything.  She taught me to be respectful to everyone and to be a person of integrity and honesty.  She also taught me how to work hard and always do things right and to the best of my ability,” says Ayala.

Noe lives in Corpus Christi with his beautiful wife of 16 years, Lisa. They have five wonderful children, Noe, Chloe, Ethan, London, and Victoria.  He enjoys Nascar and football, as long as the football team is the Dallas Cowboys.  Noe has been known to play a full contact game of football on occasion. Most of all, he enjoys his time with his family. “My free time is spent supporting my two daughters (still at home), as a Cheer Dad and at their sporting events,” says Ayala.

SEFA is proud to recognize Noe as Featured SEFAPro.  He is genuine and sincere. He brings talent and expertise to the table while maintaining an intelligent focus and passion for the industry. Noe is dedicated and loyal to Jean’s and their customers. The love he has for his family, along with his desire to help others and build successful professional relationships, speaks volumes about his character. Congratulations, Noe!

Lesa Forrest, State Restaurant Equipment, Las Vegas, NV

Lesa Forrest proudly admits that she found her place in the foodservice industry when Scott Miller gave her an opportunity to join State Restaurant Equipment. Aside from a couple of restaurant jobs when she was younger, she said she really didn’t have prior foodservice experience when she was hired.   In hindsight, she says she does sometimes refer to her younger restaurant days when working with customers.

Enjoyment of your work keeps your head clear for great visions and ideas.

Lesa has been with State Restaurant Equipment for four years and she loves it. Her role as an inside sales representative includes assistance with day-to-day operations, working on quotes, solving challenges, and meeting the customer’s needs.  She spends a lot of time learning about new products and enjoys helping customers realize opportunities to utilize foodservice equipment and supplies to increase productivity and efficiency in their operations.

Lesa is very successful in the SEFAPro training program. In fact, she was among the high achieving SEFAPros that earned the 2017 NAFEM Celebration trip.  “I enjoy learning new things about this industry and gaining knowledge that will allow me to be more helpful to my crew.  State Restaurant Equipment and SEFA give me the opportunity to meet people at all different phases of the foodservice industry and hear about their experiences, opportunities, and challenges.  SEFA training provides education on products with hands-on demos and full presentations of features and benefits. I learn something new from every National Sales Conference that I attend. In addition to the live training, it’s also very helpful to have the website library at my fingertips as a resource.   For a person without a lot of industry background,  the training resources are amazing,” says Forrest.

The best relationships are built with genuine sincerity.

We asked Lesa who inspires her. Her answer confirms that genuine sincerity you notice when you meet her. “I’m inspired by lots of people daily.  It’s amazing to me that there are so many people in the world doing things in such different ways.  Meeting people keeps me in awe at how powerful, unique, caring, bold, and special, we are as humans.  Everyone counts and has something different to offer.  I can’t really give credit to any one person, because God has always given me who I needed when I needed them, to get through this life.  My husband, children, and parents would get the most credit for helping me to get to where I am today. They are the reason for my drive, purpose, and success in life,” says Forrest.

Lesa is a mother of six and grandma of eleven, and counting.  She was born and raised in Chicago and is currently living in Las Vegas with her family.  She loves decorating and learning new ideas. Lesa is referred to as the DIY queen in her family.  If there is a job to be done, Lesa can learn how to do it.

SEFA is very proud to recognize Lesa Forrest as Featured SEFAPro.  She is a goal setter and a goal achiever. She has a thirst for knowledge and is a very focused, fast learner.  Lesa is successful at what she sets out to do. Her sincere and genuine disposition is a delight to everyone she meets.

David Chan, Budget Restaurant Supply, Houston, Texas

David grew up working in the foodservice industry. He was 9 years old when his parents started Budget Restaurant Supply. In Budget’s third year of business, they opened their first retail storefront in the new Chinatown area of Houston, Texas. David remembers helping customers and stocking shelves at that time.

David took a break from the family business during college, and worked in restaurants for four years.  “The restaurant business was a lot of tough work and long hours. It really pushed me to go back and finish school,” says Chan.

After graduating from college in 1999, David made the decision to go back to work with his father and two brothers, with goals to help grow the business. “It never gets easy working in a family business. That being said, my father was grooming me to become the leader of our company, and I appreciate his guidance to this day,” says Chan.

