Featured SEFAPros Archive – 2020

Mark Maggi, PJP, Philadelphia, PA

Mark entered the foodservice industry when he took a job as a busboy at the age of sixteen. Since then, he has held various waitering and catering jobs throughout the years.  Even when he wasn’t working full time in foodservice, he would moonlight on weekends out of college.  In 2007, Mark took a position as the foodservice manager of McFadden’s at Citizens Bank Park. In this position, he managed all of the marketing, events, and corporate meetings held there.  “I was there during multiple Phillies playoff runs and their 2008 World Series victory,” says Maggi.

Mark received an opportunity to work for one of the vendors he was working with while at McFadden’s.  The vendor was PJP. Mark joined the PJP team in 2014 and couldn’t be happier. His responsibilities include sales with a focus on multi-unit operations, along with high volume and new construction projects.

To sincerely express the same passion for your customer’s business as they do, is the foundation for strong, loyal, and enjoyable relationships that last forever.

Mark takes great pride in being the person that customers trust to help them get what they need. “I love to work with people and provide solutions to their challenges. As a vendor, I still get to enjoy the excitement of opening a new operation or adding a new item to the menu.  My background helps me talk their language and truly understand the issues they have, because I once had the same issues,” says Maggi.

Mark is very successful in the SEFAPro program.  He is currently a Level 3 SEFAPro and climbing.  Mark earned and attended the 2019 SEFAPro Celebration trip for his achievements in the program. “The SEFAPro program has introduced me to new opportunities.  We sell paper and chemicals along with equipment and supplies.  There is a longer learning process for equipment and supplies and SEFA helps accelerate that learning process.   The sales conferences give me the product knowledge and the connections to key manufacturers that help me introduce product lines to customers.  I often take pictures while I’m at a SEFA conference and send them to customers.  I like to get them thinking and learning as I’m learning. From a personal development standpoint, the Academy programs are phenomenal.  They really help with your overall mindset when you’re out in the field,” says Maggi.

There’s nothing better for professional growth than mentors that have the qualities you respect and strive to achieve.

Here’s what Mark had to say when we asked him if he could think of anyone that has inspired him and helped him to get to where he is today, “My father, Larry Maggi. He also works for PJP. I followed his path in this industry.  He brought my brother Matthew into the business as well. Steve Lettero (Sales Manager when I started) and Bill Daily (E&S Specialist) pushed SEFA and its benefits when I first came to PJP.  I saw how involved they were and how much they learned. Then there’s the Furia Family.  I don’t think I would be at PJP had it not been for the Furia Family and the family culture of this company,” says Maggi.

SEFA is proud to recognize Mark Maggi as January’s Featured SEFAPro. Mark 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, Mark!

Lindsay Render, Great Lakes West, Southfield, Michigan

Lindsay has been in the foodservice industry for eight years, beginning when she joined Great Lakes West as an estimator. Over the years, she took on more responsibilities, until eventually landing in a Project Management position.

Lindsay is the Project Management Lead for the National Accounts Department. “We handle airport and travel plaza concessions, as well as a few other chain accounts across North America and Canada. My department handles everything from a single replacement piece, to a full new construction kitchen, and everything in between,” says Render.

Lindsay loves the fact that no day is ever the same. “Even though I do generally the same thing for each project, every project has its own unique challenges to figure out, which keeps me on my toes. I love being a problem solver, and having the freedom to think “outside of the box” when providing solutions for my customers,” says Render.

“Every time I come home from a SEFA conference, I just feel good.  It’s like I’ve had my motivation and inspiration lit on fire!”

Lindsay earned and attended the SEFAPro celebration trip last year. She is very focused and takes SEFA training very seriously. “SEFA training has helped me tremendously from a knowledge and self-confidence standpoint. When I am on site for project installs, I’m not only managing the project, but my customers and their operators always have equipment questions that are unrelated to my current project (as they are usually in charge of multiple restaurants). Having the equipment training provides me with a great knowledge base, knowing at least a little bit about everything, so I can have those conversations on the spot. On top of that, the networking we get to do at these conferences is unmatched. We get so much time to meet new people that are working hard just like us and constantly trying to do right by their customers.  We are able to bond over common issues and help each other come up with solutions. We learn from each other’s experiences. Being able to get face time with the manufacturers and being able to call them when you have an issue, is amazing! Every time I come home from a SEFA conference, I just feel good.  It’s like I’ve had my motivation and inspiration lit on fire!” says Render.

