There is never a dull moment when working in the restaurant industry! Just ask Andrew Kaplan, who after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America went on to work a pastry job, attend hospitality school, and take the lead at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s culinary demo program where he eventually met Rachael Ray. Today, he is the director of Rachael Ray’s nonprofit, Yum-o!, and the director of special projects for Ray’s overall company.
This post is a summary of an interview that originally appeared on www.foodarts.com. Read the full, original article.
It all started while growing up in suburban Chicago, where Andrew spent his summers following his dad, a distributor of Vienna Beef, around to stockyards, restaurants, and hot dog stands and cooking alongside his mother at home.
Kaplan found his calling after attending The Culinary Institute of America. “The CIA was amazing, like boot camp!” Kaplan recalls. “On top of culinary, you learn networking and professionalism. You have to iron your chef’s jacket, always be presentable—no spots! You have to be cleanly shaven. It’s pretty hard-core, and I loved it. I’d do the whole program all over again.”
After graduation, Kaplan got a job in pastry back in Chicago and then went on to attend hospitality school at Florida International University, which led to a full-time job at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. This is where Kaplan met Rachel Ray, after co-producing one of her cooking demos.
Starting as an associate producer on Rachael Ray’s TV show, he helped launch Ray’s nonprofit foundation called Yum-o! Today, as the director of the Yum-O Foundation and the director of special projects for Ray’s overall company, a big part of his job is helping Ray with TV appearances and his duties as director of the Yum-o! Foundation, which focus on improving school food nationwide and working to feed hungry kids. Kaplan also helps Ray edit her cookbooks, does recipe testing, writes a column called “On Kappy’s Plate” for RachaelRay.com and serves as the talent producer on Food Network’s Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off.
“My day-to-day is always exciting and never the same,” he reports. “I’ve met President Clinton and had a private tour of the West Wing…two of the coolest things ever. I’ve gone to Washington four times to lobby for a child nutrition bill, which was finally signed by President Obama—extraordinary! I helped produce the China Food & Wine Festival in Tianjin…one wonderful opportunity after another.”
What’s next is anyone’s guess. Andrew says, “If I had actually made a career plan and stuck to it, none of this would have happened. I’ve just been extraordinarily lucky.”