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  • How did you get into the Food service industy

     coolertapt updated 6 months ago 12 Members · 22 Posts
  • fixbear

    November 22, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    How did you get into food service industry

    Most all of us in the food service repair industry started somewhere else.  I’ve been wondering how many common factors there are between us.

    I’ll start by giving a short biography from myself.  I was born and raised on a small farm in northern New York. I worked with both my grandparents during home times.  My  Paternal grandparents had 4 to 6 jersey cows, a pair of Belgium horses,  30 to 50 chickens,  and 4 to 6 pigs at one time.  We hand milked, used a dump rake and hay-loader.  Horse drawn reaper, mower, corn harvester and mow hook.  Milk was placed in 100 lb. cans and chilled with well water in a troth.  I turned many a pound of butter, helped can chickens, and slaughtered hogs.  They lived about 1 mile from my parents home and only spoke a very limited amount of English. My mom peddled there eggs and butter every Thursday to family’s about 25 miles southeast of us and picked up rye bread and 4 bags of stale bread for the pigs.  They were self sustaining with a big garden and a lot of canning.  Yes, we had a outhouse and 2 hand pumps for water. One in the milk house for the troth. The 2 wood/coal cooking stoves. The one in the kitchen had a water tank for hot water.  The one in the woodshed was used for canning and chicken cleaning. I still remember my maternal grandfather coming in with a steam traction engine and thrashing machine to harvest the oats and wheat. 

    Now my maternal grandparents started farming, and got the motoring bug. My grandfather was a chaefer for Alco’s president and then his secretary. He then started the first bus line for Alco before starting his own in New York.  As government regulation started to get strict and the war became a difficult time to buy buses and fuel he sold out and started a water well business. From the time I was 12 years old I had to spend time with him drilling, pump installs and repair, and driving dump truck  (wooden blocks on the pedals) or operating a tractor backhoe. We sharpened our own bits, Blasted wells and rocks, poured our own bearings. Even made maple bearings for the derrick top head-stock.  This provided me a lot of mechanical and hydraulic background. Let alone internal combustion and electrical.  And there is always the time we blew up a house and damaged 6 others. Hate hitting gas lines. 

    My mom and her mother also had bus contracts for the school system. 12 passenger van for hill country. My dad had worked for my maternal grandfather as a bus mechanic before becoming a fixer at Mohawk carpet mill. He eventually was the foreman of the experimental lab where he designed the first loom using a burlap backing and latex for todays carpet.  Though he never went past 8th grade, he could see machinery in his minds eye and just make a machine to accomplish a job. He wasn’t a good welder like my uncle, but he could pound, shape file, drill and bolt together anything. We always had a side project in the yard to make something for somebody.  Whether is was a corn duster, a rolling mill, a dump wagon, or something for my grandfathers well business.  All while raising beef and farming 500 acres.

    Now, with all this mechanical backround I was destined to be a mechanic.  Even though Medicine and animal husbandry fascinated me.  I started working a a gas station part time as a sophomore in high school.  I also took a temp position for 2 weeks overhead welding at the army depot nights to install a stock rail system in my senior year.  Good welders for overhead are a rarity.  Molten metal and gravity don’t seem to like each other.  I also worked part time at 2 speed shop’s and raced. Upon graduation I worked for 3 car dealers, a tractor dealer, And a photographic processing plant. Owned by my great aunt. I mixed a lot of chemicals, stripped a lot of film, and adjusted the color balance of the printers twice a day..  I also maintained the water filtration system and the lighting in the inspection rooms.  Working in total darkness one learns some fantastic hand skills and first hand knowledge of what static electricity and the need for humidity control. People hate spark burns in there negatives. 

