Sodexo Live! Celebrates First Graduates of ProChef Certification Program

Published on : 3/25/24
  • In 2023, Sodexo Live! launched a training program with Lobster Ink, a renowned online hospitality training platform that offers a wide range of culinary courses to individuals who aspire to pursue a career as a chef.

    Through a partnership with the Culinary Institute of America and Ecolab, Lobster Ink offers ProChef 1 culinary certification programs that help develop their skills and knowledge in the kitchen. "Many of our team members have not had formal training," explained Lisa James, Director of Training and Development. "They excel in their roles, but further building a strong technical foundation helps both their career development and Sodexo Live!'s ability to deliver at the level we're known for."

    Sodexo Live! is proud to recognize the first Lobster Ink ProChef culinary certification program graduates. This accomplishment demonstrates their dedication to professional development and commitment to an exceptional guest experience.

    Veronica Arauz, Garde Manger, San Diego Convention Center

    When she joined Sodexo Live! as a garde manger supervisor in 2022, Veronica brought extensive industry experience but limited culinary skills. "Chef Sufi knew that I didn't have the same training as most of the people in the kitchen and that I wanted to grow," explained Veronica. "I was very excited when he nominated me for the Lobster Ink certification."

    Lobster Ink's culinary training programs cover a range of topics, including food safety, culinary techniques, recipe development, and menu planning. The courses are designed to be interactive and engaging, with hands-on activities and assessments to ensure students can apply what they have learned. Thanks to the on-demand nature of the curriculum, Veronica was able to repeat courses to fully grasp the concepts before applying newly learned skills in the kitchen. "I'm still in the learning process. I have a list of things that I sometimes struggle with, and when things are slow, I ask the banquet chef to help with some of the recipes that I find challenging. The more I practice, the easier it becomes and the more I understand."

    "These assessments are more than just a demonstration of knowledge," said San Diego Convention Center Executive Chef Sufi Karaien. "They create a space for asking questions, receiving a variety of answers, and choosing the best solution. These graduates can use their ProChef 1 certification as a starting point to reach new heights in their career."

    Chef Donald Harper, Sous Chef, National Gallery of Art

    Chef Harper started his career in the kitchen when he was 16 years old and refined his skills in DC-area restaurants and universities. "I enjoy being a chef because I like to be challenged," said Harper. "If I don't know something, I want to learn how to do it." 

    Executive Chef Gregory Pittman recommended Chef Harper for the inaugural class of Lobster Ink students. "I knew that Donald needed to build more of a technical foundation to reach the next level," said Pittman. "I also knew he would seize the opportunity to grow and take charge of his career."

    Earning his ProChef certification complemented Chef Harper's years of experience in the kitchen. "I've been able to refine my techniques, which lets me focus more on flavor and menu development. The ongoing training and mentoring I've received with Sodexo Live! has opened doors for me, and I'm ready for the next chapter."

    Chef Patrick Pannia, Sous Chef, Caesar's Superdome and Smoothie King Center

    A New Orleans native, Chef Pannia received his culinary training during eight years of service with the US Army. After that, he worked in casinos, hotels, and restaurants to gain experience in every aspect of the industry. He joined Sodexo at Tulane University in 2017 and moved to Caesar's Superdome in 2021, where he's been instrumental in developing new dining concepts and game day menus. 

    When Chef Pannia first learned of the opportunity to participate in Sodexo Live's Lobster Ink training program, he knew it was an incredible opportunity. "The Culinary Institute of America is one of the most prominent culinary schools in the country," Chef Pannia said. "Not many people are fortunate enough to get this level of training." Chef Pannia juggled classes and his day-to-day responsibilities in the kitchen, finishing the certification program ahead of schedule. "Most chefs who don't go to culinary school learn on the fly. This was the chance to challenge myself and sharpen my skills." 

    The Lobster Ink program also helped Chef Pannia view his role from different perspectives and develop menus that consider food allergies and dietary preferences. "I've been able to experiment with what I've learned about how flavors and ingredients work together to build menus that accommodate everyone." 

    "I am encouraging my colleagues to take advantage of this opportunity. If I can do it, they can too."