David says in his current role as President, things have not changed a whole lot. “My passion has always been selling and providing solutions and opportunities for our clients.  At times, I feel like a doctor…always on call to handle some type of equipment failure or answering an emergency question of the city officials. I also head the design department of our company, where I spend a lot time with clients laying out their kitchens and bars,” says Chan.

David has a vast arsenal of knowledge and experience in the foodservice industry, but never stops training.  He is very active in SEFA training and successfully and consistently completes levels in the SEFAPro program. A strong proponent of training, David also encourages his team at Budget to pursue SEFA training and excel in the program.  “SEFA training has helped me tremendously.  I participate in most of the National Sales Conferences and the knowledge I am able to learn from the manufacturers, along with the hands on approach to the equipment, is exceptional.  The webinars are a great tool for my sales staff and helps bring the local rep into our company for added support,” says Chan. David also likes the fact that the SEFAPro program provides an excellent resource for all SEFA dealers striving to bring young people into the foodservice equipment and supply part of the industry.

Inspiration, knowledge, and leadership produce passion, vision, and success, especially when received from someone you greatly respect.

“My father, Tommy Chan, has been inspiring to me, and our entire company.  His work ethics and “Old School” philosophy are still maintained in our company.  I may not be as tough and stern as he was during his tenure, but I concur with his judgment.  I have taken what I learned from him, and I have approached my leadership with a more positive outlook.  Treating people with respect and building relationships have been a huge part of our success. “Do what you say, and say what you do” has also been a very important part of how I go about work and life.  It sounds simple, but it is not easy to achieve. It takes a lot of work, and I appreciate the work ethic that my father instilled in my brothers and me to become successful,” says Chan.

David lives in Sugar Land, Texas, a suburb of Houston. He was born and raised in Houston, Texas.  “You can call me a homer, because I love all of my hometown sports teams, Houston Texans, Rockets, Astros, and Dynamo,” says Chan. When David is not working, he spends most of his time with his wife Linda, and their two children, Katherine 6, and Christopher 4.  “We like to go to parks, watch movies, and we love to eat good food. One of the perks of our industry is enjoying good food!” says Chan.

SEFA values the partnership with Budget Restaurant Supply and is proud to recognize David Chan as Featured SEFAPro for the month of May. He is a great inspiration to everyone.  He is always friendly and helpful to people he meets. He means serious business when it comes to meeting the needs of his customers. David is devoted to his family, his business, his customers, and this industry.  Congratulations, David!

Jim McMahon, ADE Restaurant Services, Addison, IL

Jim joined the foodservice industry in 1985.  He started as a draftsman working on McDonalds remodels. His 32 years of experience also includes a position with a consultant firm where he worked on the KCL CAD library for the foodservice industry, sheet metal layout in a fabrication shop, a contract sales position with Byczek, and positions with Schweppe & Sons for several years where he served as an engineer, CAD operator, and contract sales professional.

Jim joined the contract design and sales department at ADE Restaurant Services six years ago and couldn’t be happier. “I enjoy the design and build work where I am able to start at the feasibility stage and incorporate the architects’ needs and the owner’s desires. After many meetings and changes, I proceed to purchase the equipment package, from SEFA manufacturers where possible, of course,” says McMahon. Jim then works the project through receiving, warehouse, delivery, and installation. Once the equipment is installed, he follows up with any start-up and training on the new equipment that is needed along with preparing all the operation manuals for their future reference. “It’s very gratifying to see a project through from start to finish,” says McMahon.

Professional strength comes from a true enjoyment for what you do and a sincere dedication to be the best.

Jim especially enjoys the design phase of projects. “I am able to think out of the box and develop something different or that has not been done before,” says McMahon.

Jim also enjoys learning about new and better equipment that he can share with customers to create solutions and opportunities for them. “The technology in this industry is growing by leaps and bounds from induction cooking and ventless hoods to state of the art countertop speed ovens. The fact that there is always something new to learn makes it even more fun and enjoyable for me,” says McMahon.

Steve Schoop, President of ADE Restaurant Services says, “Jim is great at asking questions to make sure his customers get the right equipment to fit their needs. From making sure the information on the drawings is correct to working with the contractors and installers in the field when the equipment is delivered, he is all about the details that are required to make his projects proceed as smoothly as possible.”

