Up Close: Profile of an Executive Sous Chef
Since 2009, Tom Moran has been creating dishes that will leave your taste buds wanting more. He’s an Executive Sous Chef at Hershey Lodge and oversees the kitchen at the new Fire & Grain restaurant. Having been in the culinary industry since he was 15 years old, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team. We sat down and chatted with Tom about his career, what led him to Hershey and why he loves the sweet reactions from guests.
Do you have a passion for culinary? Tom is looking for chefs to join his team! There is an open interview session at Hershey Lodge on Tuesday, August 15 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the main lobby. Apply and interview for open part-time and full-time positions. If you’re interested we encourage you to apply online in advance at HersheyJobs.com.
Q: Tell us about your career. Where did you go to school? What was your career path prior to joining Hershey?
A: My career started when I was 15 years old. I got my first dish washing job at a golf course restaurant in my hometown (Pittsburgh). I worked my way up to line cook and really enjoyed the restaurant work life. That led me to culinary school where I attended Johnson & Wales University and graduated in 2001 with an associate’s degree in culinary arts. My professional work career started at Treesdale Golf and Country Club where I really started to learn and grow under a great mentor. After working my way up to a Sous Chef position, I transferred to another golf club in Northern Virginia where I ended up crossing paths with the former White House Chef Walter Scheib. Through Walter, I really starting learning how to refine my skills both in culinary and leadership. Multiple times a year I traveled the country preparing five-course dinners for Walter. The menus consisted of past state dinners, and other dishes from his memoir from 11 years in the White House.
Q: Walk us through your career so far at Hershey.
A: I began my career in Hershey in March 2009. I was hired as the restaurant chef for Hershey Grill and was there for about 3½ years. Following, I took over The Forebay as restaurant chef for about one year. I was then promoted to Executive Sous Chef of all the restaurants at Hershey Lodge.
Q: Why did you choose to work for Hershey?
A: I started looking at the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) properties as I wanted to move back to Pennsylvania. My mentor Walter had connections to the company and got me an interview at the Lodge. After visiting the properties, and learning about what HE&R was all about – our core purpose, perks and benefits – I was excited for the opportunity.
Q: What's your biggest accomplishment since joining the Hershey team?
A: There are multiple accomplishments that I am very proud of. Most recently would be the opening of Fire & Grain and the success of the restaurant, which I can attribute to the dedication and tireless efforts of the entire food and beverage team at Hershey Lodge.
Q: What's your favorite dish to cook?
A: My favorite food to cook is ever evolving. I find that I cook what I am currently inspired by or reading up on. A "go to" and very simple dish that I do like to make at home a lot is a simple pasta with olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and pecorino romano cheese. I get a kick out of making something that has so few ingredients, but if prepared properly can carry so much flavor. I also enjoy during the growing season going to the back yard garden and harvesting homegrown vegetables for a nice outdoor meal on the deck with my family.
Q: What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?
A: As a whole, I feel knowing that our team’s success in serving our guests and making sure they are happy directly effects our core purpose of adding value to Milton Hershey School.
Q: What advice would you give someone interested in a career in culinary?
A: The best advice to anyone entering the culinary field would be that dedication to the craft is essential. Whether you go to school for training or learn on the job, take full advantage of the knowledge and experience of those around you. You have to have a passion in this field to be successful and you are never done learning. Take notes, find influences and people that inspire you to push yourself and grow, and continually seek out information.
Q: What's the best perk of your job?
A: The best perk of my job is seeing our team members grow and succeed. Our cook progression program is a prime example of that. Throughout the year we have a weekly Top 5 focus in which we relay a lot of information. One segment of this tool is a "path to success" category which is focused on culinary fundamentals/food safety. Each fall general cooks can sign up for the progression program. The first step is a written test based on culinary fundamentals and food safety practices. If the candidate passes the test with an 80% or higher, they are put into a cooking practical where they have to cook multiple courses in a four hour time period, and present to the senior chef team for a professional critique. If the candidate scores well enough they are promoted to Cook IV. This puts a lot of the challenge in each individual’s hands. If they strive to learn and grow, absorbing the information relayed throughout the year, they are typically successful.
Q: What does a typical day consist of?
A: A typical day for me consists of making rounds in each restaurant, making sure the teams have what they need for success, monitoring food safety practices and ensuring the food quality and presentation standards are met.
Q: Tell us something folks might not know about you.
A: I enjoy the outdoors, hunting and fishing. I'm a huge Pittsburgh Sports fan, especially The Pittsburgh Penguins, their American Hockey League team.