Alumni Stories

Stephen Davis-Heslip

Culinary Management

Executive Chef, Matchbox Food Group
The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta

The Art Institute of Washington alumni Stephen Davis Heslip

My instructors were knowledgeable in the industry, saw potential in me, and encouraged me. They helped me get more organized. Stephen Davis-Heslip , Executive Chef, Matchbox Food Group Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management, 2011 , The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta

Executive Chef, Air Force Veteran, Promotes Creative and Healthy Environment in the Kitchen

Stephen Davis-Heslip is the executive chef at Matchbox Food Group. He is responsible for promoting a safe and healthy work environment and for creating a superior guest experience. Stephen also helps to develop the management team and holds them accountable for developing hourly staff to support the organization’s talent pipeline and growth. “I direct and support the team to ensure the consistent execution of Matchbox Food Group’s quality standards, operating systems, procedures, philosophies, and cultural icons.”

Stephen completed his education with the assistance of the GI Bill. He served for two years as an Airman 1st Class in the United States Air Force. “My instructors at The Art Institute of Washington were knowledgeable in the industry, saw potential in me, and encouraged me. They helped me get more organized.” He says that the education he received wasn’t just about how to cook, it included business and math classes, networking, and problem-solving skills. “Learning those things allowed me to grow in this career. I have grasped skills that help me make good decisions and when math seemed to be a challenge while in college it comes naturally now.”

He admits that the culinary industry is tough and says that students must remain consistent. “Work smarter and learn from the people in your classroom. I received my first job from a classmate who knew that his restaurant had an opening. In addition, get a job in the industry and get the experience early before you graduate. That is the only way to decide if it’s for you or not.”

Stephen is challenged by the small details of his job. He is very organized but says that things can slip through the cracks.  “A crucial part of my job is placing food orders for delivery to make sure it arrives at the restaurant on-time. Also, sometimes a customer is not satisfied or I’m receiving comments about an employee. Those types of issues can prevent me from doing my job and having a successful day.” He handles this by troubleshooting and communicating with his team. “Even when you follow proper protocol, something wrong can still happen. The goal is to make sure your set up for success.”

In 2011, Stephen earned a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management from The Art Institute of Washington. He says his hard work was rewarded when he was promoted to the role of executive chef. “The determination was always there from when I was a child. I always wanted to cook. I knew it made me happy and I knew it made others happy when I would cook for them. So, I decided to stick with that feeling and I left a job I was unhappy with and enrolled at The Art Institute of Washington so that I can do something I loved to do for the rest of my life.”

He supports his team by being available to them—even on his days off. “My team knows they can depend on me. That comes with a lot of responsibility and pressure on my end, but that same confidence has prepared me for a rewarding career. At work, creativity is really important. My team knows if they have ideas or suggestions on how to improve, I’m all for it. The impact I’m making at my job is to ensure that people are trained and have the skills they need to teach someone else.”

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