Staying up to date on industry knowledge and building strong networks are two of the best things you can do for your professional career.

ADE is a strong believer in training. Jim is very successful in the SEFAPro program.  He has earned and attended the award trips and continues to excel to new levels. “The training is outstanding. The support received from ADE, SEFA, and SEFA manufacturers is so valuable to me and to the industry. The relationships I build, I will keep for a lifetime. The knowledge I gain from the many SEFA National Sales Conferences and SEFA Academies I attend is phenomenal,” says McMahon.

Everyone was proud, but not surprised when Jim was recognized by FE&S magazine as DSR of the month in December of 2016.

Jim grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. He currently lives in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. He is an avid outdoorsman. He loves to fish, hike, and camp. He enjoys anything outdoors. In fact, he says working in the yard is his escape from real life problems. Jim belongs to a local Sportsmen’s Club of 300 members and has been on the board for 15 years, and board chairman for the past 3 years.

SEFA is proud to recognize Jim McMahon as Featured SEFAPro.  He is very focused, positive, reliable, and professional. He enjoys helping others and is friendly to everyone he meets. With all of his knowledge and experience in the industry, he is still always eager and excited to learn more. With his 100% contribution to everything he does, he is no stranger to success. Congratulations, Jim!

Pam Chereskin, Economy Restaurant Equipment, San Marcos, California

Pam has been in the foodservice Industry for forty years. She has a BS from Cal Poly, Pomona in Nutrition Administration.  When she graduated she started her career in fast food management.  Pam was a foodservice supervisor at Universal Studios where over 90,000 meals were served per day from a variety of locations and themed kiosks.  Following Universal Studios, Pam transitioned to school foodservice. As an end user, she was involved in the purchasing of equipment, maintaining equipment, and in some cases designing portions of the equipment and arranging for its fabrication.

Pam joined Economy Restaurant Equipment in July of 2015 as a sales team member.  When she joined Economy, she discovered a whole new world of foodservice that she loves.

It’s not a coincidence that people who cherish and respect their relationships, have relationships that last a lifetime.

Pam is very grateful for all of the many opportunities that come with a career at Economy. “Economy is dedicated to making sure that I have every opportunity to learn about all sides of the equipment selling side of the industry.  Since my first day, I have had access to the SEFA training and have been encouraged to participate.  I have been to a SEFA Academy and four SEFA National Sales Conferences. The opportunities are endless.  Because of Economy and SEFA, I had the opportunity to travel to the 2017 NAFEM Show. I also had an opportunity to take a factory tour of True Manufacturing at the last National Sales Conference I attended,” says Chereskin.

Pam says the training events also give her the opportunity to meet the other wonderful members of the SEFA family. “We can call on each other for help, different outlooks, and ideas. Everyone is so helpful and friendly. Another huge bonus of SEFA training is building relationships with the manufacturers. I rely daily on the relationships I’ve built with the suppliers.  I know I can call on these key professionals for information to help my customers,” says Chereskin.

Pam enjoys the fact that no two days are alike. She enjoys building relationships with her customers and loves the fact that she has many repeat customers that rely on her for their equipment needs. She never knows what new challenge a customer may present, but welcomes them with open arms.

When your place of employment brings you daily inspiration and gratitude, you have hit the jackpot.

We asked Pam who inspires her or has helped her to get to where she is today and she said the Economy team. “Economy has a phenomenal team and they help me on a daily basis,” says Chereskin.

Pam currently resides in Leucadia, California with her husband Sam.  She enjoys making jewelry for herself and her friends.  She fosters puppies for a local animal shelter. Pam and her husband like to ski, ride their bikes, and travel.  “We have been to many states to try out the local cuisine that we see on the Food Network. We also do things like the Bourbon Festival in Kentucky. Our son is in the industry too. He is now making Vodka (Misadventure & Company) as his profession,” says Chereskin.

SEFA is proud to recognize Pam as Featured SEFAPro. She is genuine and truly enjoys life.  Her dedication to Economy, her customers, and the industry is over the top. She is sincerely grateful for new opportunities that come her way and for the relationships that she’s built. Pam is currently a Level 2 SEFAPro and continues to reach new levels in the SEFAPro training program. Congratulations, Pam!

