Richard Young is a Senior Engineer and the Director of Education for the Food Service Technology Center, based in San Ramon, California.
FE&S: What keeps you working in the foodservice industry?
Richard Young: I paid my way through engineering school with various restaurant gigs and I fell in love with the camaraderie and spirit of the folks in foodservice. It’s a very hard way to make a living but there is something invigorating about embracing the “dinner rush” and making it through to the other side. I worked front-of-house and back-of-house and I learned a lot about people. Some of the best folks I’ve ever known were restaurant people and being able to serve the foodservice industry with my engineering talents is a great honor and a real joy!
FE&S: Would you encourage your children to work in this business?
Richard Young: Being an “engineering type” I’m probably going to encourage my kids towards the sciences but I’d be thrilled if they followed in my footsteps and applied their knowledge to creating more sustainable foodservice. Their generation faces so many challenges and one of the biggest is going to be ensuring a safe, healthy, and adequate food supply for the people of planet earth and clean, renewable, energy sources to cook that food.
FE&S: Who was the person that influenced your career most?
Richard Young: My bosses and mentors, Don Fisher and Judy Nickel, have had the most influence on my career. They saw a need for energy efficiency in foodservice and they stuck to their goals regardless of the challenges. In the early days, nobody wanted to talk to us about efficient equipment and now, 25 years later, we as a team have made saving energy and water a real part of this huge industry that we call foodservice. It takes a long vision and lots of dedication to change an entire industry!
FE&S: Who in the foodservice industry do you admire most?
Richard Young: I admire and respect everyone in foodservice. I meet people at all levels, from the baristas to the chefs to the food service directors and I understand how hard it is to survive in this industry. When I go in to any food establishment, I try to be the nicest customer they’ve ever had!
FE&S: What aspect of your career gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
Richard Young: Every day I get up and I’m excited to go to work because I know that our project is helping people to both stay in business and to be more sustainable. We’ve been privileged to help design green buildings and green building codes, to create energy guides and efficiency rebate programs, and to simply help small businesses save a buck. I used to serve BBQ at a little restaurant in Memphis and now I’m serving an entire industry.
FE&S: If you were not working in foodservice, what would you be doing?
Richard Young: Well, I gave the music business a try for a few years but that’s even harder than foodservice, so I’m grateful to be where I am!
FE&S: What type of charitable activities are you involved in?
Richard Young: We have four kids in all four levels of public schools - from elementary to college - and we are very involved with our local school community. I’m a big believer in public education and I find that the other parents who are involved with public education have the same fighting spirit that foodservice people have. There is a sense of camaraderie and a will to work together and stand up for what you believe in.
FE&S: What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Richard Young: To find the “flow” and go with it. Sometimes the flow is dinner rush and sometimes the flow is folding napkins. Figure out which one it is and just accept it.