An outgoing personality and collaborative, can-do spirit have helped Candace Lewis achieve success in her career as a chef and Culinary Consultant at Sysco Eastern Maryland. “As the industry is changing, I’ve found that I’ve become more of a resource for restaurateurs than ever,” she says. “The overall goal is to make sure our customers are successful and supported, and to help them grow their business.”
A California transplant with a passion for baking, Chef Lewis worked in a variety of roles in West Coast restaurants before coming east. At Sysco Maryland, she enjoys working collaboratively to solve business and culinary challenges for her customers. “Every day is different,” she says. “I’ll have a down-home seafood customer in the morning and a fine-dining steakhouse in the afternoon.” Her customers have one thing in common: “Everybody that comes to me needs help,” Lewis says. “They understand I’m open, willing to share ideas. My attitude is, ‘Let’s talk, let’s collaborate.’”
Save Labor, Serve Local
In Maryland, crab is king, and other seafood makes up the rest of the royal family. “We launched a fresh seafood program about three years ago,” says Lewis. “We’ve been able to corner some of the local market by doing portion cuts. It doesn’t cost much more, it’s 100% yield and ready for the pan,” saving lots of labor and time. Because restaurants today are looking to cut labor costs, Lewis often asks customers about how they prepare specific products. For example, she might ask, “Do we have a prebreaded fried shrimp, such as Portico Classic Butterflied Breaded Shrimp, that’s close to what you’re making now and that wouldn’t require someone to sit in your kitchen and bread shrimp all day?”
[Customers] understand I’m open, willing to share ideas. My attitude is, ‘Let’s talk, let’s collaborate.’
Working as a Team
Lewis enjoys working on a business resource team full of other big personalities. “We all have our roles,” says Lewis, referring to her colleagues—a team of specialists led by Marketing Manager Joni Hamilton and Director of Business Resources Kevin Hughes. “We rely on each other for support because we’re looking out for the best interest of the customer.” Members of Lewis’ team regularly give to local food banks and deliver guest lectures to educate the next generation of culinarians. Lewis, who grew up in a military family, is also personally invested in supporting members of the armed forces.
Lewis also makes it a point to stay ahead of restaurant trends so she can better serve her customers. “When you enjoy your work, researching and reading about the food business isn’t a chore,” says Lewis. What does she think will be the next big thing? “I am seeing more interesting fusion concepts, like a German-Mexican food truck. After work, I’m excited to go try it out.”