He may only be 29, but Adam Miller is well on his way to establishing himself in the noncommercial foodservice industry as a hard-worker and a rising star (though he'd hardly admit to the star part). Having earned a bachelors degree in hotel, restaurant and travel administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Miller, 29, is currently the general manager for Pace University Foodservices, a relatively newly-acquired Lackmann Culinary Services account with four campuses between New York City and Westchester. Back in college, Miller fell in love with business dining and contract foodservice after a brief summer internship with a major contract management company. After graduation, he worked at several Manhattan B&I accounts for another management company. Six years later, looking for additional opportunities, Miller joined Lackmann Culinary Services.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A chef! I would come home from school, do my homework and cook dinner. I loved food. I loved to eat it. I loved to cook it. I love everything about it.
But you aren't a chef...What happened?
When I was in high school, I started thinking more seriously about what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't want to sit behind a desk all day, and, as I mentioned, I loved food and the service industry as well. I applied to culinary schools like Johnson and Wales as well as traditional four year colleges like UMass. Aftera lot of thought, I decided to go to UMass.
What attracted you to noncommercial foodservice?
I did an internship with Sodexho my junior year working in B&I accounts. The hours were ideal. That was when I started looking at noncommercial as a viable career choice. So much so that in my senior year, I did an independent study of business dining and contract foodservice. As part of my coursework, I put together mock RFPs for many different types of accounts in the industry.
Did you come across anything unexpected post-grad?
Right out of the gate, I was running a kitchen. Lets just say learning about an operation on paper is considerably different than running one. It's important to understand every facet. I knew about food, production, cost control and HACCP, but I'd never tried to manage them in a real life situation. I wasn't as surprised as I was under prepared. I had to work really hard to get a handle on things in a short amount of time. Those first few weeks taught me a lot about the back of the house, as well as the importance of hands-on education. Now I can confidently manage both the back and the front of an operation.
What is the most essential characteristic of someone in your position?
You have to be flexible without allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. You have to be able to deal with different types of personalities and still keep everyone happy, ensure quality and maintain professionalism.
What skills would you like to learn or develop further?
From a food point of view, I think my culinary background could use some buffing. I'd like to learn more about food prep and exotic cuisines, too. From a management point of view, I need to work on communication skills so that I can truly understand the needs of my team and help them achieve their goals and progress in their careers.
What are some life experiences that have helped you in your career?
Travelling around the world has opened my eyes to different cultures and different foods. It helped me to see the world from a different cultural point of view, which, as a manager, has helped me work with differnt types of personalities.
If you had to pick a different career, what would it be?
I'd love to own my own restaurant. And someday, hopefully, I will.
Do you cook?
I do and I love to cook just about everything. I'm pretty good at Italian foods, and I make some really tasty fish dishes. I would love to learn more about Asian cuisine, though.
What food trends interest you?
I have to credit the college segment for piquing my interest in gourmet grab-and-go foods. Students are in such a hurry, but they have high expectations. Gourmet grab-and-go items such as Wolfgang Puck's line really cater to this generation's wants and needs.
After having worked them both, which do you like more: business dining or college foodservice?
I loved working in b&i. The hours were unbeatable, but unfortunately it can be kind of repetitious. In the college environment, while the hours are a bit longer, every day is different. I love being around a younger, more energetic group of customers in an atmosphere that is continually changing. So I guess it's a tie.