Chef Mary Locke joined the Nestlé Professional Chef2Chef team in April 2014. As part of the Chef2Chef mission, she delivers innovative and on-trend menu concepts that are flavorful, profitable, and well-supported with the resources necessary to be relevant with food service chefs. She is responsible for building relationships and driving sales with targeted operators in the upstate and metro New York markets, while supporting CSMs and broker partners in their efforts against focus channels. A graduate of Monroe Community College, in Rochester, NY, she brings more than 30 years of food service experience with her. Chef Mary’s career blossomed during a 9-year tenure with Aramark, as a chef manager, resident district chef, and director of operations for 18 units, eventually being named associate district manager. Before joining Nestlé Professional, she served as a noncommercial specialist at food service brokerage Advantage Waypoint. She lives on one of the smaller Finger Lakes in upstate New York with her partner and three 4-legged companions, and loves to sail, walk, and listen to the waves.
Q. When did you first realize you wanted to work with food for a living? What people or experiences influenced you coming up in your early years as a culinary professional?
A. My sister got me my first job at a friend’s restaurant and I instantly loved the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. I would also grocery shop for my parents and cook them dinner.
Q. A lot of your background has been in noncommercial food service, at Aramark and at Advantage Waypoint. Do you continue to focus on this channel now that you’re at Nestlé Professional?
A. At Aramark, I loved campus life, the students, and the whole cycle of the school year. My heart definitely belongs in higher education, so I tend to lean that way as far as operators go. I can relate to the highs and lows of campus life and share my experiences with customers.
Q. What special challenges do noncommercial clients have versus restaurants and hotels? What opportunities?
A. Certainly the opportunities are trendy foods and Action Stations; we excel at those and can make the operator’s life so much easier with all of our tools. I wish someone would have walked into one of my operations back in the day with ready-made stations, recipes, and prep guides! Challenges are always contracts and distribution.
Q. What skills did you build at Advantage?
A. During my two years as a noncommercial specialist I also had many culinary responsibilities, from customer demonstrations to manufacturer support at events.
Q. What continues to excite you about food and cooking?
A. I love to share ideas and flavors with people. Nothing makes me happier than to watch someone smile after feeding them something they really enjoyed.
Q. What inspires you most about working for Nestlé Professional?
A. Being a part of such a strong, experienced, and knowledgeable team is both an honor and a privilege. Working with the leading brands in the industry makes me both proud and confident when supporting operators.
Q. How do you keep current with what’s going on in the food and food service world? It sounds like you travel quite a bit, for instance.
A. Certainly trade magazines, blogs, and dining out in some great cities are a part of it, but also my American Culinary Federation chapter and peers are a huge part of it. I’m not much for television cooking shows—the only ones I watch are “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “A Chef’s Life.”
Q. What food and dining trends do you see developing now that are most interesting or challenging to you?
A. I love the continuing evolution of local, artisanal food and the following it has. I am always drawn to the small, local establishments and the creative talents behind them.
Q. What’s next for you? Anything on your life list that you would like to accomplish next?
A. I completed my ACF CEC [Certified Executive Chef] Certification last year, which was a milestone for me career-wise. Perhaps finishing my BA will be next. Personally, I’d love to take a cooking class in Italy soon, and master my new sailboat.