David Maxwell, Thompson & Little, Fayetteville, NC

SEFA is proud to recognize David Maxwell for a second time as Featured SEFAPro.  In fact, he was the very first nominated and recognized Featured SEFAPro at the onset of the SEFAPro training program. David made a commitment from the very beginning to reach Level 7 and that’s exactly what he did. He will tell you that along the way, he built many of the very important relationships he values today and has reached levels of success that he never dreamed possible.

When opportunity knocks, have the good sense to open the door

David proudly admits that he has been with Thompson & Little for over 13 years.  Prior to joining Thompson & Little, he was a key account manager at Coca-Cola.   Heather O’Quinn, who worked with him at Coca-Cola, recruited him to come to Thompson & Little.  You might say that Heather provided a game-changing opportunity for David, as he couldn’t be happier to be on the Thompson & Little team.

David’s role at Thompson & Little is to help the customers that he calls on identify the equipment that is needed to efficiently operate their kitchens. He recently received a new role as Director of Institutional Sales.  He says that he looks forward to his new role of specializing in equipment upgrades exclusively for institutional accounts. David trademarked the name Institutional Food Equipment Specialist (IFES). “I have been very fortunate to be able to build a career by only calling on institutional accounts. I enjoy working in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, correctional facilities, and hospitals.  The industry is ever changing and I like to introduce new technology to my customers. I have been in hundreds of schools and I like the fact that the work I do helps in the feeding of children. There are many others that my work touches, but I get the most satisfaction from the K-12 segment,” says Maxwell.

Here’s what Drew O’Quinn, Vice President of Thompson & Little, had to say about David, “From day one, David has always had such a thirst for knowledge. Every day, he is continually trying to get better, professionally and personally. He is a Level 7 SEFAPro and still requests to attend every training event possible. There is no question why David has been so successful, and it’s because he takes accountability for his own success. We are privileged to call David a partner.”

A sincere desire to help others be more successful is a true testament to one’s character

David also enjoys opportunities where he can help other professionals at Thompson & Little, and those he meets through SEFA events, to realize their opportunities and potential, as he did through the SEFA training program. He says he learns a lot from fellow SEFAPros and always enjoys sharing knowledge, tips, and advice about the ins and outs of equipping institutional accounts.

“I would not be where I am today, if it had not been for Thompson & Little and the SEFA training I have had the opportunity to attend.  I have participated in over 20 SEFA training conferences, along with SEFA Academies and SEFA sponsored factory trainings,” says Maxwell. David remembers his first two trainers that really got him started and helped him immensely following his first National Sales Conference, Chef Michael Williams and John Lanning. David says he feels very comfortable calling any of the manufacturers that participate in SEFA training whenever he needs help with equipment or application questions.  In fact, he noted that Champion is nearby and he always gets the royal treatment from Will Means when he asks to stop in and see some equipment. He values all of the relationships he has with SEFA manufacturers and says they are all so helpful.

“Drew O’Quinn, Vice President of Thompson & Little, has an entrepreneurial spirit that carries over to the entire Thompson & Little team. We have great talent at Thompson & Little and Drew allows each person to flourish in their own way,” says Maxwell.

“I would say that Tedde Reid laid the foundation for me; I met Tedde when I attended my first National Sales Conference at McDonald’s University thirteen years ago. I entered the lobby of the hotel and Tedde greeted me with a statement that I have remembered from that day. Tedde told me that if I followed the training that SEFA has established, if I apply what I learn, and apply myself, I would be successful in the industry. My experience with SEFA and the entire SEFA family (even Chuck), has been phenomenal. It has been a great run so far and I look forward to the future,” says Maxwell.   

David would like to give special credit and recognition to his sales admin, Elaine Moylan and his lead installer, Manny Anderson, for all they do to contribute to his success and the success of Thompson & Little.

David has been happily married to his wife Lisa for over 32 years. They love spending time with their two daughters, Karen and Leah, and their son-in-law Matt. “According to Leah and Matt’s dog Claude, he is going to have a human brother or sister in January of 2018,” says Maxwell. David and Lisa are really looking forward to being grandparents. David and Lisa also have a dog named Elliott, a grand dog named Riley, and a grand cat named Juniper. David enjoys traveling and spending as much time with his family as he can.

