Morrison Healthcare Chef Jeffrey Quasha was recently inducted into the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) honor society as a fellow of the American Academy of Chefs (AAC) – one of the highest honors any chef can receive.
Membership in the honor society culminates in a lifetime of career accomplishments. Inductees must take on various leadership roles in their local ACF chapters and on a national level. AAC inductees must demonstrate that they have helped develop professional future chefs and provide scholarships to aspiring chefs.
Chef Quasha, 44, has worked for Morrison in several roles during his nearly nine years with the company. We asked him nine questions about what the award means to him:
This award represents more than 15 years of outstanding work. What does it mean to you?
It represents the spirit and joy I bring to my work every day. When I began as a chef years ago, and I was working for master chefs at fine dining restaurants in prestigious hotels, I wasn’t concerned about the ACF and certification. I was more concerned about learning, developing my street smarts, getting my hands dirty working every station possible in each kitchen.
But down the road, my attitude changed. I wanted to perform at the highest level of my profession. My wife, who is a doctor, understood the value of certifications, and she inspired me to change my mindset. To be a member of the American Academy of Chefs certainly validates years of hard work and fulfills a career and personal goal. It was an amazing honor just to be nominated by my peers, such as Morrison Chef Joe Kraft.
How have you helped other culinarians and others who want to be chefs?
Honor society members must help educate other culinarians and serve our communities. During the past six years, I’ve served as a culinary evaluator, which means I administer certification exams and acts as an evaluator to anyone applying for ACF culinary certification.
I’ve also been an accreditation evaluator. I’m part of a team that travels to various culinary schools which evaluate the schools and awards their accreditation. These accreditations apply to High School, Vocational, Secondary, and Post- Secondary Program. This is critical for any culinary school because accreditation allows students to know a school meets the minimum standards.
Why is this important work?
Early in my career, I worked for Chef Jose Guiterez at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. He told me his success is not judged by what he accomplishes, but by the achievements of the people he trains. I subscribe to that idea, too. For our industry to be successful, we need bright, dynamic culinarians. So, I help share the knowledge and experience I’ve gained from people like Chef Guiterez.
Serving as an evaluator allows me to give back to my profession and become more involved. I’ve also served in various roles for the ACF Chefs of the Low Country in Savannah, Georgia, including chapter president for the past four years.
What other contributions have you made to the local community?
The ACF requires honor society members to be active with local culinary schools and within local charities and organizations. I’ve served on the Savannah Technical College’s Board of Education and Certifications for more than four years as an education advisor.
As part of the ACF’s Low Country Region, we raise money to create scholarships to pay for the education of those who cannot afford school. We try hard to focus on diversity and inclusion, making sure everyone in our community has the opportunity to go to school and succeed. We’ve awarded several scholarships and plan to award many more.
You’ve done a lot. Talk about your proudest accomplishments.
As a member of the local culinary school’s board, I feel like I’ve come full circle in my career. I’ve been a chef for more than 20 years. When I started, my mentors were two master French chefs who taught me so much.
Now, as a board member, I get to inspire, mentor, and work alongside the future of our industry. Every time I attend a cooking class, summit, food show or speak with students, I learn from every interaction. The schools and their students keep me excited and rejuvenated.
But showing young children the importance of healthy food is important, too. As part of Michelle Obama’s Chef’s Move to Schools program and the ACF Chef and Child Program, I’ve visited many elementary schools throughout the Southeast. A team of local chefs takes over the kitchen for a day, making breakfast and lunch from scratch with locally sourced food. These are often low-income schools with high free and reduced rates that provide free breakfast and lunch programs to all students. So, for them to get a chef-inspired meal can make a difference. To date, our chefs have served more than 22,000 meals across three states.
How do you other chefs improve their skills?
On behalf of the ACF and Morrison Healthcare, I have presented on a wide variety of topics at Food Shows, in Blogs, various Culinary Magazines, and at local schools and meetups. I discuss how to best serve your customers and train your staff; current and emerging trends; building virtual and ghost kitchens and how food can help boost immunity during times like these. The ACF and Morrison Healthcare has educated me, but also a platform to educate others across the country, in wellness, sustainability, and the healing power of food.
Despite a cancer diagnosis a few years ago, you continue to work in the community. Discuss this commitment during a trying time.
A few years ago, at the age of 38, I was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. After six rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, and various other treatments, I’ve had a complete response – in effect, the cancer is in remission. Now, I use my personal experience about how food reacts with medicine or how foods can help heal you from the inside out in many of the recipes we use in our retail concepts. On many nights I’m online serving as a mentor for chefs and recently diagnosed cancer patients, discussing healthy eating, healing foods, and trusting what your body is telling you.
We are glad you have recovered. But talk about what happened several days after breaking your arm?
Two weeks after my cancer diagnosis, with my arm in a sling, I organized and oversaw a local “Chef and Child” event where we fed meals to more than 550 children and teachers that were made from scratch and locally sourced. I had my radiation treatment that morning, and we served lunch in the afternoon. To me, that’s the joy of it all. We committed those kids, and nothing was going to prevent us from delivering on that promise.
You received a promotion in March. Talk about our current job at Morrison.
I’m the new Director of Retail Culinary Innovation. In this role, my team and I develop all retail programs from ideation to implementation in over 800 cafes around the country. The concepts include pop-up restaurants, micro concepts, limited time offers, special events, and holiday promotions.
My charge is to be proactive in our work and help Morrison be positioned for the future. We’re always looking for the next trend, concept, and sustainability program or wellness partner. It’s absolutely the greatest job – I get to play with food every day.