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Chefs to Watch: Sodexo’s Chef Dave McHugh creates a kinder kitchen

When Dave McHugh was learning the ropes of the kitchen, disrespect came standard. Now at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, he’s not only busting myths about mean chefs; he’s actively participating in international humanitarian efforts to help formerly incarcerated people and refugees.


Back when Sodexo Executive Chef Dave McHugh was just a teen and technically too young to work, he talked his way into a restaurant job in Rochester, NY. He started by washing the boss’ car, then washing dishes.

After pursuing his chef dreams in better and better jobs all over the world, McHugh eventually found himself in charge. He initially followed the methods he’d learned in kitchens: Lots of yelling, intimidation, passive-aggressive behavior and generally acting like a huge jerk to get results. But over the years, he’s changed his tune, big time.

With years of learning better ways to lead, McHugh is committed to providing a “kinder, gentler” workplace that’s still results-driven. He makes a point of hiring people who are overcoming the impacts of incarceration, homelessness and foster care by working with Kitchens for Good and the International Rescue Committee, which helps refugees from all over the world get settled and find meaningful work.

He looks back at learning experiences he’s had, and how he’s committed to writing a better future for foodservice. We also talk about McHugh’s plans for the future at Point Loma Nazarene University, where classes are in-person and the team is dealing with the same labor and supply shortages as everyone else. He has some tips and tricks to deal with that, too.

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