    I then got my draft notice and physical, and aptitude test. I had a very high testing score so was able to wheel and deal with the services for schools and branch. I elected for the Navy.  But instead of photography I went to Great Lakes for Boot camp (16 weeks then) propulsion engineering, Engineman “A” school, Whidbey Island for SERE, Camp Pendelton for special weapons,  and Coronado for Swift boat training.  Then Siagon to start a interesting life of moving around to solve problems for the “Needs of the navy” After a tour in country, 2 field promotions, and a commendation metal I got orders for a pre-comm detail for LPH-11 in Philadelphia. The ship had a pair of special Fairbanks generators that had not been used before. So back to school I go even though I didn’t have enough time left on my enlistment for the navy to get a return on it. After 8 weeks at Fairbanks i reported on board as “A”division petty officer with 26 men working for me. This is where I started working on kitchen equipment and refers. Also elevators, winches, steering gear and auxiliary boats. Oh, I forgot to mention, right back to Viet-Nam. I had 26 refrigeration compressors on board and 2 200 ton chillers. And a hospital. When in a war zone it’s amazing how many PM’s get deferred.  I would never give up the knowledge learned in that circumstance.

    After separation I went into diesel repair for a GMC dealer for a year, then a leasing company for another year. Tried sales for a hardware wholesaler and then into construction. In 1973 I started my own field repair company.  After 6 years I wound up with a shop and got involved with machine tools. And fabrication.  I built and repaired all kinds of equipment. The variation is what kept my mind involved and continuous learning. In 1989 I got bit by a tick in Braintree MA. IT knocked me down for 3.5 years. I could no longer work the long hours of construction or lift the weight I used to.  My local refrigeration tech was retiring and asked if I wanted his work. The Montreal protocol was just coming in and I was looking to stay local. Obviously once one gets a good recommendation form a customer, word travels fast The trick was to do systems so they were reliable yet you get repair work later. Once a customer has a major breakdown I would look at the system and revamp it to not fail. We see large extremes of ambient temp change here.  From 102F to -40F One has to really understand what is happening in a system not only at the present, but what will happen in mid winter or summer.  It took a lot of studying and field repairs to find all the answers. And just about the time you think your done, another problem presents. Guess that’s why I love it. In the early 2000’s one of my refrigeration customers asked me to look a a dishwasher.  The Chemical company had just installed a new system and it wouldn’t run. A quick look at the schematic and a trace of what they did and I was hooked on more than the cold side.  Then it was a Vulcan snorkel, A few fryers, Hatfield holding cases, Slicers, prep machines, Mixers, and of coarse Microwaves.  The fiends one meet’s along the way in this industry is amazing. I only wish I had joined it earlier than I did.

  • tommy

    December 2, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    I was Machinist before starting into the food tech career been doing about three years only hot side guy love what I do so far it’s been a good job 

    • fixbear

      December 2, 2019 at 8:52 pm

      That’s funny. I worked in machine tool repair.  Mostly Teledyne-Gurley DRO’s and Bridgeport mills. But I also installed the first Mori-Sieke turning center in this area.

  • tonyr

    December 3, 2019 at 4:49 am

    I started out when I was twenty four working at Sears as a  pm technician   . 

    Worked on residential appliances  for 15 years. I switched when I was thirtyfive and started working with Hobart. 

    • fixbear

      December 3, 2019 at 7:36 am

      Quite a difference from domestic to commercial. Which do you like better?

  • olivero

    December 3, 2019 at 9:44 am

    I just kind of ended up doing hot side, started when I was 17, working on equipment and then learning from there, now I’m 23 and I’ve learned more than I thought. 

    Got into welding, fabrication work, then plumbing work, copper piping, gas, then electrical work, then got involved in the cold side, learned refrigeration, got my EPA license, etc.

    Now i’m here, 5 or 6 years of this work and I still love it, it’s challenging.

    I love everything but deep friers, deep friers should be banned.

    • fixbear

      December 3, 2019 at 1:01 pm

      What I always liked was that every day was different.  Deep fryers and Chinese restaurant roof ventilators. Often 3 inches of grease on the roof.

      • olivero

        December 3, 2019 at 4:29 pm

        Very true,

        Spend most of my day today rebuilding an R2N and printing parts for what was missing or broken. New bearings in the motor, new power cord, took everything out and had the casing get cleaned out by someone other than me, lol.

