A 30-year veteran of the foodservice industry, Don Fisher has applied his mechanical engineering background to improving the energy efficiency of kitchen ventilation and other equipment for decades. His transition to the foodservice industry came in 1980 during an energy audit of a kitchen while working as a consultant in Winnipeg, Canada. He was later recruited by Pacific Gas & Electric to develop a space for foodservice technology research and development. What originally began as an 18-month project led to the creation of the Food Service Technology Center, the industry’s renowned center for third-party commercial kitchen equipment testing, research and education. FSTC celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer.
FE&S: What keeps you working in the foodservice industry?
Don Fisher: I think it’s the industry itself. The fact that the industry has been responsive and supportive of the things we’ve been doing at the Food Service Technology Center and of our contribution to the industry — that’s the drive to keep going every day.
FE&S: What aspect of your career gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
Don Fisher: Not many people can wake up in the morning and say “Wow, I have this foundation behind me and we’re still developing new and exciting things.” We can actually see our impact on the food industry, which is something not everyone gets to see. There’s also an excitement because there are not a lot of people doing the same thing as us.
FE&S: Who was the person that influenced your career most?
Don Fisher: I had a great engineering professor during my graduate studies. But the most significant person in my career was Betty Davis, a corporate foodservice account rep for PG&E who I met in 1986 during an Electric Power Institute meeting in Palo Alto, Calif. Six weeks later I got a phone call from her and she conceived the project that my partner Judy Nickel and I went on to work on, which is now the Food Service Technology Center. All of a sudden your life changes direction and 25 years later you’re still here.
FE&S: Who in the foodservice industry do you admire most?
Don Fisher: My business partner, Judy. She’s the glue that keeps Fisher-Nickel together and the Food Service Technology Center going. I have a triple A personality so I bounce around a lot — someone has to be there to pick up the pieces.
FE&S: What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Don Fisher: One of my professors told me if you tell somebody you are going to do something, then do it! He said it in a different way, of course, but the idea is if you commit to something, follow through.