Dylan France, Executive Chef for LifeWorks and Director of Culinary Innovation, knew from an early age that he was destined to innovate in the kitchen. Whether it’s playing with flamethrowers or winning national culinary competitions, he’s found his passion as a chef within Aramark’s Business Dining line of business.
Dylan found a home as an Executive Chef at LifeWorks, an independent division within Aramark. With a passion for cooking and a creative edge, Dylan’s electric leadership style has driven him to have a creative impact not only in his own kitchen, but across dozens of other Aramark locations in the country. It all starts with the culture and tone he sets for the staff around him.
“It’s awesome. You know, I’ve always seen myself as somewhat of a teacher, so I always consider my kitchen a working classroom. Going through the hiring process, you get a feel for how passionate people are about cooking. So my people are complete culinarians – outside and inside of work. That kind of motivation kind of bleeds into the rest of the staff.”
It’s not just his own team, though. As Director of Culinary Innovation at Aramark, Dylan shares his passion and insights with chefs across the country, empowering them to tap into their creativity without breaking the bank.
“We do a lot of fun things here that some accounts either don’t feel they have the time to do or don’t know how to do. I think it’s just not knowing that the cost is minimal. It’s all about changing up guests’ lunch experience. The price is the same whether you serve Strawberry Shortcake on a plate, or you serve it in a flaming bowl – fire doesn’t cost anything.”
To Dylan, culinary innovation isn’t about bells and whistles or fancy garnishes. According to Dylan, innovation is at the heart of an enjoyable and memorable customer experience.
“I think on a daily basis, especially in a corporate setting where you’re feeding the same people every day, you’re gonna have to change things up, you’re gonna have to keep things exciting. You know, for people that work in an office setting, which most of our cafes serve, the highlight of their day is going down and getting lunch, right? That’s what they talk about in the morning. That’s what they talk about throughout the day. ‘What are you gonna go eat? I had this yesterday, I saw this on Instagram.’ Food is just such a big part of that workday experience. So staying innovative and staying creative, it’s 80% of our job. And for most of us chefs at LifeWorks, it’s not just the Monday through Friday thing. It’s weekend hobbies, it’s going home and pickling and fermenting or working on barbecues because food is our lifestyle and if that’s not your lifestyle, you’re probably not a chef within LifeWorks.”
To hear more about Dylan’s responsibilities as executive chef, his passion for teaching, or his healthy work-life balance, check out the Q&A!
— Dylan France, Executive Chef
Hear more from our conversation with Dylan in the Q&A section below.
How did you discover Aramark?
Well, my buddy was always posting on Instagram or Facebook of himself at work - always smiling and making these cool dishes and having fun. And normally, as a chef, you're this angry guy in the back of the kitchen, throwing pots and pans and swearing and you know, just being a frustrated individual. But he was always posting these happy videos. So I contacted him one day and asked, who you working for? And he says LifeWorks (Aramark). So we continued that conversation. I ended up applying to LifeWorks, and took over the executive chef job in Campbell, California. And like I said, I worked for Guggenheim, I worked Bon Appetit. I was at Google for a while. But LifeWorks is just a truly chef driven program. So that's really what attracted me to it.
What makes Aramark different than other companies?
I think one of the bigger drivers of why I tell other chefs why they should join LifeWorks, because it truly is a chef driven company. Yes, we have our recipes and our standards and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, the chef is the star of the cafe, the chef gets to create the concepts, create the menus, and gets to truly lead, so I'm a big advocate for Lifeworks.
Have you felt supported as a chef at Aramark/LifeWorks?
I think as a chef, being the person that's going and trying new things and wanting to create new experiences, the support has always been there within LifeWorks. And like I said, I've worked for several other companies, where you really didn't see that rapport. Other companies just want to see the numbers, and if you're selling things at the right cost, but within LifeWorks, you really have passion driven people behind you that really want to create a great experience for the guests. And they also support you by making sure that the numbers do line up. So it's not all on the chef to sit there and cost out a recipe and make sure that we're making the dollars at the end of the day. The LifeWorks Group/Aramark really wants to create an awesome dining experience for the guests that we're serving, which is equally as great for the chefs.
As a leader, how do you keep your people engaged in the kitchen?
The kitchen, in my opinion, is a constant classroom. So everybody's constantly learning. For example, we encourage all of our cooks to bring in home recipes, say your grandma makes some awesome cookies. Or, you know, tamales or whatever it is. And so we do see a lot of that. And I do feel the voices are heard throughout the kitchen. It's pretty easy to tell if somebody's not super engaged. We'll get them engaged, we'll find whatever niche because everybody eats. Everybody here loves to cook, everybody loves to be around food, they wouldn't have a job in a kitchen if they didn't. So we'll find whatever sparks their interest, and we'll push on that.