Here’s what Lindsay said when asked if there is anyone who inspires her,  “I want to give a shout out to Mary Martin from Great Lakes West, who saw potential in me and gave me the opportunity to be part of her team. She spent so much time helping me learn and grow, and making sure I had the tools I needed to be successful.  I’ve never had someone put so much time and effort into me and I think it really helped me start my career at Great Lakes West on the right foot. She handed down her passion, and “do whatever it takes” attitude and I hope that I’m able to inspire others the way she has inspired me,” says Render.

Lindsay lives in SW Michigan with her husband, Jeremy, and their two cats, Thor & Loki. “We love traveling to new places, the outdoors, hanging out with friends and family (of course centered around food and drinks), and movies (to keep us busy during those inevitable Michigan winter months),” says Render.

SEFA is proud to recognize Lindsay as Featured SEFAPro!  Her attitude, hard work, passion, and ability to really maximize the training and networking, exemplifies what the SEFAPro program is all about. Lindsay is friendly, focused and determined.  Foodservice professionals are definitely in good hands when working with Lindsay.  Congratulations, Lindsay!

Dan Christians, Culinex, Fargo, ND

Dan has been in the foodservice industry for 19 years. He started at Dakota Food Equipment, now Culinex, in 2001 as an inside sales representative. “I had just graduated from college and had limited foodservice or sales skills. Still, Kevin Bouma, the current owner of Culinex, gave me this great opportunity,” says Christians.

Dan’s role at Culinex progressed through the years.  He spent fifteen years as an outside salesman, working with customers in western Minnesota. He is currently a sales manager at Culinex. Dan loves having the opportunity to guide and train their awesome sales team and enjoys his role on the leadership team, that allows him involvement with company development initiatives.

Mark Howes, President of Culinex, said, “Dan is very professional and a great student of our industry. He is a big part of Culinex’s success and its future.”

Dan is a huge fan of Culinex and a strong team player. “Over the years, the best part of my position has been the great customers with whom I have had the opportunity to develop long relationships.  Now as the sales manager, I still assist some of our customers, but primarily I enjoy guiding our salespeople and helping newer team members learn the foodservice business.  As we all know, in this industry, you experience something new almost every day and I love the constant challenges that come with that,” says Christians.

Culinex places a high level of importance on team training. They are also notorious for supporting their team and providing the tools necessary to be successful.  Dan has been very engaged and successful in the SEFAPro program. “Since we joined a few years back, I have been extremely impressed with SEFA’s dedication to training.  I have attended SEFA National Sales Conferences as well as a SEFA Academy, and bring back great information every time to help our team.  Not only does SEFA focus on product training, but sales training and personal development as well.  Thank you to everyone who puts this together for the dealers,” says Christians.

Behind Great Leaders, There are Very Often More Great Leaders.

We asked Dan who inspires him. “Culinex, Kevin Bouma and Mark Howes have been tremendous leaders and helped greatly in my development.  Also, my father has been an inspiration for me.  He was never in this industry, but he was in sales his whole life.  Watching him over the years, gave me a foundation of how to treat people with honesty and respect,” says Christians.   

Dan lives in West Fargo, North Dakota with his wife Karrin and their two daughters, Taylor and Samantha.  Dan and his family love to spend time swimming, fishing, and skiing at their family lake cabin.  “Also, I have had the privilege of coaching my daughter’s basketball team which was a blast and I serve on the executive council for our church,” says Christians.  He enjoys following sporting events and playing golf during the brief North Dakota summers.

SEFA is proud to recognize Dan Christians as Featured SEFAPro. He is dedicated to learning as much as he can so he can share what he learns with his team and customers. He is genuinely grateful for the opportunities he receives from being on the Culinex team. He is dedicated to his family, friends, colleagues, and customers.  Congratulations, Dan!

Michael Pearson, Kirby Restaurant Supply, Longview Texas

Michael has been with Kirby Restaurant Supply for 27 years; that’s when he considers himself officially joining the foodservice industry.   He says, if you count working in restaurants during high school and college, he’s been in the industry for 32 years.

Michael says he started in the foodservice industry by accident. He had worked in restaurants in high school and decided he never wanted to work in one again. “My career is somewhat ironic. I went to college to study architecture and design. At that time, “board” drawings with pencil, T-square, and eraser were still being taught as part of the curriculum, along with AutoCAD. I wanted to work in architecture and when I graduated from college, I had a few internships with local architects lined up, but none were ready to hire me. My dad was the Postmaster at a local post office, and he was pressuring me to go to work for the US Postal Service. I had developed a passion for design and instead responded to a local ad for a draftsman for layout and design, at Kirby Restaurant Supply,” says Pearson.

