The area around Kelowna in British Columbia is nothing if not inspiring for Chef Brent Durec and the customers who visit him and his colleagues for Business Reviews and menu consultations. “We work with customers one-on-one,” says Durec. “We discuss product innovation and do testing and training, but my number one thing is helping them succeed. We try to make their business more profitable.”
Passionate About Food
Introducing customers to new tastes is a pleasure for Durec, who credits his Ukrainian grandmother’s cooking with first piquing his interest in the culinary arts. “Cooking came naturally,” he says. One of his grandmother’s signature dishes—stuffed cabbage rolls—is still a favorite. Before coming to Sysco, Durec held a variety of jobs in foodservice, including working in hotels and at a golf course. But it wasn’t until his early 20s (he’s now 48) that he decided to attend cooking school. “And I never looked back.” he says. “Cooking allows you to express your creativity.”
My number one thing is
helping [customers] succeed.
We try to make their
business more profitable.
Chef Brent Durec
Durec has been with Sysco for 15 years, with just over six of those in his current role as Culinary Consultant. He previously worked in purchasing and sales and even as a protein specialist. “We’re pretty lucky,” he says. “We’re small here compared with some Sysco operating companies, and we’re a super-tight group.” His favorite parts of the job is interacting with customers, exploring new products and seeking out what will be the next big thing in foodservice. “You get to do something different every day,” he explains. “I’m constantly on the hunt for food trends, such as plant-based foods, sustainable products and healthier choices.”
Durec is happy to have so many family farms in the Kelowna area offering a direct pipeline of fresh produce—and even local cheese. “We try to use as much local product as we can.” And while Kelowna is a 4½-hour drive from Vancouver and all of its varied seafood offerings, Durec says daily deliveries keep them well-stocked with fresh fish and shellfish. Not surprisingly, in this part of the world, salmon is king. When not working, Durec is often involved with food in some way. He is on the board of several local organizations, including the British Columbia Restaurant & Food Services Association, and he and his colleagues do charitable work in the community. Last year, Sysco Kelowna donated nearly 100,000 pounds of fresh and frozen produce to local food banks. “If we can’t sell it, we can help feed local families,” says Durec. “That’s a win-win.”