January 5, 2017
Chef Spotlight: Chef Bradley Czajka Shares Lentil Soup and Salmon Recipes
Chef Bradley Czajka is the Systems Executive Chef and a valued member of the Food and Nutrition Service team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Bradley went to school for graphic design and later joined the U.S. Air Force. He discovered early on that he liked to travel and decided to become a cook. Bradley was initially stationed outside of London and then Ft. Walton Beach, FL., where Master Sargent Hobdy took an interest in him.
“He walked up to me one day and said, Brad, get in the car right now,” said Czajka. “He took me to a nearby hotel for a private culinary externship.”
At that moment, Chef knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Bradley even worked at the hotel as a side job to help launch his career as a Chef. He still speaks with Msgt. Hobdy on a regular basis and appreciates his coaching and guidance.
Chef Czajka graduated Summa Cum Laude with Associates Degree in Science and Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales. He completed his externship at the Five Diamond Resort, The Cloister, which led to a full-time position when he was just four weeks into his nine-week externship. Since then, he’s led culinary teams at prestigious resorts, including the American Club in Wisconsin; The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island on Lake Michigan; The Commonwealth Club; The Lodge at Koele on Lanai; and The Houstonian. He also worked at the Little Nell in Aspen, CO, which is recognized as one of the world’s top small ski resorts. As part a Morrison Healthcare employee, he has participated in Compass Group North America culinary events, including Masterworks, & Culinary Summit events.
Chef Bradley is passionate about food and believes it’s constantly evolving.
Early in his career, he tried using the showiest of ingredients in his meal preparation. He believes a lot of Chefs do the same and as a result, lose focus on the food, which is the most important part of the meal.
He has since adjusted his culinary philosophy and now lets the chicken shine instead of all the ingredients. Chef believes it is important to know where the chicken comes from and strives to make the food the focal point of every meal.
“I eat healthy, and I’m a huge supporter of farm-to-table,” Chef Czajka shared. “Above all, I want to taste and understand the simplicity of the food I eat.”
Chef Czajka was born in Hawaii, but his Dad was in the Army, so the family moved back to the Chicago area when he was young. Hawaii and Chicago are both culinary hot spots that inspire him. He’s also a Cubs fan and is thrilled that they won the World Series after a 108-year drought.
Bradley enjoys his current role saying, “Working with Morrison Healthcare is giving me the opportunity to do great things that are so much bigger than me. At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we have a hip, upscale food court to work with so I can change the layout while following our Power of Food standards. It’s not the hospital food we grew up thinking about!”
Chef Czajka has some advice for restaurant and resort Chefs: “I encourage more Chefs to consider transitioning to Healthcare for a better work-life schedule and a rewarding career. The opportunity is there, all you have to do is take it and run with it.”
He also adds: “We launch mini-restaurant style concepts and a lot of our offerings are farm-to-table, through a sustainability partnership we formed with The Common Market. They work with local farmers to bring fresh, local produce to the hospital every week. We’re taking Healthcare food to the mainstream!”
Chef Czajka welcomes new challenges, including cooking for low-sodium, gluten-free and diabetic diets. He believes it’s the same thing he’s done his entire culinary career. He also enjoys interacting with the patients at Children’s, adding: “The kids we serve have the best attitudes. When I go on patient room visits, I always lose my Chef’s hat. It’s inspiring and a lot of fun!”
One patient who made a big impression on Bradley was a 17-year-old boy named Demetrius. He, too, wanted to be a Chef and despite being on a liquid diet, was very passionate about cooking. Bradley found a way to get him involved during his stay in the hospital by giving Demetrious a chance to provide input on a new glaze for a barbecued pig Chef Bradley was preparing for a Hawaiian Luau event at Children’s. Demetrious was smiling from ear-to-ear when Chef Bradley presented him with his very own Chef’s coat for the event, as tubes protruded from all parts of his body. Demetrious helped prepare the pig, handed out menus to hospital caregivers and greeted guests as they arrived for the Luau. Needless to say, it turned out to be a powerful bonding experience that brightened Demetrious’ experience at the hospital.
We’re proud to have Chef Bradley Czajka on the Morrison Healthcare Team!