In the Hot Seat with Chef Jessie

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In the Hot Seat with Chef Jessie. Chefs of the Mills logo. Chefs on the Line logo. Chef Jessie smiling. Background with various kitchen utensils. 

We connected with Chef Jessie to learn more about what it’s like being one of the Chefs of the Mills, and her experience filming the first episode of Chefs on the Line.

1. What do you love about what you do?

Chef Jessie: I love not knowing what each day looks like. It isn't a monotonous job — anything can happen.

I also really like that I get to work with different groups of people, whether it’s operators, business partners, my teammates, or sales. People all have different perspectives. 

I like bringing solutions to operators — it’s the super rewarding part of the job. It’s pretty much why we're here. I love figuring out how to make operators' lives easier.

2. Can you tell us a little more about how you relate to operators and the challenges they face?

Chef Jessie: Coming from a foodservice environment, I think you either absolutely love that super high energy, intense pace of things, or you don't. I think that in foodservice, for a lot of us, even if you get burned out, there's something that pulls you back into it. 

For me, I like knowing what the operators are dealing with, and I know how difficult it is for them to just get through day-to-day operations sometimes. That's where, again, if we have a product or something that we can bring to them to make it a little bit easier, that feels like a win.

Chef Jessie during her time at The Art Institutes International Minnesota holding a finished plate.

Chef Jessie during her time at The Art
Institutes International Minnesota

Whether it's creativity through trends recipe development or other recipe development, we're just saying, Have you ever thought of using this product this way? You see their eyes light up and go, Oh, I didn't even think about doing that! That's when that rewarding moment comes over you and you're like, Okay, this is why I do what I do. 

I think that's one part of my job that I really enjoy. Since I've been in that world and walked in their shoes, I can try to give them relevant content to help figure out some solutions. I always try to bring credibility to what we do, so we're not just a talking head who's totally not getting what they're dealing with.

3. Can you think of a time when you didn't know what to do to solve a problem? How did you get through it?

Chef Jessie: If I don't know how to solve a problem, I feel really grateful and blessed to have a team that I can go to. I lean on the team, talk through challenges with them.

Usually, there's somebody who has been through something similar, or we are talking it through to a space where we are working to help each other solve the problem. That part is great. I don't think everyone has that in their life. 

I like knowing that I have teammates who have my back, and I've got their back, and that if there is something that comes up, we can do it together, and they’ll have amazing advice and vice versa.

4. How do you think foodservice has changed in the past 5 to 10 years?

Chef Jessie: It's a loaded question. Labor shortages, obviously, that isn't going away. We're still hearing it left and right: Operators are struggling to find labor. And not just labor, but skilled labor, too. Even if they're hiring someone to do the work, they may not have the training or the caliber of training they once had. 

So now they need to try to figure out how they're going to not only retain this person, but hopefully train them to do certain things that they need them to do.

Then, with inflation with food costs, and operating costs going up, that means they must increase their menu prices, as we've all seen — most places have jumped up their menu prices. But then, they have to figure out, how do they present that in a way where people don't feel like they're getting ripped off?

I think that's the delicate line: I need to make sure that we're profitable yet delivering on value. 

5. What would be your advice to operators today?

Chef Jessie: We’re here as the Chefs of the Mills, as a trusted partner to bring menu solutions. Nobody knows your business better than you do. I like to let them guide me on what the pain points are, and I try to find some products or recipes or something that could help. But we’re here as a resource, and I want operators to know that we love to help.

6. Tell us a bit about your working relationship with the other Chefs of the Mills, what makes you all different? 

Chef Jessie: I think it's just the diverse backgrounds that we have — everyone came here in different ways. Some have extensive hotel experience, some have hospital experience, some have college and university dining hall experience, and restaurants, obviously. 

The other part is that we're all learning from each other too. It's like a family, and we all want each other to succeed. I feel really grateful that we all are kind of in it for the same goal, which is we want each other to be successful, but ultimately our operators to be successful. 

I know that’s kind of just like a campy, cheesy answer, but that’s what it is.

7. What do you think sets General Mills Foodservice apart?

Chef Jessie: We've got a great team of super talented chefs that have a lot of different experience before coming to General Mills Foodservice. I think, yeah, the Chefs of the Mills are a great tool within the foodservice arm for sure.

But then, there’s also the products that not everyone knows that we have. We have the manufacturing process that produces great products consistently, and there's the flexibility, the versatility of these products. 

That makes it a fun place to work — we get to play with food all day. But then we also get to show people ways to use these products that are maybe not normal ways that they would think to use them.

8. What's your favorite General Mills Foodservice product?

Chef Jessie: I love the Pillsbury frozen biscuit dough just because of the versatility. I tell people to just think of this as dough.

That one's always a fun one just because people are like, Oh my goodness, you made all of this with this product, this one product? And we're always like, You bet. 

That's the beauty of this product. 

9. What was the hardest thing about the show? The most fun thing about the show?

Chef Jessie: I think the hardest thing was not knowing exactly what the challenge would be, and not being able to prep fully for the execution of the challenge. I joked with the producer a lot, he was keeping me in the dark for a reason.

10. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Chef Jessie: When you follow your passion, putting in the hard work and the dedication comes easier than trying to force something you're not passionate about. I learned that the hard way. I couldn't believe that when I finally went into the food world, that's when things clicked, and it just opened up a completely different world that I didn't even know existed.

Dive deeper into this episode’s back-of-house troubleshooting tools.

In case you missed it: Resources from Episode 1