Stuart Davis joined Cini-Little in 2007 after working for 14 years in restaurants. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Stuart has cooked in a variety of acclaimed restaurants, most notably serving as the former executive sous chef of Tru in Chicago and as the chef de cuisine for both Tramanto’s Steak and Seafood in Wheeling, Ill. and the award-winning French fine dining restaurant Les Nomades in Chicago. At Cini-Little, Stuart’s client-focused work centers on his strong operational experience. Knowing the ins and outs of a restaurant kitchen, Stuart has designed a wide range of facilities, from fine-dining restaurants to quaint bed and breakfast inns to catering facilities and non-commercial institutions. As a LEED Green Associate, Stuart has helped Cini-Little expand its green building projects by consulting clients on sustainable design. He is an active member of the Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI).
FE&S: Who was the person that influenced your career most?
Stuart Davis: Roland Liccioni. He was the first chef I worked for after graduating from cooking school. Not only did he teach me the classics of French cuisine, he taught me how to stay organized and focused. He would always make us write our prep list for the next day while it was still fresh in our head and before we went home. When we arrived the next day we could jump right on what we needed to do and not waste any time trying to remember what needed to be done for service. To this day I still write my “prep” list before I go home.
FE&S: Who in the foodservice industry do you admire most?
Stuart Davis: Steve Ellis, owner of Chipotle. Not only has he streamlined both the menu format and items to perfection, his restaurant design, both front and back of house, is light years ahead of any other fast-casual restaurant out there today.
FE&S: What aspect of your career gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
Stuart Davis: When a client calls you up to do another project with them again.
FE&S: If you were not working in foodservice, what would you be doing?
Stuart Davis: Possibly a career in industrial design. I’ve always had a love for simple and functional design. I really enjoy seeing and using a product that looks as good as it performs.
FE&S: Any interesting hobbies?
Stuart Davis: I’ve gotten into road cycling, which has become more of an obsession rather than a hobby!.
FE&S: Finish this sentence: Nobody knows I...
Stuart Davis: Want to be a professional cornhole player.
FE&S: What was your first job in foodservice?
Stuart Davis: A dishwasher at a local BBQ restaurant named the Bum Steer in my hometown of Lawrence, Kan. I remember having to use a putty knife and Ajax to clean the pans the BBQ baked beans were cooked in. It took a long time before I started liking BBQ baked beans again!
FE&S: If I were just starting out in the foodservice industry, what advice would you give me?
Stuart Davis: Get a job at a busy restaurant and work both the front and back of house for at least one year. Nothing can prepare you better than operational experience.