Terrence Anthony Tookes
Corporate Executive Chef, Darden Restaurants
The Art Institute of Atlanta
[My education] gave me the skills and confidence to be a critical thinker—but to know when to allow others who are better suited for the take to take the lead. Terrence Anthony Tookes , Corporate Executive Chef, Darden Restaurants Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management, 2014 , The Art Institute of Atlanta
Terrence Tookes is a corporate executive chef for Darden Restaurants in Orlando, Florida. He is responsible for developing innovative Italian-American menu items that drive brand loyalty and repeat businesses. He says that a typical day starts with a team meeting, then moves on to tastings with vendors. Finally, he spends the rest of his day either in a local restaurant or in the test kitchens.
Terrence says that working within such a large restaurant group means it’s imperative that he continues to lead from the front while consistently striving to create food that brings people back for more. “Day in and day out we are challenged to improve systems and recipes that are already used in the restaurant, as well as research and develop new systems and recipes that are edgy but drive down the complexity—so that it can be easily executed and consistently duplicated for the entire brand.”
Terrence is also a veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps for four years, earning the rank of Sergeant E-5. He says that when he was working toward his degree, he drew on the strength that he obtained as a member of the military. “Although I found security in being a restaurant general manager, being a chef at heart I wanted more of a creative outlet.” He went back to school—as a single dad—and admits that it took more sacrifice and commitment than he expected.
Now that he is working in the civilian world, he says that he enjoys seeing the benefits of his hard work—in the smiles of his customers and team members. Terrence adds that to grow customer loyalty, he places himself in the position of the guest. “How can I create food and an experience for them that will [bring them back]? One of the awesome pleasures of this position is instant access to gratification for a job well done.” Terrence states that working on the development team means that he is constantly doing research and that he’s found there is more to Italian cooking than he could have ever expected.
Terrence, who in 2014 earned a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management from The Art Institute of Atlanta, says that his education provided the knowledge he needed to understand the business side of the culinary industry. “It assisted me in having a broader understanding of the challenges of the corporate world and [showed me] how to navigate them. It gave me the skills and confidence to be a critical thinker—but to know when to allow others who are better suited for the task to take the lead.”
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