Emmanuel College Chef/Manager Peter Fernandes is a second-generation Bon Appétiter, but that didn’t get him any special treatment.
After immigrating to the United States from Cape Verde, his father started working at Emmanuel two decades ago, as a part-time utility person. (Even though he’s supposedly retired, he still puts in three days a week at Emmanuel.) Peter, meanwhile, came to work in the Emmanuel dishroom in 2003, when he was in high school. There was no parental pressure to get a job, he says.“Although my dad’s always worked two jobs, he was more focused on me getting a good education.” But Peter wanted to save money for college, and that’s why he showed up to scrub plates for two years.
While putting himself through school at Bridgewater State University, studying criminal justice, he continued to work full time for Bon Appétit. He also started watching his Emmanuel colleagues closely and soon moved up to serving on the line. “I always wanted to learn new stuff,”he says.“I got interested in cooking when I was on the line, and the steamed vegetables would always run out, so I learned to cook that and then rice.”
That was just the beginning. After graduation, he couldn’t find a position in criminal justice, so he stayed on. “Bon Appétit was supposed to be temporary, but it turned out to be a career,” he chuckles, without regret.
Over the years, according to now–District Manager Kelly McDonald, he gradually learned all the positions in the kitchen, always jumping in wherever there was a need.When a full-time position opened several years ago for a late-night supervisor two nights and kitchen manager the other nights, “Peter was the obvious choice,” Kelly says.“He excelled and was always going the extra mile.” When she needed a new sous chef and then a chef/manager, Kelly had no reservations.
Peter is in touch closely with the students, walking the floor, and has implemented many theme nights to keep things feeling fresh. Kelly adds that perhaps because he himself learned so much on the job, Peter is a top-notch trainer.
Grateful for the chance Kelly took in promoting him, Peter has pulled a lot of people up behind him. He says, “90% of my line staff and cooks started as dishwashers and cleaners, cashiers, front-of-the-house staff.” The morning pizza cook, Ulysses da Silva, was a cleaner whose father was the dishroom supervisor: Peter and Valdano Cardoso (another dishroom veteran turned all-around superstar player) trained him to make pizzas on weekends, and he worked his way up to the premier shift. Pasta Cook Edson Cardosa started as a cleaner/dishwasher, doing floors. He’s learned to make all the classic pasta sauces and is a favorite with the students.
“I tell everyone that even though they might be starting in the dishroom, they can still learn something. Just stand next to someone and ask them to show you what they’re doing, or if they don’t have time to show you, ask if you can watch,” explains Peter.
And his advice to other managers looking to help people rise through the ranks? “Be patient. You can’t yell at someone when they’re learning. And you know, they may have to mess up a few times to get perfect at something.”
That is the essence of Bon Appétit culture. As CEO Fedele Bauccio and COO Michael Bauccio have always said, it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you’re learning.