For Jeremy Cockerham, food is a way of life. Although his relationship with the foodservice industry has changed over the years, his passion for serving others has not. It takes a chef to understand a chef and the trials and tribulations they go through, and Cockerham is that person. His career as a chef made him an expert in all things foodservice related and allowed him to understand the importance of serving great food and great service. Today, as a salesperson with Bargreen Ellingson Cockerham remains in an industry that he loves and more importantly, has the opportunity to continue to serve his customers with not food but knowledge – something that comes as naturally to him as cooking.
Read his interview below to learn about his long relationship with the foodservice industry and why he is so passionate about it, as well as some expert tips and advice for new and experienced restaurant owners and chefs.
Pictured above: Jeremy Cockerham with Chef Amy at the Alaska Native Medical Center showing off newly installed Metro High-Density Shelving (see below for purchase).
What interested you in becoming a salesperson for Bargreen Ellingson?
I cooked for a living prior to becoming a salesperson. I loved being a chef but the time away from
family was taking its toll. I couldn’t imagine leaving the foodservice industry I loved so much but I did
want to find a work-life balance. Once I made a decision to consider sales, it was a no-brainer for me to seek a position at Bargreen Ellingson. I knew that if BE treated their team members anything like they treated me as a customer, I would be in great hands. Over the years I had several outstanding
salespeople and when I decided to make the switch, BJ McKasy from Seattle was my salesperson. He
agreed to recommend me, and for that I am still very grateful.
What drives your passion for the foodservice industry?
I love food and how it brings people together. I learned from a young age that great food can have such a positive, nurturing effect. Spending summers growing, picking, canning, and cooking fresh foods that fed my family and friends was so gratifying. It is empowering to create wholesome, beautiful experiences that can be shared with others. These days I get to find ways to help others serve up their own passion and ignite that inspiration in their guests.
What are some of the challenges/rewards that come with being a salesperson?
The lasting relationships I have been able to build are very rewarding. When a customer changes jobs and seeks me out at their next place of business, I know I am doing something right.
Just like working in a restaurant, sales can feel like organized chaos. Time management, organization, and good communication are critical.
Chef Amy showing off the herring eggs they serve as part of their Native Foods Program at Alaska Native Medical Center.
Describe a common problem that your customers face. How do you resolve this?
Most of my customers express the desire to create a unique dining experience for their guests. When I first got out in the field here in Alaska, one of the things I noticed was how similar everyone’s tabletop looked. Most likely because of limited availability in the local market, everyone was buying the same china and glassware patterns they were “sold on” years ago. I am learning that my success will come from helping my customers separate themselves from the pack. With the encouragement to learn and the continual flow of information regarding fresh trends and new products, our company provides me and my customers with the tools for us both to win.
What are some of the top mistakes that restaurateur should be aware of when starting up a new restaurant?
I see too many restaurateurs go into the business without a clear vision and the much needed capital to fund that vision. Without a common goal the entire staff can rally around, the long hours and extremely hard work involved with starting a new restaurant can be almost unbearable. If you add to that, the stress of being underfunded, you are not giving yourself a fighting chance.
Describe a few items that are often overlooked but should be in every kitchen. Why?
Cast iron is a wonderful addition to any kitchen. They are one of the most versatile cooking vessels you will ever own. With all of the smaller sizes available now, they make for great presentation pieces. They are also induction ready! A microplane is sometimes an afterthought. It has many uses and when you don’t have one, life just isn’t the same. You can quickly zest citrus, mince garlic or ginger, and grate chocolate or whole spices.
What other advice do you have for success?
We work in such a fast-paced environment and our meetings always have the potential to be
interrupted by the next emergency, so I like to prepare for each customer sales call by asking myself
“What solutions am I offering today?” or “How can I create value today?” Questions like these get me
focused and ready to be a great resource for my customers.
To purchase the Metro High-Density Shelving, click here or contact your local sales representative for more information.
Find Jeremy Cockerham at 365 Industrial Way Anchorage, AK 99501.