        It smelled something awful when I opened it, really, really horrific.

        But now it’s better, printing the last parts for it and back together it goes.

        • kenchow

          December 11, 2019 at 10:10 pm

          Know what you mean. Robot Coupes not so bad, Dynamic immersion blenders….barf. Foot assembly filled with rancid, rotting liquid that gushes out the moment you knock the shaft out.

  • kenchow

    December 11, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    Not in a glamorous or destined way. Always been mechanically inclined, did a machine shop course at a tech school, worked in industry for whole 3 months; did temp labour jobs; went to printing school, ran a label press for 4/6 years I was in trade; went to work at company installing water filtration; left that and worked in vending repairing coffee machines; finally applied at one of the largest food equipment companies in canada and worked here six years fixing counter top stuff. That whole process took me around 30 years. I’m not certified in any trade, just make a lot of educated guesses. Like what I do… not so much management.

  • dasny97

    January 17, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    I took a position as an Electrician at a culinary college.  As an electrician not only am I responsible for outlets, lights, and other electrical things but the electricians are also responsible for most of the appliances on the campus.  I have worked on combi and deck ovens, dish machines, coffee and espresso machines, mixers, and many more.  I look forward to being able to provide some help where i can and may have some questions myself.

  • ectofix

    January 18, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    At eighteen years of age (1978), I joined the Marine Corps.

    My MOS was an aviation mobile electric power plant technician. Basically, diesel engines or 60Hz, 3phase motors as prime movers to drive 400Hz generators used for powering aircraft during ground servicing.

    After five years in, I had the rare opportunity to serve as an instructor. I actually did that TWICE while in the Marine Corps. So, two tours totalling six years.

    As an instructor, I had to teach everything from the very basics of electricity (electron theory and such), to automotive charging, starting & ignition systems, electronics (as it was relavent in the ’80s-90s)…and all the way up to the very systems we worked on that was used to generate electricity for the aircraft out on the flight line.

    For a year or so, I also got to teach refrigeration system theory as it applied to our mobile air-conditioners – which were also used for aircraft ground servicing.

    As an instructor, I REALLY had to know my stuff to teach it all. As such, I had to REALLY study up. I was CONSTANTLY hitting the books to prepare for answering student’s questions…as well as my own. Not just to be prepared for standing up “on the stump” (in front of a captive audience of students) to TEACH it, but also to watch over their shoulders during the lab periods (hands-on equipment) while students troubleshot the gripes we put into equipment for them to find.

    Thinking about it now, I figure that I had served as an instructor for well over a-thousand aspiring technicians during those six years (classes of thirty heads every two to three weeks).

    As a Marine for those twenty years, I went from being a technician, to a teacher, to a supervisor, to a maintenance manager, to ultimately being the NCOIC of an entire maintenance division (fifty + Marines on Okinawa)…and back to being just a teacher once again – during my twilight tour at NAS Jax – which took me into military retirement at the age of thirty-eight.

    After leaving the Corps, I wanted no part of ANY management position. I liked being on the TECHNICAL side of it all. In the Corps, I’d learned that I am NOT good at people management. So, I just wanted to get my tools and my technical knowledge/experience out there…and get my hands dirty again.

    At that time, I also didn’t want to be stuck inside the same building every day. So, in 1998, I took a job with a commercial food equipment repair company. It seemed a good fit due to my strong electrical background and solid familiarity with AC systems.

    I was with that company for fourteen years, traveling around doing hot and cold side work out of a service van. That company ended up evolving from one which was privately owned …to one that was later acquired by an international company. During that evolution and in the subsequent years, emphasis on my job performance went from being “how good of a tech I was” to being “how much I was making for the company by selling parts”.

    THAT became something which went totally against my work ethics.

    *          *          *          *

    Anyone here old enough to remember Sears & Roebuck’s fiasco from getting nailed for selling/installing car parts & services to customers that weren’t necessary?