One recognized opportunity can change your entire path.

The opportunity that became available at Kirby, changed everything for Michael. “It was an entry level position since there was no field of study in college for this industry. After three months on the job, my supervisor/mentor left to take a position with Brinker International. This was during the period of Brinker’s (Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, etc.) growth. I was left to learn this business the hard way. It was a lot of early mornings and long evenings. When I finally looked up, I had been at Kirby for two years.”  Michael realized that architects were asking him how to layout and design kitchens and engineers were asking him how things worked. It all came together, and he was able to utilize his talents. This is when he realized Kirby was the perfect fit. “I have a passion for sketching. Everyone has their own unique gifts and God blessed me with the ability to see and visualize things in my head rather quickly and translate it to paper sketches. This was also a way to communicate our customer’s ideas, when 2D can only show certain aspects of thoughts.”

Michael is currently the vice president of engineering and operations at Kirby. He is in charge of their design and contract department. “I work with my estimators and contract administration staff to ensure profitability and success on our projects for both Kirby and our clients. Our opportunities are driven by our success. When we do our part successfully, we are positioned to be a valued partner for them. It typically leads to referrals to other members in their network.”

The most rewarding careers are the ones that enable you to utilize your talents.

Michael is passionate about his position with Kirby and is proud of what he brings to the table. “I enjoy working with our employees and our design clients. It’s satisfying to see a concept turn into a reality. I still remember the first project I was a part of 27 years ago and how that felt,” says Pearson.

Very successful in the SEFAPro training program, Michael is grateful for the opportunities to train. “SEFA training has helped me immensely. There is only so much knowledge retained when reading up on a piece of equipment. When time is invested to go to the National Sales Conferences, by both the dealers and the manufacturers, then true knowledge is gained.”

We asked Michael who has inspired and influenced his success. “I have several people that have inspired me. First, my father, Miles Pearson, always showed and taught me to treat people fair and to always do the right thing. Secondly, my mother, Rosie (Hong) Pearson, showed and taught me to always think about my actions and their consequences. Lastly, my grandmother, Mary Ella Pearson, showed and taught me that through faith in God, all things are possible. Growing up with these three people in my life, it was sometimes hard to see the lessons they were teaching at the time, but looking back now, I feel a tremendous amount of respect and admiration. My wife and I try our best to pass down their wisdom to our children.”

Michael has lived in Longview, Texas his entire life and loves to call East Texas his home. Longview has a population of approximately 80,000 people. “I enjoy the fact that we work in all the rural and major cities in Texas and across the country, but it feels so good to return back to East Texas.” Michael is a true family man and is very proud of his wife and children. “I have been married for 24 years to Kimberly. She has been a first-grade teacher for 17 years. I have a son, Miles, that is a senior in college. He will graduate with a civil engineering degree. I have a daughter, Ella, that is a senior in high school. She is enrolled to attend college in the fall of 2020,” says Pearson. He  enjoys tournament bass fishing and is usually on a local lake every weekend. “I am literally in God’s country. In less than an hour in any direction, I have access to some of the best lakes and fisheries in the country, not to mention Friday Night Lights,” says Pearson. He also enjoys watching high school football and baseball.

SEFA is proud to recognize Michael Pearson as April’s Featured SEFAPro. Michael 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, Michael!

Zachary Young, Kesco, Pensacola, Florida

Zachary started out in the industry as a carhop at Sonic. “I enjoyed being a carhop, as I have always been a people person. The General Manager recognized that I could do more, so I was promoted to a crew leader. I spent about a year doing that, had a lot of fun and made some connections with people that I still talk to today. After that, I was trained to become a manager which made me feel valued and appreciated for the work I was doing. Six months later, I was promoted to assistant general manager and oversaw most of the day-to-day operations. I thoroughly enjoyed this, as it gave me a sense of responsibility and I looked forward to going to work every day,” says Young.  As much as he enjoyed his positions with Sonic, he knew he needed more to satisfy his big picture goals. He submitted his resignation and received a call from Kesco a couple of days later.

