With a talent and an affinity for all things mechanical, Kevin Priest attended South Georgia Technical College in Cordele, where he studied both industrial electrical technologies and electrical construction and maintenance. This prepared him well for his current career.

“I formerly worked in foodservice manufacturing as an industrial maintenance electrician, which was very similar to working in the restaurant industry with the exception of manufacturing’s ammonia-based refrigeration,” says Priest, who has two decades of experience in electrical and refrigeration maintenance.

Five years ago, he was recruited by SAM Service Inc., a foodservice equipment service company based in Albany, Ga. FE&S spoke to Priest about working as a technician and all that this profession entails.

FE&S: What is the most important thing a service technician needs to know?

KP: Technicians need to know to ask for help when they need it. In our field of study, most good techs are alpha type personalities who are self-motivated. But they hate to ask for help. Techs can benefit from learning early on that it’s okay not to know everything, and they can call tech support for help.

FE&S: Describe a big challenge on the job that you’re proud of tackling.

KP: One call that sticks out in my mind had to do with an older combi oven that had electrical problems. We had so many call backs on that unit, and it would never quite work right. Over the course of three months, we kept replacing the circuit until we finally figured out the root cause of the problems was related to the ground circuit. There have been similar situations over the years, particularly with older equipment.

FE&S: What is the most important tool in a technician’s arsenal?

KP: An open mind is most important. However the most overlooked thing by most technicians is the operator. We typically contact the restaurant owner or manager, and they tell us what’s going on, but it’s really the kitchen staff who can provide more details. They are the ones dealing with the equipment every day and know what normal is. It’s the users that can tell what’s not working by the idiosyncrasies going on.

FE&S: What is the most common mistake foodservice operators make with equipment in the back of house?

KP: Two things off the top of my head are, with refrigeration, they don’t clean the coils enough. On the hot side, they over clean using a hose. The industry spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment and next to nothing on training due to high turnover and not wanting to invest the money. Educating those using the equipment would alleviate many problems.