Kevin Borelli, Chef at The MacDuffie School in Granby, MA, has been in food service since 1979, and with SAGE since 1991. Here, Kevin talks about his long history in food service, his leadership strategy, and what keeps him happy in work and at home.
How did you become interested in food service?
I was originally interested in mechanics, so I went to a trade school. When I saw all the baked goods in the culinary arts program [at the school], I suddenly wanted to be a baker. Food has been number one ever since, and I’ve never looked back.
Tell me about your history with SAGE.
I managed dining services accounts for 20 or so years. I came into SAGE as a Chef-Manager—some cooking, [as well as] ordering, payroll, and inventory. But as a young guy in this business, I’d learned a lot about production for 500 people, 1,000 people. I’d really enjoyed being a food production guy, and you get a little rusty [at large-scale food production] when you’re doing more management. So when I got the opportunity to be a Chef, I enjoyed getting back up to speed and cooking for more people.
What makes for a good day at work?
I’m the lunch guy. I make whatever we need for that day, especially the bigger items and entrées, for about 350 people. Our menu is pretty varied and we have gluten-free and dairy-free [community members]. Every day is a hustle, and every day is a reason to turn around and go, “Wow.”
I look at my day as a good day in retrospect. I make a plan the day before, and I dream about it at night. When I go in the next day, I know how I’m going to do it and when. Because I’ve already done the meal in my head 15 different ways, and I’ve picked the way that’s going to work [best]. It makes me happy to execute my plan, to get to the end and go, “Wow. That was seamless.”
How do you work with your Team and keep your kitchen running smoothly?
I let them grow at their own rate. I don’t push them as hard as somebody else might, but I expect them to perform at a level that will free them up to be more versatile, to do more than just the task at hand. They need to be aware of everything that’s going on, not just their part. So I always try to draw people in and say, “Look, I need some help with this,” either during our morning meeting or in passing while we’re working side by side.
What’s special about SAGE?
I’ve always enjoyed working for SAGE because it’s not a huge company. Working for a Sodexo doesn’t make me happy. I’d much rather work for a smaller company, because I feel more connected to the community. We’re more interested in their needs and wants than a big conglomerate that says, “We’re doing this our way whether you like it or not.”
What’s your favorite food?
People always ask me, “What do you like to eat?” And I like pretty much everything. I draw the line at frog legs and tripe, but generally I love food all around—the smell, the touch, everything. I also love other people’s cooking. It makes me happy to see what they’re doing.
What do you do in your spare time?
I have antique cars and a Victorian house, a fixer-upper. When I switched to [culinary arts], I said I’d do mechanics as a hobby, and I still do—I’m very handy. When the weather’s good, I work on my cars. And now that it’s cold, I’ve been sheet rocking and insulating, moving windows and doors, doing the carpenter thing.