Tracy Wilczek Christie Becchetti Hi Res

Relationship Goals: FLIK Chefs + FLIK Dietitians

Liz Canepari Rolando Rivera

Dietitian Liz Canepari & Chef Rolando Rivera

For the longest time, I considered chefs and dietitians to mix about as well as oil and water. We’re just on the total opposite end of the spectrum – both disciplined in our fields, but one more regimented, the other more creative.  

If I close my eyes and think about how to define a “dietitian,” I imagine a woman in a crisp skirt and pressed blouse literally lining up yellow rubber ducks in a row, tail to nose, tail to nose. The precision and attention to detail is key.

And, if I keep my eyes closed and think about the word “chef,” the image of a painter comes to mind – wet brushes in hand, flinging bright colors at four walls, creating an exquisite masterpiece, but without rhyme or reason.

And then I started to work for FLIK.

Danielle Cushing Jovanny Zepeda 1

Chef Jovanny Zepeda & Dietitian Danielle Cushing

Dietitians are known to be Type A. We like systems. We like to see projects through from start to finish. We’re very into crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s and I thought that was exclusive to our profession.

As it turns out, so are chefs.

The chef I share an office with, Executive Chef Jovanny Zepeda, is a self-proclaimed “Systems Guy.” His desk smells of Clorox Wipes and his bulletin board is neatly papered with laminated café planograms. 

In the beginning, I thought Chef Zepeda was an anomaly, but I’ve learned that this is how FLIK Chefs operate – purposefully and methodically.

I’m not alone in this discovery.

“[Executive Chef Christie Becchetti’s] resume includes working at Alinea in Chicago, so she immediately had a comfort level with measuring and weighing ingredients and following recipes,” says Tracy Wilczek, Nutrition Director, FLIK Hospitality Group.

Tracy Wilczek Christie Becchetti

Dietitian Tracy Wilczek & Chef Christie Becchetti

From a nutrition standpoint, kitchen systems and ingredient precision – measuring, weighing, following recipes – guarantee accurate nutrition information. From a culinary standpoint, these systems guarantee consistency. And from a business standpoint, they guarantee predictable food cost. At the end of the day, these three things work in tandem to leave an impression on our clients and our guests.

“It’s been great working with [Chef Becchetti] who I know is holding her team to the standards our client demands,” says Wilczek.

Chefs and Dietitians may play different roles in execution, but our end goals are the same and that inherently makes us teammates.

“[The FLIK Dietitians] are all so willing to take on any task necessary to get the job done,” says FLIK Hospitality Executive Chef David Joyce. “Not only the nutrition/dietitian responsibilities, but operational, service-related, organizational, educational, and culinary. Whatever it takes.”

Chef Becchetti agrees. “It’s refreshing to work with someone who is passionate and full of knowledge,” she says of Wilczek. “It helps push me to learn more and be better each day.”

And the dietitians could say the same for the FLIK Chefs as well. When I ask Chef Zepeda to jump, his response is always, “How high?” (But not before asking “Why, How, When,” and, “Do I have to?”)

Sandy Koehler Dale Schnell 1

Chef Dale Schnell & Dietitian Sandy Koehler  

Across the country, FLIK Chefs and Dietitians share office space and kitchen space, collaborate on menus and events, and – maybe most importantly -- eat together a lot. During my tenure with FLIK, I’ve learned that although chefs and dietitians seem different on the surface, we’re pretty similar at the core.

So I guess we’re not like oil and water after all. We’re more like peanut butter and jelly… or cookies and cream… or a burger and fries… You pick! As long as we’re following the recipe and measuring our ingredients. 

Written by Danielle Cushing, RD, LDN

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