Zachary happily took a position with Kesco and has been with them for three years. He works at Kesco’s Mary Esther location as a sales associate and customer service agent. “I would like to start out by saying that Kesco has supported me since day one. On the first day, I could see that the people who worked in this building all had a great amount of respect for each other, I was the newbie coming into a store where everyone had been working together for at least 10 years. This spoke volumes to me about the dedication and love that they have for this industry. I enjoy every single thing about my job, especially being able to put a smile on someone’s face when we come up with a solution for their problem. There is no better feeling than having a customer come to you with an application or change that they want to make in their operation and sitting down with them to figure out the best and most efficient approach and solution,” says Young. Zachary says he has learned the importance of asking the right questions to figure out what a customer needs. “I do my best to educate the customer on the products that we carry to make sure that it is the best fit for their application,” says Young.

Along with helping customers, he monitors the logistics of equipment and supplies in their location, tracks and makes sure that purchase orders are on time, and handles in-house transfers between his location and the other three Kesco stores. He also helps to merchandise showroom products, helps oversee marketing strategies and works with the store managers and principals to make sure that it meets the needs of the business.

When you are surrounded by successful, dedicated professionals, you know you’re in the right place.

“One of the things I love about the foodservice industry is whether you’re a manufacturer, dealer, chef or waitress, it is the dedication to the craft that makes us all inspired to be the best. The foodservice industry is always changing and innovating and that means that there are always new and better solutions to problems that operators and owners have daily. This allows us, as foodservice professionals, to help them with new solutions and opportunities as they become available. Kesco has always gone above and beyond to promote professionalism and personal development. When I started, I knew very little about the “whole picture” of the food service industry. I was quickly shown resources that I could use to learn about the vast number of things that this industry covered. One of these was SEFA’s E&S 101. From the very start, Kesco made it clear that if there was ever anything I did not know, to ask any of them about it and they would be sure to steer or train me to understand it. I took advantage of that and made sure to ask a lot of questions. After eight months, Kesco selected me to go to a SEFA Conference. I had no idea what to expect, but when I came back from this conference I was pumped and hungry to learn more,” says Young.

Zachary is very successful in the SEFAPro program. “SEFA training has been extremely beneficial to me as someone who did not know much about the foodservice industry. The webinars, conferences, professional guidance, SEFA tools, and the support that SEFA offers to every single SEFA Member has been unsurpassed by anything I have ever seen. Without SEFA, and the guidance of everyone at Kesco, I would not have the knowledge that I do today about this industry. There is a certain level of professionalism that comes with the way that foodservice professionals talk and carry themselves around each other. This is what has led me to want to be as knowledgeable and as forthcoming as I can be when talking to others in this Industry. I pride myself on always trying to learn as much as I can. We all have our flaws, but it’s what we do to change or improve on them that shapes us,” says Young.

Integrity and character come from influences that start at a young age.

My parents inspired me to always be myself and to always see things from more than one point of view. Growing up in a military family, my parents were role models. The older I got, the more I realized just how much my parents sacrificed to make sure that I succeeded. They always inspired me to try to be the best person I could be and to always try to accomplish my goals.

Zachary lives in Valparaiso Florida. He says, “I hope to one day find the woman of my dreams, but for now I am happy with where I am in my life. I enjoy spending my weekends with family and friends grilling some steaks and having a grand ole time. I enjoy fishing and any kind of water sports or outdoor activities. I am passionate about cars and working on my house. I have two brothers, one that is exactly 13 months apart from me to the day. We often get mistaken for twins. My other brother was part of a transportation unit attached to the commanding General of Fort Irwin or the Commanders chauffeur as they called him. Sadly, he passed away about seven years ago and is someone I hold very close to my heart. My family and friends play a huge part of my personal life and I would not have it any other way.”

Zachary has a birthday this month on May 22. One of Zach’s favorite quotes is “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” -– Aristotle

SEFA is proud to recognize Zachary Young as Featured SEFAPro. The 110% he puts into everything he does makes it impossible for him to achieve anything short of success.  He is dedicated to the industry, Kesco, his customers, and his colleagues. His passion for knowledge and his desire to share it with his team and his customers makes him a very valuable player in our industry.  Congratulations, Zachary!

Zachary Young, Kesco, Pensacola, Florida

Zachary started out in the industry as a carhop at Sonic. “I enjoyed being a carhop, as I have always been a people person. The General Manager recognized that I could do more, so I was promoted to a crew leader. I spent about a year doing that, had a lot of fun and made some connections with people that I still talk to today. After that, I was trained to become a manager which made me feel valued and appreciated for the work I was doing. Six months later, I was promoted to assistant general manager and oversaw most of the day-to-day operations. I thoroughly enjoyed this, as it gave me a sense of responsibility and I looked forward to going to work every day,” says Young.  As much as he enjoyed his positions with Sonic, he knew he needed more to satisfy his big picture goals. He submitted his resignation and received a call from Kesco a couple of days later.

