Culture

In Food Pursuits, Father and Son Share Same School of Thought

 The success of Rich Products Corporation has been based in no small way on family values.  Fittingly, this includes some familial connections that have dotted the organization, beginning with the Rich family that founded the global food company and leads it to this day.  The organization takes great pride whenever the torch is passed and the next generation begins making its mark in the food industry, whether at Rich’s or elsewhere in the business.

And so it is that 59-year-old Jake Brach, Manager of Culinary Learning & Development at Rich’s world headquarters, in Buffalo, N.Y., now keeps tabs on the new culinary adventures of his son, Adam, who turns 25 in November 2013 and whose career in the restaurant world shows exceedingly great promise.

Adam Brach already has been learning the ropes at some of New York City’s finest restaurants, including the innovative seafood spot David Burke Fishtail, on the Upper East Side, and Tribeca’s authentic brasserie, Plein Sud.  To get even more big-kitchen experience under his belt, he also voluntarily staged at the three-star Eleven Madison Park, which dishes up New French fare in the Flatiron District.  Adam’s most-recent stop has been The Modern, the fine-dining establishment, located at the Museum of Modern Art, that features original French-American cuisine.

“What Adam’s doing now is invaluable,” Jake professes.  “I’m not sure he has his entire plan figured out, but I didn’t, either, at that age.  But, as Charlie Trotter [the noted Chicago chef, restaurateur and Culinary Hall of Fame inductee] used to say, ‘Keep your ears open, your mouth shut and your head down at work, and the rest will take care of itself.’  That’s worked pretty well for me.”

Like Father, Like Son

There’s even more reason for Jake Brach to beam with family pride.  Like his prodigious father, young Adam now is a graduate of the legendary Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the crème de la crème of culinary colleges worldwide.  Located in Hyde Park, in upstate New York, the school is a big reason Jake Brach, who graduated from the CIA in 1976, has the letters “CCC” embroidered next to his name on the Rich’s chef uniform he often wears in cooking demos and training events around the country.  The initials stand for Certified Chef de Cuisine, the formal term for one who actually runs a restaurant’s kitchen.

A Rich’s associate since 2001, Jake is among the company’s elite culinarians and a key player on Rich’s Foodservice training team, providing hands-on product instruction to innumerable associates and customers.  “We’re into next-generation training programs now,” Jake points out.  “Our value proposition is to bring more to the customer – it’s one of the ways we live out the Rich Experience.”

Jake got into the food business at age 14, working in a Buffalo restaurant operated by his uncles.  His substantial resume today includes a dozen years at Rich’s, five years at the hospitality giant Delaware North Companies, a long stint as an entrepreneur in the wine business, and a relatively new foray into book writing.  He also remains actively involved with the CIA, through fundraising, continuing education and other endeavors.  “I just love the whole scene there,” he admits.

Intrigued by his father’s profession, Adam Brach briefly studied foodservice at a local community college, but didn’t find the academic climate there serious enough for his needs.  He instead decided to work Buffalo’s restaurant circuit a while, learning different stations.  Then, one evening in Hyde Park, the future started coming together.

Jake invited Adam to assist the alumni chefs at a CIA benefit dinner, and his son, who’d never been exposed to the Culinary Institute effect firsthand, became sold on the school.  “When Adam told me he wanted to attend the CIA, I warned him it’s the big leagues and the hub of the food world and there’d be no goofing off,” Jake remembers.  “Then I let him make his own decision.”

Adam graduated from the CIA’s two-year culinary arts program in November 2012.  (The school’s alumni magazine recently noted that the younger Brach was “following in his father’s ‘food-steps.’”)  He then took off to Manhattan to begin climbing the culinary ladder.  Even when he finally arrived at The Modern, Adam, true to form, started as the cold-kitchen garde-manger before becoming line cook, as part of the natural grooming that inevitably takes one to positions like sous-chef and beyond.

Legacy of Professionalism

“In today’s world, there’s so much opportunity for someone like him, much the same way I’ve had so many opportunities with Rich’s,” Jake Brach says.  “Who knows what his future holds right now?  When he was moving to New York, I told Adam what a friend once said to me:  You never know where life’s going to lead you.  You can pour yourself into something, but then something else takes over.  It’s providence.

“If I can impress one thing upon him,” Jake adds, “it’s a sense of professionalism.  It’s something near and dear to my heart and I’ve tried to lead by example.  The CIA provides great grounding for that.  Professionalism is vital, along with feeling comfortable in what you’re doing at work and at home.  In this one big world we live in, you bring your values to both.  That’s what Rich’s believes in.”