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Finding Your Sweet Spot: When Your Passion and Career Collide

Tony’s Passion and Career Collide at Morrison Healthcare

Do you envision a specific career path? Maybe you know there are certain things you want to spend your working hours doing: helping others, staying active, or being creative. Alternatively, maybe your family’s history is rooted in a career path you admire, so you’ve considered taking that journey. But when we boil it down, many of us are generally seeking the same thing: a career where our passions and talents come together in a meaningful way.

Meet Tony Spoon. Today, Tony is a sous chef with Morrison Healthcare but he grew up with plans of becoming a firefighter. When he turned 16, Tony became a volunteer fireman in Jefferson City, Tenn. Once Tony graduated from high school in 2014, he earned his emergency technician’s degree and joined the department full time. Serving as a fireman was part of his childhood dream. His family’s traditions were tied to a responsibility for the lives of people in his community, so joining the Jefferson City Fire Department made sense.

Tony Spoon

Each month, Tony’s department responded to about 100 calls from first responders ranging from medical emergencies to people injured in car crashes. On one occasion there was a woman at a nearby nursing home who had a heart attack. “We arrived at the home and helped revive and transport her to the hospital. It was a good feeling to know that our quick action helped save her life.”

Often, Tony transported injured people to the Jefferson Memorial Hospital, only two miles from the fire department. Over time, he enjoyed many meals in the Morrison café at Jefferson Memorial and started building a relationship with Susan Murphy, a Morrison Systems Director and Jefferson Memorial’s food service director.

Tony shared his love for cooking with Susan and one day asked for a part-time job.

At the time, Tony was only 20 years old but Susan saw something in him and believed in his potential. “From our conversations, I knew he enjoyed cooking,” she says. “But he also cares about people, so I started him out on the retail line. He has an engaging personality, a real Southern charm, and he relates well to the customers.”

In no time, Tony’s station quickly became a favorite stop for hospital staff and guests, where he prepared food on the grill.

“He enjoyed asking customers their opinions and what ingredients they wanted on their entrées. Customers would ask him to make Southern-style omelets and make other special requests,” Susan says. Even when he wasn’t cooking at the hospital, Susan was still aware food was on his mind: “When he wasn’t here, he’d send me photos from the fire station of the meals he was cooking for the firemen on duty.”

Susan soon promoted Tony from the retail line to a cook and suggested he consider a career as a chef. She encouraged Tony along this path by giving him more hours at the café—for Tony, this meant more opportunities to practice his passion.

Tony began learning new skills like cooking large quantities of food for hundreds of café guests. Early on, Tony’s food prep wasn’t exactly by the book. You see, Tony has a love for hot sauce which often found its way onto omelets and chicken wings—something common in the South, but not so much in hospital café cuisine.

He wanted to invent his own entrees. Susan said, “He’d say, ‘Boss, let me make baloney parm’.  Of course, I would never let him do that. We just needed to take that creativity and give it some structure.”

In October 2016 Tony’s career break became possible when Morrison was named Lakeway Regional Hospital’s foodservice provider. Lakeway Regional, another Tennessee hospital is only 25 miles from Jefferson City. Susan transferred Tony to the Lakeway team and promoted him again, this time to senior cook.

Over the next three months, he learned how to run a kitchen and develop a menu. He cooked for patients and café guests, ordered the food and oversaw the inventory.  “He went into that kitchen and owned it, ran it like a champ,” Murphy says. Three months later, he quit his job at the fire department and become a full-time cook at the hospital.

Susan advocated for Tony’s growth and development again in mid-2017 and nominated him for Morrison’s Manager in Training (MIT) program. Tony enrolled in September 2017 and worked for 12 weeks at five different hospital cafés in Tennessee and Indiana, including Physicians Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, soaking up knowledge about culinary skills from several long-time chefs. “I learned a lot from the chefs and executive chefs about presentation and how to use seasonings,” he says. “It really fine-tuned my culinary skills.”

But Tony, who is managing seven people at his new job, also learned valuable management techniques that differ from those he experienced as a firefighter.

“At the fire hall, if I didn’t do my job, I would be criticized. But that’s not the right style here. Sometimes I need to slow down and stay open to other ways of thinking. I need to listen to each person and create a team atmosphere by helping them out.”

Susan says these lessons complement Tony’s desire to grow while also helping him focus on the customer experience. “The food service director Physicians Regional told me that Tony went to his office to find out if the patients liked his food,” Susan recalled. “The director said that’s never happened before. It’s just Tony’s way. He wants to prepare food that ‘wows’ people.”

But what about Tony’s first love as a firefighter? Even though his career is off and running with Morrison, he still works as a firefighter and EMT nearly every weekend at two nearby speedways.

“I decided to become a chef because I have a passion for cooking,” Tony says. “I still want to care for people in need, so now I have two occupations where I can give it my all. And with my cooking, I’m able to help people eat right and stay healthy.  So I feel very good about my choices.”

Today, Tony is the new sous chef at Newport Medical Center in Newport, Tenn. He’s living in that sweet spot we’re all eager to find: the place where our passions and talents collide.

Join the Morrison Healthcare Family

Looking for meaningful work helping people? Do you want to marry your passions and serving others? Check out available team member or management opportunities to join the Compass One Healthcare and Morrison Healthcare family. We believe in the Power of Food to change lives and are proud of the opportunities we have each day to help people and serve alongside world-class clients.

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