Zachary happily took a position with Kesco and has been with them for three years. He works at Kesco’s Mary Esther location as a sales associate and customer service agent. “I would like to start out by saying that Kesco has supported me since day one. On the first day, I could see that the people who worked in this building all had a great amount of respect for each other, I was the newbie coming into a store where everyone had been working together for at least 10 years. This spoke volumes to me about the dedication and love that they have for this industry. I enjoy every single thing about my job, especially being able to put a smile on someone’s face when we come up with a solution for their problem. There is no better feeling than having a customer come to you with an application or change that they want to make in their operation and sitting down with them to figure out the best and most efficient approach and solution,” says Young. Zachary says he has learned the importance of asking the right questions to figure out what a customer needs. “I do my best to educate the customer on the products that we carry to make sure that it is the best fit for their application,” says Young.

Along with helping customers, he monitors the logistics of equipment and supplies in their location, tracks and makes sure that purchase orders are on time, and handles in-house transfers between his location and the other three Kesco stores. He also helps to merchandise showroom products, helps oversee marketing strategies and works with the store managers and principals to make sure that it meets the needs of the business.

When you are surrounded by successful, dedicated professionals, you know you’re in the right place.

“One of the things I love about the foodservice industry is whether you’re a manufacturer, dealer, chef or waitress, it is the dedication to the craft that makes us all inspired to be the best. The foodservice industry is always changing and innovating and that means that there are always new and better solutions to problems that operators and owners have daily. This allows us, as foodservice professionals, to help them with new solutions and opportunities as they become available. Kesco has always gone above and beyond to promote professionalism and personal development. When I started, I knew very little about the “whole picture” of the food service industry. I was quickly shown resources that I could use to learn about the vast number of things that this industry covered. One of these was SEFA’s E&S 101. From the very start, Kesco made it clear that if there was ever anything I did not know, to ask any of them about it and they would be sure to steer or train me to understand it. I took advantage of that and made sure to ask a lot of questions. After eight months, Kesco selected me to go to a SEFA Conference. I had no idea what to expect, but when I came back from this conference I was pumped and hungry to learn more,” says Young.

Zachary is very successful in the SEFAPro program. “SEFA training has been extremely beneficial to me as someone who did not know much about the foodservice industry. The webinars, conferences, professional guidance, SEFA tools, and the support that SEFA offers to every single SEFA Member has been unsurpassed by anything I have ever seen. Without SEFA, and the guidance of everyone at Kesco, I would not have the knowledge that I do today about this industry. There is a certain level of professionalism that comes with the way that foodservice professionals talk and carry themselves around each other. This is what has led me to want to be as knowledgeable and as forthcoming as I can be when talking to others in this Industry. I pride myself on always trying to learn as much as I can. We all have our flaws, but it’s what we do to change or improve on them that shapes us,” says Young.

Integrity and character come from influences that start at a young age.

My parents inspired me to always be myself and to always see things from more than one point of view. Growing up in a military family, my parents were role models. The older I got, the more I realized just how much my parents sacrificed to make sure that I succeeded. They always inspired me to try to be the best person I could be and to always try to accomplish my goals.

Zachary lives in Valparaiso Florida. He says, “I hope to one day find the woman of my dreams, but for now I am happy with where I am in my life. I enjoy spending my weekends with family and friends grilling some steaks and having a grand ole time. I enjoy fishing and any kind of water sports or outdoor activities. I am passionate about cars and working on my house. I have two brothers, one that is exactly 13 months apart from me to the day. We often get mistaken for twins. My other brother was part of a transportation unit attached to the commanding General of Fort Irwin or the Commanders chauffeur as they called him. Sadly, he passed away about seven years ago and is someone I hold very close to my heart. My family and friends play a huge part of my personal life and I would not have it any other way.”

Zachary has a birthday this month on May 22. One of Zach’s favorite quotes is “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” -– Aristotle

SEFA is proud to recognize Zachary Young as Featured SEFAPro. The 110% he puts into everything he does makes it impossible for him to achieve anything short of success.  He is dedicated to the industry, Kesco, his customers, and his colleagues. His passion for knowledge and his desire to share it with his team and his customers makes him a very valuable player in our industry.  Congratulations, Zachary!

