Behind most successful endeavors lie years of intense preparation and hard work. And behind ARAMARK’s reinvention of the dining common’s food system stands new executive chef Christian Thormose.
Chef Thormose completed a four-year apprenticeship at Søllerød Kro, a well-known inn and restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. He also served as le chef petit at a restaurant in Paris for three years, where he alone accounted for the seafood division. He has also worked as the executive chef at several country clubs, while at the same time writing weekly food columns for The Daily Journal of Seneca, S.C. Five years ago, he joined ARAMARK, a company that provides food services and facilities management to universities and other institutions.
Working for ARAMARK has helped Chef Thormose stay educated on culinary trends. “I was a little reluctant [about working for ARAMARK] at first because I really didn’t know anything about them,” he said. “But the company has been fantastic.” He recently completed the ProChef Certification program at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., at ARAMARK’s prompting.
Additionally, Chef Thormose was able to participate in the Southeast region’s team for ARAMARK’s Culinary Excellence (ACE) competition. Three competitions are held annually in each region of North America between 10-12 local chefs, and the collective winners then create a team that proceeds to a national tournament. These challenges serve to keep the chefs updated on culinary trends, as well as allowing them to exercise their full skill sets creatively in ways they might not be able to otherwise.
ARAMARK has catered 14 Olympic Games since 1968, and Chef Thormose catered at the two most recent games in Beijing and London.
“It’s interesting because we throw chefs from all over the world together into one big pot, and we all have to work together,” Chef Thormose said. He served as a catering chef for six weeks at the Europe/Americas/Mediterranean station. Chef Thormose said he felt fortunate to work in a public area where he had the privilege of providing food for both spectators and athletes, including Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.
His demanding schedule leaves insufficient time for hobbies outside of cooking. Off the clock, he avoids chain eateries, ultimately seeking “real restaurants.” But what constitutes a real restaurant? “I just want well-prepared, good food,” Chef Thormose explains. “It doesn’t have to be fancy.”
Although he has worked in very diverse environments, Chef Thormose said the culture of BJU is unlike any atmosphere he’s found himself in before. “The attitudes and work ethics of the people here are dramatically different,” he said. “They’re phenomenal compared to what I’m used to.”
He anticipates smoothing the kinks out of the staff’s routines, acknowledging there is still a significant amount of work to be done; still, he remains confident the ARAMARK team will arrive at the place where they strive to be. “I’m looking forward to the day that I can stand back, look at the whole [project] and say, ‘Everything is working just the way it’s supposed to be,’” he said.