Meet Vlad, our Innovations Chef/Director of Food here at Be Fresh. He’s the one coming up with all our fun new products (vegan aquafaba mayo anyone?). Read on to hear about his move from medical IT to this role, his love for his family, and his outside-of-work hobbies, including camping, brewing, and cheesemaking.
A younger Vlad enjoying the outdoors like the well-rounded guy he is.
You’re the Innovations Chef/Director of Food here at Be Fresh. How would you concisely describe your role?
My role as Innovations Chef is to create new and exciting products for our BeFresh markets and SPUD.ca. As part of this role, extensive research goes into the development process, such as market trends, health and fitness trends and target audience analysis. My other role as Director of Food is to oversee the entire line of products branded BeFresh, ensuring consistency in taste and presentation. This involves working with the commissary staff to a set of standards, communicating with managers, leads and frontline employees at BeFresh, as well as working with several departments at SPUD. Part of this role is also making sure that all products are handled in a safe and recognized manner (Foodsafe, HACCP..etc). This includes working with facilities personnel to ensure all equipment and facilities are compliant to CFIA, and local health and other authorities’ standards.
Tell us about your career path. How did you get here?
My career path is a long and very winding road, I have worked in every aspect of the food industry, from sales to manufacturing, high end dining to casual ski resort operations, restaurant front and back of house, management to ownership, and intimate to large-scale caterings. In total, I’ve spent about 30 years creating wonderful experiences for customers along the way, always driven by a passion for great tasting food and a curiosity for new ingredients. I’ve ventured off this path several times into fields unrelated, such as an IT systems engineer and a General Contractor and Electrical apprentice, although during these times I maintained my catering presence.
My path to SPUD was rather serendipitous. I was catering a rather large and remote function on Thetis Island for a friend of my sister’s. While out for a hike with Laura (our Director of Community here at Be Fresh), my sister mentioned the catering to her, and she mentioned that Peter (our CEO) was looking for a “person who loves food” kind of chef. I met Peter for coffee last March…the rest is history.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
The most rewarding part of the job is being able to create an array of unique and wonderful food products and ideas to a vast audience of food consumers, from vegan to carnivore, from young to old. Knowing people can appreciate getting a quality, great tasting product, which they can enjoy at home, on the road, or in one of our cafes is the satisfaction of a job well done.
What is the hardest part of your job?
So far the biggest hurdles and challenges have been working around the schedule of an ever so crazy production kitchen. Due to the high volume of orders and size limitations of the kitchen, working on small developmental projects places a very big monkey wrench into the gears.
In a key role like yours, work must take up a lot of time. How do you balance your work and personal life?
Finding work-life balance is never easy, however, due to the flexibility of my hours (working around peak kitchen hours), and not being stuck in traffic for hours allows me to see more of my family. 50% of my development happens in my home kitchen where I’m able to involve my kids “to help”. Also being blessed with deep-sleep genes, I’m able to work on 5-6 hrs daily and have done so my entire life.
When not at work, we know you love to brew some amazing homemade beer (aka Gingerbread beer!). What else do you enjoy doing outside of work?
When not cooking or creating for work I’m cooking and creating for the family. Outside of that, there are always projects that involve food in some way, whether that’s brewing, canning, baking, cheesemaking, curing meat, sausage making, gardening (hydroponic and soil). As well, we spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking, cycling (used to race), camping etc. Downtime includes a good non-fiction book, my latest read is “The New Farm”.
If you could offer one piece of advice to any novice cook, what would you say?
Going into any career, you must bring a passion for what you do and a yearning to acquire knowledge. I have mentored and apprenticed many a young talent who have gone onto being great chefs, managers, servers etc. From those that have excelled, all brought a sense of passion and a keen sense of wanting to learn.