Nancy Hartje, Culinex, Fargo, North Dakota

Twenty years in the industry!  Nancy started on the foodservice side of the business gaining knowledge and experience that she uses today.  She found her dream opportunity right out of college.

“I started in the industry when I was old enough to wait tables so I could have “all the fancy things” I needed in life, which, back then were Nike Air Max shoes and jeans from JCPenney’s.  Once I hit college, I continued to serve and also bartended a few nights a week. I came to Dakota Food Equipment (now Culinex) right out of college and haven’t looked back.

Nancy has a genuine appreciation for her role at Culinex and for the people she has the opportunity to work with on a daily basis. She is a team player with great respect for everyone’s role and contributions.  “I currently oversee our extremely talented purchasing department, run marketing operations and still manage to go out and sell to a few customers a couple days a month.  It’s a busy schedule; but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way!” says Hartje.

Mark Howes, president of Culinex, said, “Nancy came right out of college to join the Culinex team. Her love for this industry has taken shape. She has become a young leader within Culinex. Culinex is a small company, so many team members must wear several hats to make our success possible. Nancy’s dedication to Culinex is amazing, along with the high energy level she provides to our team. Congratulations Nancy for being selected to be an elite Featured SEFAPro.”

Nancy welcomes challenges, thrives on opportunities to learn, and values relationships. “I absolutely love the interactions I have on a day-to-day basis both within Culinex and outside of our organization.  Being a part of three departments that work so closely together gives me a great perspective on the markets that we serve and how to keep those markets satisfied.  I am surrounded by a group of  talented people that help me grow in my profession every day!  This industry continues to teach and challenge me to keep an open mind and always be forward-thinking.  Foodservice is an industry that is ever-changing and if you are not out in front of those changes, you have to work twice as hard to catch up,” says Hartje.

Nancy is very successful in the SEFAPro program. She embraces SEFA training with the same 100% dedication that she applies to everything she does. She enjoys and finds great value in both the training opportunities and the networking that come with the program.  “What I LOVE about the SEFAPro Program is that no matter your level of foodservice experience, you take LOADS of information away. The trainings are always well thought through and very well presented so that if you’re new to the industry, or a veteran you are engaged. The other benefit is that SEFA combines various experience levels within your group, so the new people are able to rely not only on the presenters; but their team alike. Advice to someone just starting out in the program would be to open up and embrace everything that feels uncomfortable!  It’s not fun to separate from your fellow co-workers; the more you can embrace the team you are put in, the more you will take away from the program. Take some time to prepare so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Write down questions you may have for vendors that you aren’t as familiar with and/or that you want to learn more about.  The SEFAPro program gives you all the tools you need to be a successful foodservice professional, you just have to dial in how to make those tools work for you and your position within your company!”

When asked about a current project she’s working on, and the challenges and opportunities that come with it  she answered,  “I would have to say inventory management.  Although this is an on-going process for any company, I have recently taken a deep dive into the software program we have in place to assist with our inventory management.  It’s been an intense learning curve to say the least; but the more I learn, the more excited I get!! Once we have that software dialed into how we want it to perform, the efficiencies within the Purchasing Department will increase which will allow more time for other projects!”

When we think about the happiness and success achieved in our life, we always remember the special people who have really taken the time to teach and inspire us.  “My parents taught me from a very young age that nothing comes easy and if you want it, you have to make your mind up and go get it.  I wouldn’t be anywhere near the person I am today without the guidance, strength, and humbleness I learned from them. Once my parents weren’t involved in my daily life, I found unwavering guidance from my college advisor Terry Kemmer. Terry challenged and pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of; he wouldn’t allow me to fail. The professional lessons he instilled in me have helped me advance in my career and have made me a better person. At Culinex, I’ve had the pleasure of working very closely with incredibly intelligent leaders like Kevin Bouma and Mark Howes.  Their knowledge and experience in the foodservice industry has been the backbone of my success.  Under their guidance I know my contributions to this company will be beneficial.”

In addition to the gratification she gets from her professional life, being a part of Culinex and this great industry, Nancy is very happy in her personal life. “I was lucky enough to find the love of my life a few years ago and we currently reside approximately 40 miles south of Fargo.  We have been living a life full of love and fun ever since we met. I am truly a blessed girl! During the summer months I enjoy golfing and gardening, spending time with family and friends, and just enjoying the outdoors! When the snow falls, and yes, I’m one of “those people” that hopes for lots of snow, I spend a fair amount of time snowmobiling throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.”