SEFA is proud to recognize David Maxwell as Featured SEFAPro for the second time. Not only did David reach Level 7 in the SEFAPro program, he continues to apply and maximize the knowledge he has gained and nurture the relationships he has built. He is sincere, genuine, and focused.  David enjoys helping others and is always happy to share his knowledge and experience with clients, co-workers, and fellow SEFAPros. He is dedicated to the success of Thompson & Little and his customers.  He is loyal to SEFA suppliers and is proud to be among the SEFAPro family. Congratulations, David!

Larry Russell, Best Restaurant Equipment & Design Inc., Columbus, OH

Larry entered the foodservice industry at a young age. He started working as a cook and a bartender for a family business. In his early years, he worked for a small developing chain and grew with them from a cook to an area director. He was also on an opening team for new restaurants at various locations.

A rare kind of success happens when you find opportunities you have trained for your whole life.

He estimates his total experience in the foodservice industry to be about 40 years. “Working 15 years for a restaurant chain has helped me to relate to the customer side of the industry and is a major asset for me in the development of customer relationships,” says Russell.

Larry has been with BEST Restaurant Equipment and Design for six years and he couldn’t be happier. “BEST is a great employee owned company with core values that exceed expectations,” says Russell.

Larry is an account manager at BEST. He works mostly with chains and foodservice companies in their prototype and site-specific development. His responsibilities include sales, layout and design, installations, and building long lasting relationships with new and existing customers. “Specifying SEFA manufacturers for design projects is the key to customer development and the overall profits on the projects. The SEFA initiative, Buy within the Group, is always on my mind when looking at equipment for customers,” says Russell.

He admits that he has a special passion for the layout and design of foodservice operations. “The creativity involved with taking space and making it all work together to exceed the customer’s need is pretty cool. A successful project and a happy customer is the reward,” says Russell.

The combination of knowledge and passion is very powerful.

Larry is a very successful Level 2 SEFAPro . He genuinely appreciates the training opportunities through BEST and through the SEFAPro training program. “SEFAPro training is very helpful. It gives me the opportunity to learn about equipment from the top manufacturers in the industry. I walk away with a great relationship with the equipment manufacturer, a true knowledge of the equipment, and the how, when, and why to introduce it to customers. My previous employer’s buying group didn’t offer any incentives, training, or marketing. Working with BEST and having a relationship with SEFA is great,” says Russell.

“Many people have helped me along the way. Family, mentors, employers that work hard, and people who love this industry like I do, inspire me. Most of all God who created the path to my success inspires me. There is a reason for everything,” says Russell.

Larry lives in Powell, Ohio and recently purchased another home for a retreat in a small lake resort community near Columbus. He is very happily married and has two daughters and two sons. He also has three grandchildren.

SEFA is proud to recognize Larry Russell as Featured SEFAPro for the month of September. His handson industry experience is an asset to his customers. He enjoys working hard and achieving successful results for everyone involved on projects. He is professional, knowledgeable, and passionate. Congratulations, Larry!

Donna Smallwood, Manning Brothers, Athens, GA

Donna has been in the foodservice industry for 35 years. She started working part-time at Kentucky Fried Chicken when she was 15 years old and worked there all through high school.  When Donna graduated, the owner of KFC offered her a management position. As a young District manager of five stores, two of which were in Hilton Head, she recalls loving the industry and living “the life”.

When Donna started a family, she decided to look for an opportunity in the industry where she could be just as happy but with hours that allowed her to enjoy her family.  She found that opportunity at Manning Brothers and she couldn’t be happier.  “I have been with Manning Brothers for 20 years. My son was six months old when I was hired. Everyone at Manning Brothers is like family. We have been through a lot, from babies being born to marriages to deaths, and more. Manning Brothers and my colleagues will always be a BIG part of my heart. My son now works here part time while attending college at the University of Georgia, and pursuing a career as a lawyer,” says Smallwood.