    Accusation Of Fraud At Sears

    Yes. I’m sure we had techs doing that.  How else did they sell TWICE the dollar amount of parts that I did?  Heck!  It was practically forced upon them to meet job performance criteria.

    Not me though.  I rebelled.  It was a futile objective, though.  After fourteen years, upon my OWN ambitions, I was soon looking around for other job opportunities.

    *          *          *          *

    After I’d had belly full of the corporate takeover and parts sales numbers being shoved down my throat as a job performance METRIC, I gave my two weeks notice to move on to something simpler and proper. So, I took an in-house position at a VERY LARGE hotel…doing just hot side work at our many food venues.

    That’s where I’ll be clocking in at to work tomorrow (Sundays are my Mondays).

    • kenchow

      January 19, 2020 at 4:42 pm

      I enjoyed your work bio. What is sorely needed in the workplace is genuine mentoring. All those graduates from teaching school should go into private industry to help develop solid workplace training. I have just succumbed at the hands of profit-driven private equity myself which took us over few years ago. 

  • fixbear

    January 19, 2020 at 9:53 am

    Thank’s for letting us know you a bit better. Amazing how parallel our careers seem.  The feeling of when you see the light bulb come on in ones eyes when teaching is the most rewarding feeling. 

    Wondering what rank in the MC?

    Curious about what make diesels they used in those 400 cycle generators..  I never paid attention when I was in Rota or Brunswick. In the Bee’s we had 18 inch Radial arm saw trailers with flood lights that had a overly complicated regulator system. Many got excess-ed due to CED shops not having techs that could fix them.

    Corporate thinking is whats wrong with the system.  It plain doesn’t work with a service industry.  I would always rather deal with a small business. Problem is they also have the money for training. And look what Emerson has done since taking over Copeland. Classes that used to be free are now $500. They miss the big picture of their product reputation.

    At Great Lakes in 1965 I terrified a instructor that was unprepared. Eventually he must have studied, because he did come back with answers that made sense, but it took him days.  My name is still on a plague out there.

    • ectofix

      January 19, 2020 at 5:37 pm

      Instructor duty was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’d liked to have continued doing that at our local Nashville Auto Diesel College.

      A few years after moving here, I’d met a former Navy Chief (twenty years my senior) who taught for them. His career track had been nearly identical to mine. However, NADC had gone through an acquisition by the time I knew about them and their prerequisite was that I was to be ASE certified to teach there. I WASN’T, so, I never pursued it.

      If it hadn’t been for my marriage at the time (when I retired in’98), I probably would have never moved so far from a military air base and could’ve continued serving as either, an instructor again (in a civilian suit),  or as a tech rep in the fleet.

      My RANK?  I retired as a Gunnery Sergeant. Same rank as a Chief Petty Officer.

      The ENGINES? Our NC-10 MEPPs had Detroit 671s. I don’t remember what NC-8s & NC-2s MEPPs had as diesel engines.   I just know they were ALL finicky in cold weather.

      The Navy primarily used the latter two MEPPs. Obviously Marines duty stations are shore-based, but I also saw NC-8s occasionally. However, the deuces were for shipboard applications only (carriers). Although I’d taught them, I didn’t do any sea duty…so I never worked on them.

      For hangar use, we also had what were called mobile-motor-generators (MMGs). Four-wheeled, towable generators units driven by 220v/440v (hangar-powered) synchronous motors…because those motors can hold a precise speed under a load.

      SO…a 60Hz motor moving a 400Hz generator to power aircraft in a hangar.

      I should add that all these units also supplied 28vdc through a VERY large rectifier. The NC-10s were capable of up to a 1000a load.

      Our mobile air-conditioners had six-cylinder W-block open compressors (with unloaders) pushing 125lbs of R22 and were driven by 6V71 Detroit diesel engines. Those units had a 25 ton cooling capacity.

      My MOS mirrored the Navy’s “AS” rating. I worked side-by-side with sailors when I was assigned to the school houses (NAS Memphis TN [’85-’89]& NAS Jax FL [’95-’98]).