SEFA is proud to recognize Nancy Hartje as Featured SEFAPro.  Her dedication, loyalty and hard work are an asset to this industry and to the company she holds so dear.  She is grateful, kind and focused.  If you haven’t met her yet, you might want to make a point to say hello. Congratulations, Nancy!

Derrick Gage, Great Lakes Hotel Supply, Southfield, Michigan

Derrick joined the foodservice industry at the age of fifteen, working as a dish washer. He then held several kitchen positions while working his way through college. Derrick was in a restaurant management role for fifteen years before working in the marine industry for five years.

“In December of last year, God blessed me with an opportunity to join Great Lakes Hotel Supply and I couldn’t be happier,” says Gage.

Derrick Gage is all in when it comes to training and investing in his personal and professional success. He is one of the Top 5 High Achievers for SPECS. At last count, he has completed 75 SPECS Courses.

He is relatively new to the SEFAPro program but is progressing through with full force. He has attended a National Sales Conference, he’s been reading the recommended books listed, participating in webinars, and anything he can do to gain more knowledge and advance through the program. His pursuit of success and knowledge did not slow down when COVID imposed several restrictions on us all. Derrick trained even harder.

Derrick appreciates the fact that Great Lakes is a strong believer in advanced training and providing their team with the tools needed to be successful. They are a very strong advocate of the SEFAPro program and very supportive of their team.

“The SPECS Courses are top-notch.  All of the SPECS courses are very well done.  The information is presented in a way that is easily retained. I am a very big advocate of continued learning in whatever career you choose, or may choose you.  There is no bigger advantage than knowledge. The SPECS courses give me the confidence and the knowledge to help local businesses succeed with the right tools. The National Sales Conference was amazing. Even though, as the new guy, it was kind of like drinking from a fire hose, the breakout sessions made the incredible amount of information retainable.  The camaraderie between the industry professionals was second to none,” says Gage.

“I love people and love food! I’m pretty sure this is the best of both worlds”

Derrick enjoys getting to know all of the local business owners and helping them with the challenges this new world brings. He finds his past restaurant experience and his passion for the foodservice industry to be so helpful in his position at Great Lakes Hotel. He enjoys connecting with his customers, gaining a full understanding of their needs, and finding solutions and opportunities that will enhance their operations.

Currently, his project focus has been working with some of the local resorts.  “As you can imagine, there are certainly challenges and changes that they have had to make and overcome to help them continue to share our beautiful northern Michigan with visitors.  Working with them to find solutions has been very rewarding,” says Gage.

Derrick says he has many role models that have influenced him and inspire him daily.  “On the personal side, there are three people that just naturally lead by example and are very important to me. These three people include my dad, my grandfather, and of course, my beautiful wife. Professionally, I could never thank Marc Israel enough for giving me a chance and a spot on an amazing team.  Our Vice President of sales, Warren Casey, is one of those people that brings out the best in everyone he is around. Brad Heuton has been a great source of knowledge, encouragement, and experience. He has great patience with the new guy,” says Gage.

Derrick lives with his family in Northern Michigan. “I have a beautiful wife of almost three years, Kasie Gage.  We have three amazing kids,( Emma, Kaitlyn, and Parker), between the two of us.  We love northern Michigan and all it has to offer.  I enjoy everything outdoors, including hunting, fishing, skiing, boating, and more.  I give thanks to God every day for the life he has blessed us with.  I look forward to many years as part of this industry and can’t wait to see what the future holds,” says Gage.

SEFA is proud to recognize Derrick as Featured SEFAPro. He is very professional, focused, and dedicated. He works hard and does what it takes to contribute to the success of Great Lakes Hotel and their customers.  Derrick is sincere with a strong sense of daily gratitude and loyalty. Congratulations, Derrick!

Jay Tristan, Jeans Restaurant Supply, Corpus Christi, Texas

Jay had his first taste of the foodservice industry when he joined the great team at Jean’s Restaurant Supply. “Although I hadn’t previously stepped foot in a commercial kitchen, I have always had a passion for consultative sales and customer service, which I believe gave me a competitive advantage for my current position. Now that I have been in the industry, I have developed a passion for knowledge across the breadth of commercial foodservice products, both large and small,” says Tristan.

