From the Kitchen to the Woodshop

   Campus News | Posted on November 4, 2016

In 2014, Andrews University created a new position to assist with carrying out the new wellness initiative, a director of University Health & Wellness. When Dominique Wakefield was hired to fill that position, she quickly partnered with Mark Daniels, manager of Dining Services, to incorporate change in the way food is presented and promoted on campus.

“Administration has set a goal to make Andrews the healthiest university,” says Daniels. “We in Dining Services are an integral part of that becoming a reality and we have worked alongside Dominique and her team to chart a course to that end.”

Toward the end of last school year, Linda Brinegar, executive chef, was looking for projects her employees could tackle during the slower months of summer break. After prayerfully considering options that would both stay within budget and continue to move Dining Services in the right direction health-wise, she hit upon an idea.

“Her idea was to change the atmosphere of the Gazebo,” explains Joseph Shoemate, lead cook on the morning shift in Dining Services. “When you want to make major changes to your offerings, the easiest way to do that is to change the way everything looks at the same time.”

Joseph was tasked with taking unused pallets and turning them into shelving for the Gazebo. He built end cap and stand-alone shelving to display the made-to-order restaurant’s wares and condiments.

“We wanted to make the space look more like a farmer’s market where you can get fresh produce straight from the farm,” Shoemate explains. “Changing the environment changes the culture, which is really the end goal.”

Shoemate began working on the shelving in June and completed the last piece in September, spending close to full-time work in the wood shop each week.

“Mark and Linda offered me this opportunity because they know how much I love to make stuff,” says Shoemate. “It was flattering to know they saw the potential in me to create something the whole University will see and use.”

Shoemate is no stranger to making things from scratch; as a professionally trained and educated chef, his passion is creating and experimenting, especially when it comes to hands-on projects.

He attended Johnson & Wales University in Denver, Colorado, and earned his culinary arts degree, which he followed up with an externship in Grand Teton National Park working as a breakfast chef for one of the Grand Teton Lodge Company’s restaurants. Then he accepted a position at Southern Adventist University (Collegedale, Tennessee), to help their dining services team work toward healthier concepts.

He has now been working at Andrews for four years, and enjoys coming to work each morning to prepare breakfast for the campus.

However, it’s not just food Shoemate is skilled in creating.

“I come from a family of builders,” he says. “My dad was a professional welder, my brother is a mechanic, my stepdad is in the sheet metal business. They can all build anything they can conceptualize, and that’s where I get my interest in creating things. I do blacksmithing for fun and I know how to weld. Woodworking just naturally fits into my skillset.”

Despite his experience working with his hands, Shoemate was unsure of his abilities at the start of the project.

“I was nervous,” he admits. “It was a ton of work. The number of pieces I built was crazy for never having done anything like that before. But I’m really happy with the end result. I’m very proud of what I’ve done, and I’ve become 100% more confident in my woodworking skills because of this project. The whole process was a giant learning experience.”

What’s next for this creative chef who’s also skilled in the workshop? Bread.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time perfecting my sourdough bread-making skills,” he says. “I want to learn more and get even better at what I already do well.”

To take a look at the end result of Shoemate's summer of woodworking, visit the Gazebo during regular business hours–and pick up a healthy snack while you're there.


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