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Meet Michael Chow, Helping Shape Future Leaders

Articles, From Our Kitchen

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Mike Chow, Food Service Director at Crofton House School in Vancouver, British Columbia, is known for his inspiring and approachable demeanor. With over 28 years in the food service industry, he’s honed his culinary and leadership skills, but his knack for relationship-building and exceptional customer service makes him a client favorite.

“Mike is a respected and well-liked member of our community, extremely easy to work with,” Crofton House Director of Finance Karen Choi said. “I appreciate that he’s open to feedback.”

His rise through SAGE, leadership abilities, flexibility, and continued contributions to SAGE’s Recipe Collection set Mike apart. He joined the company as a Prep Cook in 2015 and rose through the ranks, serving as a Lead Cook and later Assistant Food Service Director of Catering. In 2021, Mike was promoted to Food Service Director, a testament to his passion and dedication to culinary arts and hospitality.

“Mike has been a breath of fresh air ... SAGE should be proud to have a chef of his caliber at the helm of one of their schools,” Crofton House Director of Operations and Information Technology Marc Bouvier said.

What are the keys to his success? SAGE District Manager James McClellan shared that Mike’s “approachable and open to new things.” Above all, he “works beside his team and is always looking out for them.”

A Dining Team with a Family Dynamic

When asked about the dining services team at Crofton House, Mike said the core group has been around since SAGE began service there. “We’ve turned into a small family, really, with a family dynamic.” The team comprises people of “all different ages and different experiences, and somehow they all meld together.”

Mike’s close relationship with his team is vital to his success. Having started as a Prep Cook, he understands each Team Member’s challenges and experiences. Mike shared that the key to leading his team is showing appreciation for them. It’s important to him to take time to show how much he values each Team Member’s contribution.

“It makes my job a lot harder if they’re not doing their job well. I want to let them know that I appreciate them making my job easier and that they’re doing a great job,” he said. Throughout the year and over breaks, Mike plans team get-togethers and outings, helping build and maintain camaraderie.

Helping to Shape Future Leaders

James McClellan shared, “He’s not in it for the glory. He’s in it to do the right thing.” And that “right thing,” if you were to ask Mike, is helping students grow. “Having been at the school for such a long time,” he said, “you develop relationships with the community. I love the students; it’s great to see them from start to finish [throughout their years at Crofton House].”

“We’re helping shape our future leaders. [Crofton House] push[es] their students to be the best they can. Yes, we’re feeding their bellies, but we’re also feeding their minds. We’re helping them be the best they can, be the best athletes they can. It’s amazing to see them develop and grow, partly because of what we do.”

A Company with a “Small” Feel

When asked about his favorite thing about working with SAGE, Mike shared, “I like the feel of the company.” He explained, “I’ve worked with companies that were small and family-owned that grew, and it felt different. The feel that Tina and Paco [Rodriguez] have created is incredible for the size of it. I’ve met Tina and Paco, and they know me. They know their Managers. With other companies, you don’t get to meet the owners or executives. For them to take time out of their lives to meet all the Managers at the venues is a great thing; it’s an environment that’s incredible to work for.”

A Champion for Allergy-Safe Dining

To date, Mike’s contributed almost 30 recipes to SAGE’s Recipe Collection, a database of recipes analyzed by our Registered Dietitians and tagged for allergens and eating patterns, such as vegan or vegetarian. Having food allergies himself and in his family, Mike’s submitted many allergen-safe recipes of existing dishes and vegan or vegetarian versions like Vegan Shepherd’s Pie and Vegetarian Gravy. It’s become a mission for him to expand the offerings at Free Style™, our allergen-safe concept.

Before SAGE launched Free Style™, Crofton House School served as a beta-test venue. Mike received tremendous positive feedback from the community and continues to run Free Style™ as a permanent station. Most of all, he’s enjoying being able to give students “the opportunity to enjoy the same foods as everyone else. No longer having to bring food from home, or not eat, or just eat plain rice.”

Mike’s made it a mission to ensure every community member can find something to eat, regardless of their dietary requirements or preferences. “We’ve taken it a step further to include our halal community. Now our halal community can enjoy our food as well and feel good about it. A parent pulled me aside and said, ‘What you’ve done is incredible. [My child doesn’t] have to worry about not eating.’ And that they can enjoy their day too, which takes a lot off of them [knowing that their child has options].”

Low and Slow

When he’s not creating menus and overseeing dining, Mike likes to experiment with slow cooking and smoking. “I love the way it develops — tasting from beginning to end and experiencing the change. I love the way food does that with just heat.” And when he’s crunched for time, a hamburger is an easy choice; you “can go simple or dress it up.”

Fun fact: Mike submitted the Chicken Ciabatta with Swiss Chard and Shiitake Aïoli recipe that was named one of Food Management’s Best Sandwiches in 2022.

“There’s always something new to learn, no matter how long you’re in the industry.” – Michael Chow


Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (GF) Servings: 6

⅔ cup dried lentils 2 cauliflower heads 3 fresh, peeled garlic cloves, divided ¾ cup unsweetened rice milk ¾ cup diced carrots 1 fennel bulb 1 medium yellow onion 2 fresh tomatoes 2 portobello mushrooms 2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided 2 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper, divided ¼ cup frozen corn kernels 1 tablespoon vegetable oil ¾ cup vegetable broth ¼ cup frozen green peas Fresh basil to taste  

STEP 1: Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

STEP 2: Place lentils in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Simmer until tender. Strain and discard water.

STEP 3: Cut cauliflower into florets. Chop garlic. Scald rice milk. Peel and dice carrots. Trim, core, and dice fennel. Skin and dice onion. Core and dice tomatoes. Slice mushrooms. Pick and chiffonade basil by cutting into thin ribbons.

STEP 4: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add cauliflower and simmer for 20 minutes.

STEP 5: Strain cauliflower and add half the amount of garlic. Place in a food processor and slowly add rice milk, pulsing after each addition. Keep adding rice milk until the mixture looks like mashed potatoes. Add three quarters of the amount of salt and pepper.

STEP 6: In a large skillet, sauté tomatoes, onions, carrots, corn, and fennel in vegetable oil. Once onions become translucent, remove the mixture from the pan.

STEP 7: Sauté mushrooms and add the carrot mixture back into the pan. Cook an additional 4 minutes. Add vegetable broth and remaining garlic. Continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed.

STEP 8: Mix lentils and vegetables together in a bowl. Add peas, basil, and the remaining salt and pepper.

STEP 9: Place the vegetable mixture on the bottom of casserole dish and top with cauliflower mash. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is slightly browned.

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