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On DEI: Stephan C. Baity, Chef & Entrepreneur

Entering as an independent for fruit and vegetable carving, an art he’s honed and won multiple awards for over the past several years in the U.S., he spoke no German, had his produce seized at customs and needed to quickly adapt to a few unfamiliar European rules of competition. He was also the only Black chef in his category and one of few among the more than 1,500 chefs competing in the full event.

Stephan C. Baity preferred photoStephan C. BaityIt’s a scenario that’s not unfamiliar to Baity, who embraced food and foodservice as what he calls a ministry early in life. It’s also part of why he’s driven himself to take risks and blaze trails, setting an example for his kids and others. Since graduating culinary school in 1999, Baity has trained as a fine dining chef, was named ACF Chef of the Year three times, competed in Food Network competitions, founded a fruit and vegetable centerpiece carving company, launched a seasoning blend line and, since 2017, has served as Director of Culinary at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. He regularly lends his talents to philanthropic fundraising efforts and works to inspire inner-city youth to realize their potential by sharing his story. 

Baity also hopes to inspire greater focus on diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the industry that he loves. “There’s work to be done,” he notes. “Where organizations sometimes miss the mark is hiring for diversity and assuming that box is checked without committing tools and resources to ensure the success of those team members. When people get placed in positions just to check boxes or are pigeonholed by their race, ethnicity or gender in terms of what they have to offer, there’s often a landslide that prevents them from being able to be trailblazers for the generation behind them.”

As DEI initiatives go, the inclusion element can be particularly challenging for organizations to understand and embrace, Baity acknowledges. But for him, it all hinges on one critical driver — intention. “When we’re very intentional, when we seek out and consistently create opportunities to ensure everyone has a platform and a space in the organization, that’s inclusive. All of us in leadership wield the power to make sure that happens, whether it’s creating mentorship and job shadow programs, dedicating a salaried position to the effort or committing a portion of procurement dollars to minority-owned vendors. It costs money, but there are tangible benefits for companies industrywide to invest back into people, just as they do in technology and equipment. When that happens,
DEI initiatives will thrive.”

Many companies think they’re doing the right thing and enough of it, Baity adds, but such assumptions often don’t align with realities that team members experience in the workplace. Getting to alignment, he suggests, starts with “having an open ear and providing an environment where team members are comfortable having what can be tough conversations. Then, it’s acting. The greatest tragedy is when people come to the table, share their thoughts and nothing is done. Only action moves the needle.”

Stephan C. Baity, Chef & Entrepreneur


@stephancbaity (Instagram/LinkedIn/Facebook)