He began his sales career selling fire-retardant uniforms to oil and gas service companies. He then pivoted into accounts receivables factoring, working with importer-exporters hauling freight across the Texas/Mexico border. “When I hit my late 20’s, I realized that I did not enjoy working with truckers and oil companies. That’s when I found an opportunity at Jean’s.”

Jay is dedicated to Jean’s Restaurant Supply and has a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude. “I, like every one of my coworkers, wear many hats at Jean’s. I answer phones, work the front counter, inside sales, outside sales, site evaluations, accounts receivables, and inventory. I am currently training to provide comprehensive foodservice consulting to bars, restaurants, and schools. Our ancillary services include advising on the right location, parking lot design, menu ideation, submittal drawings, and MEPs, I have also begun getting my feet wet in AutoCAD.”

To sincerely express the same passion for your customer’s business as they do, is the foundation for strong, loyal, and enjoyable relationships that last forever.

He sincerely enjoys helping customers achieve more efficient operations and sharing the knowledge he gains about product solutions with them. “As we all know, opening a bar or restaurant can be an incredibly stressful endeavor. Restauranteurs put it all on the line to achieve their dream. At the end of the day, getting to the Grand Opening is only part of the battle. I believe in our company vision, which is ‘To provide knowledge so that success is the only option’. Helping our customers remain open is my focus.”

Jay says his main focus is on partnering with operators to navigate the challenges presented today.  “At the moment, the project that has all our attention is the adaptation of bars, restaurants, and schools post-pandemic. Every establishment, big and small, is being forced to adapt to social distancing and sanitary safety. Not to mention the constant changes in state and federal guidelines as well as local code. We are all trying to “build the plane mid-air” and those challenges have given us foodservice professionals the opportunity to display our knowledge and expertise to all of our customers, many of whom are struggling to say the least.”

Jay is very motivated when it comes to training.  He is one of the top five high achievers in the SPECS Online training forum. He has completed 80 SPECS courses. “Aside from my many experienced colleagues and manufacturer representatives, SPECS has been my favorite resource to lean on to expand my product knowledge. The most beneficial SPECS courses, in my opinion, are the personal development courses. Whether it be sales or customer service, these courses are challenging and rival the best sales training sessions I have ever attended. SPECS courses have allowed me to internalize the information shared with us at the National Sales Conferences. Like we all say, SEFA National Sales Conferences are like drinking out of a fire hose, there’s no way you’re going to get everything. The ability to revisit that knowledge, at my own pace, allows me to have more control when interacting with customers.”

Jay is dedicated to the SEFAPro program and takes full advantage of every training opportunity available to him.  “Networking on a professional level with the awesome men and women representing so many amazing factories is hands down my favorite part of the SEFA National Sales Conferences. Not only can you connect and banter about trends in the industry, but every single factory rep that I’ve met has given me all of their information and strongly encouraged me to use them as a resource. The same is true for other attendees who I’ve met during my time at SEFA.”

There’s nothing better for professional growth than mentors that have the qualities you respect and strive to achieve.

Jay has great professional influences and talks about how he is inspired by a couple of people he truly respects. “I am greatly inspired by the President and Vice President of Jean’s Restaurant Supply. David and Bobak Mostaghasi have a tireless work ethic that never stops. When businesses started closing and the lockdowns became a reality, I was more than a little concerned about my future at Jean’s. Instead of layoffs, David kept everyone on board and took that opportunity to increase our company’s product knowledge by utilizing remote learning sessions daily. When we got back to work, I found myself selling a lot more hoods and ice machines throughout Texas.”

Jay was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. “I’ve got a cozy place just one block away from the Corpus Christi Bay and just a stone’s throw away from Jean’s. I have been playing guitar for 20 years and love playing on days off. I have a passion for cooking! Hearing about my customer’s dishes and methods truly excites me. I am the youngest of four and my parents always said that I am the only one of my siblings that truly loves to cook. I definitely get it from my mother. My mother is in printing sales and would work all day long just to come home to make dinner for the family. She would even clean up after. I’m still not sure how she did it. My father is our family’s pit-master and is a true patriarch.”

“At the end of 2019, I anticipated the biggest, most lucrative year in restaurant history. Now, during this unbelievably hard year, I am so optimistic that we will all come back stronger. I believe that is a testament to the awesome people in the American restaurant industry. Together we will look back at 2020 as the year that made us who we are!”

SEFA is proud to recognize Jay Tristan as Featured SEFAPro. Jay 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, Jay!

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