DSR of the Month

Profiling the industry’s most accomplished foodservice equipment and supplies dealer sales reps. Only one will go on to be named DSR of the Year.

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Eric Hsieh has always enjoyed eating out. In fact, growing up, he rarely ate at home. "My family in Taiwan was in the foodservice industry, so that may have had something to do with it," he says.

Like many college graduates, Lee Rose was not sure where he was headed with his degree in communications from Augusta State University. “I dated a girl who was making smallwares deliveries for an equipment dealership and helped her out,” he recalls.

At 15 years old, Chiasson worked every day after school at Associated Food Equipment and Supplies Inc., the Gulfport, Miss.-based company founded and owned by her aunt and uncle, Lonnie and Roberta Shelton. She graduated college from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in accounting and was well on her way to a successful career as director of finance for an area hospital.

Working in the restaurant industry from the ground up for more than two decades has served Scott Ellerhorst well in his sales, design and consulting career in C&T Design and Equipment Co.’s Cincinnati office. “I started in high school bussing tables at restaurants, moved up to washing dishes and eventually became a general manager,” he says.

Michael Scheiman started his career cooking at some of the country's most notable restaurants, including New York's Nobu, Tribeca Grill and Soho Grand Hotel, where he earned accolades as a rising star chef. Scheiman then found his way to California Café in Palo Alto, Calif., as the executive chef.

When Jeff Fortier joined his family’s company, Fortier Inc., 18 years ago, the main concern was his unfamiliarity with the products he’d be selling. “I was doing well as sales manager for a sunglasses company out in Virginia, and didn’t know much about the foodservice equipment industry,” he says. “But my uncle Rick said he could teach me, and I knew that learning about a gazillion different products wouldn’t be an obstacle for me.”

Marc Zimmerman started his hospitality industry journey as a yacht club maintenance man in Marblehead, Mass., at the age of 15. Foodservice entered the picture when he became a pizza delivery driver at Café Vesuvius and a cook at 5 Corners Deli — while still in high school.

In 1998, Melanie Gitlin joined Fayetteville, N.C.-based Thompson & Little as an administrative assistant not knowing what she would become just 12 years later.

After joining Noah's Bagels out of high school, Mariah McManaman felt she found a home in the foodservice industry. Nine years later the equipment side started calling her name and she wound up working for an independent manufacturers' rep firm. That eventually led her to Avanti Restaurant Solutions, where she's resided for the past 12 years.

Nick Pope had visions of becoming a chef while attending culinary school and working at an equipment dealership part time. He realized being a chef wasn't for him when he took a 12-hour class that ended at 2 a.m. "It put me over the edge," he recalls.

Cliff Macbeth, Dealer Designer and Project Director, CMA Restaurant Supply and Design, Kirkland, Wash., says he got started in the foodservice industry by mistake in 1973, after graduating from Ohio State University with two architecture degrees. There was a glut of architects in the market at that time, so he took a job as a foodservice draftsman.

It wasn't until Jim Bologna took a cooking class while working toward a degree in hotel hospitality at Michigan State University that he realized his calling. He went on to earn his Associate's Degree in Culinary Arts, and worked as a chef for more than 20 years.

Majoring in industrial organizational psychology at California State University in Long Beach and simultaneously working as a trainer and bar manager for a restaurant company was instrumental in Gilles Brochard's career at TriMark R.W. Smith.

Maribeth Angelo did not expect her summer job at Hotel and Restaurant Supply would be the start of a successful career. She credits her father, Bill Wolfe, who serves as the company's executive vice president, for both the suggestion of the summer job and the post-college suggestion of accepting a counter sales position there.

When U.S. interest rates began dropping, it was good news to most people. For Gina Vitagliano, a bank manager, this development prompted her to seek a new career. "One of my customers, the general manager at a small foodservice equipment and supplies dealership, offered me a job, and I decided to take it," says Vitagliano.