As an outside sales rep, Donna says her job is to establish contact with existing customers, identify new opportunities, and follow up on potential leads, in other words bring in as much REVENUE as possible. “I work very hard to make sure I give my best attention to all my customers whether it’s for a two-dollar order or a two million-dollar order. I try to remain as competitive and efficient as possible at all times. I create kitchens from beginning to end and strive to provide crucial service and support throughout every job,” says Smallwood.

Having true passion for what you do always leads to success.

Donna loves meeting new people and building relationships. She says having a diverse customer base and meeting new people is what makes her job more exciting. “There are so many opportunities to be found and seized upon (like a new resort I am doing right now on the BEACH). I LOVE food so being in this industry is a plus! If you take the initiative in this industry it will give you great freedom to set your own goals and figure out how to achieve them. I feel like being a sales rep in this line of work comes natural for me and I am very proud that it creates a great career for me,” says Smallwood.

Chuck Day, President of Manning Brothers, had this to say, “Donna has worked long and hard in the foodservice industry, both as an employee with a national chain and as a sales person of equipment and supplies. At all levels, she has excelled and exceeded all expectations. In this industry, there is not a more organized person than Donna. She stays on top of her customer’s needs and on top of their demands, always with a disposition that puts them at ease. She keeps every project, customer fact, drawing, layout, and job book neatly filed. She is very protective of her customers and always makes certain they have prompt deliveries and everything they need to open on time. She is a quick learner and asks great questions. Donna always has the best interest of the company and her customers at the forefront of her mind.”

It’s no secret that Chuck Day, President of Manning Brothers, is a huge proponent of training and believes in providing his team with as many resources as possible to be personally successful.  Donna is very successful in the SEFAPro program and is currently a Level 3 and climbing. “The SEFAPro program has helped me continue my growth in sales and build relationships with the leading manufacturers in the industry. I can keep up with current trends and desires that are needed in a kitchen to help my customers grow. The training sessions and the motivational speakers strengthen my skills, confidence, and help me have a new optimism, not just about work but my ability to meet other challenges that life might bring. SEFA has helped me to roll up my sleeves and to be the best I can be,” says Smallwood.

Donna says her Dad is the one who has always inspired her and has helped her to get to where she is today. “My Dad, he has always been strict about having good morals and working hard. His love and trust in me have helped shape me into the determined, strong, hardworking and FUN person I am today,” says Smallwood.

Donna lives in Homer, Georgia. She says the population is 1,000 and it has set several records for largest Easter egg hunt in the world. “I am just recently single after 24 years. I have a 22-year-old son who is a junior at UGA, the best thing that ever happened to me. We have two dogs, Marley who is a Golden Retriever and Gracee who is a Cocker Spaniel. I love spending time with my parents, siblings, and cousins. I love UGA tailgates and football games! GO DAWGS!! I love all my girlfriends; we like to hike, take spontaneous trips, have girl’s nights out and laugh until we cry. Oh, and I forgot I love a little bit of wine too,” says Smallwood.

SEFA is proud to recognize Donna Smallwood as Featured SEFAPro. She is dedicated, reliable, professional, and friendly. She has a visible passion for learning, working hard, and achieving her goals. By the way, October is Donna’s favorite month so this is a perfect time to recognize her. Congratulations, Donna!

Raymond Fischer, EVI, Glenelg, MD

Raymond entered the foodservice industry as a restaurant construction superintendent in 1985, building an L&N Seafood Grill in Dallas. Starting out as a construction superintendent, Raymond built several restaurants in the mid-80’s for Ruby Tuesday.  They were growing at a rapid pace, and he was offered a position as a Project Coordinator, from which he moved to Director of Construction.  “We were managing the development of 40+ restaurants annually for, at one point, 6 concepts,” says Fischer.  In 2005, he went to work for Rosa Mexicano as Director of Construction, moving to VP of Development.  “I have been involved either as superintendent, project coordinator or department manager in the design and construction of over 350 restaurants,” says Fischer.

Raymond joined the EVI team in the spring of 2015 as Vice President of Operations. “I focus on the processes we use, helping to manage the day to day operations of the company.  Fortunately, EVI has extremely talented team members, so I get to mostly assist with problem solving.  Opportunities, or challenges, exist in all facets of the business – daily operations, employee training, client management, the ever-increasing impact of the internet on sales.  We are presented with almost endless opportunities to be a valuable partner to our clients and vendors,” says Fischer.

