Kim Durm has served as the Executive Chef at Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) since November of 2015, and she’s been with SAGE since 1995. Kim’s sage (lowercase, that is) advice on life and teamwork is informed by her keen sense of humor, refreshing perspective, and generous goodwill.
How did you get into the foodservice business, and with SAGE?
Actually, I wanted to be a cop. But I was a very hyperactive child. I had to be doing something, or I was in trouble. So I was always by mom’s side helping in the kitchen.
I knew from a young age I had to pick a profession where I was always moving. I started working at a family friend’s restaurant at age 15, and I’ve been in it ever since. I learn something new every day.
I found out about SAGE through a former coworker. He said, “It’s great! You’re off holidays; there are no late hours like in restaurants and hotels.” So I said, “Keep me in mind.” Something opened up in ’95. In ’98, the owners found a position for me in the kitchen at McDonogh. I was there for 18 years.
Wow! Why did you make the transition to NDMU?
A year and a half ago, I found out I had breast cancer. Janet [the McDonogh Food Service Director], the SAGE staff, the whole school staff, Mary White, Mr. and Mrs. Briton [the headmasters], the ladies up in Bowman House, Ann Fleming—they were all very supportive. I must’ve gotten over 300 cards. There were days when it was rough, and I’d pull out those cards, and they got me through.
I hated to leave there, but I needed a change with everything that I’d gone through. Now that I’m cancer-free, I’ve started to look at things differently. I’ll always remember what one nurse said to me: “Look good, feel good, stay positive.” That’s my life motto now.
How has that experience influenced your management style?
I treat everybody like I want to be treated—everybody has different strengths and weaknesses; everybody brings something to the table on a given day. Here at Notre Dame I always say, “We win as a team and we lose as a team.” We all work together and get it done.
What are some of the events you’ve held since arriving at NDMU?
The Notre Dame community is really open and enthusiastic, so we do a lot. We did a fresh-squeezed lemonade stand with all different flavors on a hot day this past spring. For Opening Day, we had a popcorn machine and fresh-roasted meats carved to order. I encouraged the girls to wear their favorite baseball jerseys—I was a Yankees fan in a sea of Orioles jerseys!
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part is getting back in the kitchen and creating things: trying different combinations and techniques, seeing what works best, using the ingredients that you have on hand wisely.
What’s your favorite food to work with?
I like to work with seafood. A lot of people tell me my crabcakes are really good—but I wouldn’t know, because I’m allergic to crab!
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a big fisherwoman, big into the outdoors. If I’m not fishing, I’m down at the beach, hiking through a state park, or riding on my scooter.
What’s kept you with SAGE for so long?
I like the mission and the way things are done. And I like SAGE’s family culture. When Tina and Paco [SAGE’s owners] come in, they know your name. You’re not just a number on the clock to them.