      One tremendous resource I’d used as an instructor was the twenty-four modules of the NEETS training course – the Navy Electricity & Electronics Training Series. That was (and probably still is) a correspondence course the Navy offered:


      I carried hard copies of that around with me for MANY years, but I think I tossed them during my last (and FINAL) move three years ago into a house in the woods that I now live in.

      At fifty-nine years of age…and from a life which had me constantly moving (especially in the military), I’m finally home for good.

  • fixbear

    January 20, 2020 at 5:34 am

    I’m quite familiar with the 71 series as well as the 53, 110, 268, and 567 series.   I was known for getting power out of them.  While in Na-beh I was assigned a LCM3 built in 1938 with a pair of low block 6-71’s that needed either to start in 90 degree weather.  In 1966 there was a shortage of personnel and my boat wasn’t priority enough for rebuild.  So I accumulated parts and ran on one engine as I rebuilt the other on river. After I got done with the engines I had to repitch the props to harness the power. Nothing like a 45 ft rooster tail to draw attention from the brass.  And a field promotion. Rarity in the Navy.

    While in An-Thoi I had a 12V-71 that lost a cam follower. Yea, Swift boats.  I designed the Kent Moore cam roller spring compressor for top removal of a follower so that I didn’t have to pull the head. You actually had to remove the head studs to get the clearance to lift the head out.  Got all of $50 from GM, but more importantly was the phone number and access to the engineering lab. Which meant I could get part numbers not published.  And build sheets for compatibility.  If one knows what they are doing, they can get 750 HP out of a a 6-71. But of coarse it shortens the life of the engine. The fact that it is so easy to change the blower speed, cam timing and injector timing makes it easy.  But minor wear decreases output just as easily. Why so many truckers came from thousands of miles for a tune up at the GMC dealer I worked for.  I was their only diesel mechanic.

  • beef

    January 20, 2020 at 9:34 am

    I realized I love science and studied for 2 years, then took myself to Tulsa Welding School for electromechanical technician. Within 2 months of my 1 year course I was offered a job by a Technician that had been in the field and went to school on company dime. Five years later I’m still with the same set of guys that hired me. 

    • techtownmayor

      January 20, 2020 at 1:30 pm

      That is amazing. I love hearing about service companies that see talent, and do what they can to keep them happy and well trained. 

      It isn’t easy to recruit in this industry, so finding enthusiastic experts like yourself is well worth the time and money!

      Thanks for sharing, and thanks for being a member of techtown. 

  • jonathan

    February 10, 2020 at 7:27 pm

    I worked as a professional chef for close to twenty years – grew out of that and decided to go back to school to learn a new skill set. University wasn’t practical, so I decided on a one year intensive HVAC program and graduated with a college diploma and gasfitter license. Early in my job search I found an opportunity to train on the hot side in commercial kitchen services- it took me a couple days to realize that this would be perfect for me- and it marries my previous career experience and current training very well. I’m 6 months into training and enjoying the work very much, lots of problen solving and challenges daily. I’m right back in the kitchens I had escaped but doing something different. 

  • nafets47

    February 10, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    Was working as a property manager for 5 years, had staff which couldn’t handle their jobs to the standard I wanted so I started doing all of it myself. Got tired of that grind, now I am 29 and work at a hotel handling 300+ AC units, full kitchen, etc

    Had no clue what I was getting into but this business you just deal with logic in regards to how things function. Just need to understand where the energy starts, and how much is supposed to be delivered, how it changes and where it changes to. Which I have a good grasp of. Getting better as I go along.

  • nafets47

    February 10, 2020 at 8:17 pm



    Thank you both for your many years of service to our country.

  • coolertapt

    February 13, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    After getting out of school and working commercial AC for 3.5yrs A good friend of mine suggested coming to work with his company, saying “you’ll never be without a job due to restaurants are everywhere”. And so he was correct, I can find a job anywhere, anytime and even have companies calling offering jobs. 

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