Alumni Spotlight Archive
Chef Brian Sode
Brian Sode, 1980 Triton Graduate, Cook Apprenticeship Program; U.S Department of Labor and American Culinary Federation
Chief Executive Chef/The Bear's Club, Jupiter Florida
After graduating from Triton, I received a Foodservice Management Certificate from William Rainey Harper College. I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Business Management from Wilmington College and continued my education to complete a Master of Business Administration degree from Xavier University.
I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Wilmington College in 1996. In October 2010, I received my Certified Master Chef Certification from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY, American Culinary Federation. I have been fortunate enough to win over 30 awards throughout my career including: a Culinary Challenge 2010, Gold Medal, Second Place, Orlando, Fla.; First Place, ACF Silver Medal, Two-Man Mystery Basket at the Columbus Chefs Association Mid-America Show, Columbus, Ohio, in January of 1999; Indianapolis Chapter Culinary Salon, Indianapolis, Ind., ACF Gold Medal, Best of Show, October 1991; Executive Chef, Rookie of the Year Award, Atrium Club, New York, NY, Club Corporation of America, November 1981.
What would you describe as your strong suit?
Longevity at this point. This is my 30th year as an executive chef. I think I possess a great desire to learn and challenge myself constantly. There is so much to learn in this industry and as much as cooking is evolving; it is essentially the same fundamentals that have been around for years. I work very hard at refining my fundamental skills every day. I tend to adhere to the philosophy of good cooking and building flavors in food. I have always remained consistent with that philosophy and I think that adds to my longevity in this industry. I think equally, palate determines success. I have been able to use my palate and gear my cooking style to that particular audience I am serving. Perseverance and consistency are other qualities along with being flexible and adapting to different environments, regions or organizations. Probably the most important though, would be the passion I have for cooking and being a chef.
What have been some obstacles you've had to overcome in pursuit of your educational and career goals?
After spending 15 years with Chiquita Brands International, my department was downsized and outsourced. As a part of a corporate restructuring from a bankruptcy, I had to leave a good job and an area where my children were born and raised. I had to make a new transition to a new job and area, but I was well prepared. It was more difficult in that I had to move my family. I only saw it as another challenge and everything worked out great.
What has served as a source of inspiration both in your career and in your life?
On a personal level, my parents are my single greatest inspiration. They have always worked hard and instilled a great work ethic in me and support in whatever I wanted to do. From a professional level, Chef Jerry Wisniewski and Master Chef Henry Wenzel encouraged me to enter the apprenticeship program at Triton College, provided me with great kitchens to work in, and gave me all the tools for me to be successful. Chef Wenzel gave me my first executive chef job upon my graduating from Triton. Certainly there are many great chefs, like Marco Pierre White, Paul Bocuse, Daniel Boulad, and Jean Banchet whose cooking style and love for cooking inspire me daily.
How has Triton College impacted your life?
After visiting different culinary schools, I decided Triton was the right school for me. Triton was offering an occupational degree and an ACF apprenticeship program where I could still work and go to school at the same time. I thought that suited me perfectly. Triton opened my eyes to the local Chicago cooking scene. There were many adjunct professors and instructors at that time with real work experience in some of the great hotels and restaurants of Chicago. The school had great kitchens to work out of and I always felt great support from the program director at that time, Joe Quaglianao. I still have ties with some classmates from that first apprenticeship graduating class. Triton was definitely the springboard for my career now in its 30th year.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to pursue a career in your field?
This is not an easy profession. You work when others play. It takes a very long time to become proficient at your craft. As an executive chef, you plan, create, conceptualize, organize, build a product, budget that product, refine that product, market that product, deliver that product, work with a team to timely deliver that product and receive feedback on that product all within a day. What other profession can you say that about? It is extremely rewarding. The amount of work you put in, as in any professions, will provide you with the greatest satisfaction or outcomes. Just know that you have to give yourself time, to become good, you have to study the chefs who are successful. Who has lasted the longest? It seems as though many students want to move quickly and have great expectations of propelling their careers as quickly as possible. Plan your career by giving yourself a variety of jobs that allow you to develop your skill set, not only the technical side but the administrative side as well. Be very flexible, work to learn.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy any athletic activity including golf, running, and basketball, as well as just relaxing and reading.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue improving and challenging myself.
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