Raymond loves the foodservice industry and is extremely happy with the opportunity to be on the EVI team. “My position allows me to help shape the direction of EVI and to help solve problems for teammates and clients.  I believe I have a unique background, coming from the restaurant owners’ side of the business gives me a perspective that allows EVI to be an advocate for the kitchen in a way that few kitchen equipment consultants can.  The foodservice industry is dynamic – always evolving and presenting new opportunities,” says Fischer.

Raymond, who is fairly new to the SEFAPro program, has already started on his journey to reach new levels in the program.  He says he finds the SEFAPro program beneficial both professionally and on a personal level.  “Professionally, it’s a great resource for new employees coming into the business, there is a wealth of knowledge on the SEFA website which can shorten the learning curve on basic equipment knowledge.  Personally, being challenged by the SEFAPro program to put in the time to advance my own knowledge about the industry, manufacturers, and products has helped me learn about new products, and how to be more critical when comparing similar offerings from different manufacturers,” says Fischer.

The greatest rewards on a successful journey come from the relationships we build and the knowledge we gain from important people we meet along the way. 

We asked Raymond who has inspired him and helped him along the way to get to where he is today.  “Too many people to list!  My father started me off in construction trades at an early age.  Dan Bettis at Ruby Tuesday was a great role model for someone starting out on the owner’s side.  Howard Greenstone at Rosa Mexicano taught me a lot about the business of business, and encouraged personal growth and development for all of the executive team.  Lee Davis at SEFA was instrumental in my recently passing the CFSP exam.  Tom and Dana Lawson at EVI are fantastic and have shown great faith in bringing me onboard.  They encourage everyone to be a constant student of the industry,” says Fischer.

Raymond grew up in Dallas, Texas. He moved to Springfield, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC in 1993. His sister still lives in Dallas in the home where he grew up.  “My hobbies include a passion for SCUBA diving. I’ve been a SCUBA diving instructor for over 30 years.  When time permits, I like getting out for a motorcycle ride.  Some people would tell you that renovating my house is a hobby.  Of course, food is an interest and I love to cook,” says Fischer.

SEFA is proud to recognize Raymond as Featured SEFAPro. The passion he has for the industry, his work, and his teammates at EVI is a testament to his character. Even with the knowledge and experience he has, he is dedicated to continued training and has a genuine thirst for knowledge. Congratulations, Raymond!

Christie Lewis, B&G Restaurant Supply,
Pittsfield, MA

Christie joined the foodservice industry through a chance meeting that changed her life.

Christie had just graduated with a degree in business when she went to work for B&G as a temp. “I enjoyed working with B&G founder, Miss Gloria Powers, so much that I have been here ever since,” says Lewis.  Christie has been with B&G for fourteen years and says working for the Powers family has been a blessing. “Gloria was my biggest inspiration. She was an amazing woman who took me in and taught me so much,” says Lewis.

Christie’s role includes many things at B&G, such as sales, purchasing, receiving, inventory, and some accounting. Tricia Powers Dambrauskas, vice president of B&G, had this to say about Christie, “She is an expert at logistics for her customers.  She is very diligent about getting her customers their items quickly and efficiently.  She is continuously learning and enjoys attending the SEFA National Sales Conferences which are essential to building product knowledge in our industry.  Christie is extremely loyal to her customers and coworkers and will do anything to help them out.  We are very fortunate to have her on our team.”

There is a certain magnetism that happens when you meet someone who loves to learn and meet new people.

Christie loves the foodservice industry and couldn’t be happier to be on the B&G team. “I enjoy meeting new people and love the fact that I am always learning. There is always something new to learn in this industry. Never a dull moment,” says Lewis.

Christie is very successful in the SEFAPro program and has taken advantage of the knowledge gained through her hard work. “The SEFAPro program encouraged me to meet with health departments, get ServSafe Certified, and much more,” says Lewis.

Christie lives in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. “When I am not working I enjoy spending time with my family. I have three wonderful kids and seven fabulous grandchildren,” says Lewis.

SEFA is proud to recognize Christie Lewis as Featured SEFAPro. Christie is a true professional with integrity and character. She works hard to stay on top of new product knowledge and industry trends. She is down-to-earth and friendly to everyone. Congratulations, Christie!