Rising Star Spotlight – Nicole Perez

Perez NicoleNicole Perez, Impossible Foods

After your first SHFM Conference in 2021, you made a point to reach out to other SHFM members and Rising Stars. How have those connections help you in the industry?

After my first SHFM conference in 2021, I was impressed at how connected everyone was and the long time relationships all under one roof. As both a new member to SHFM and a fairly new entrant to the foodservice world, I made it a point to reach out to members of the young professionals group to learn more about their journey in the industry, and to learn more about the SHFM organization. Those connections helped me identify that SHFM was the community I was looking for. The people I spoke to also recognized I’d be a good fit for the Rising Star program and motivated me to apply. I have much more tenure to build, but so far these connections have helped me learn more tactical knowledge about foodservice, take on leadership roles, and expand my professional network.

Not only have you looked for involvement with individual members, you have also become involved in volunteering for SHFM committees, how has this involvement been for you?

The involvement in the SHFM committees has catapulted my networking and collaboration with other members of the organization. I’m a part of the CIC Advisory Group, as well as on the planning committee for the Florida Local. These sub groups have created more intimate opportunities to contribute to the organization and get to know new/existing/veteran members of the organization. It has also given me the opportunity to take on leadership roles.

You are a new Rising Star this year, how have you enjoyed the program and what have you gotten out of it?

I have absolutely loved the Rising Star program. I was yearning for a community of motivated young professionals to share successes, challenges, and build relationships with. When I was doing my listening tour after attending my first SHFM 2021 national conference, I would share the challenges I was facing as a new entrant into the foodservice world, and everyone I spoke to recommended I apply for Rising Stars. The group has taught me so much already. I’ve been able to relate to others about hardships, share success stories, and have open conversations about how we can influence change in the foodservice industry. I’ve also been able to connect with others on a personal level and create strong bonds.

What would be your “elevator speech” to someone unfamiliar with SHFM?

Society for Hospitality Foodservice Management (SHFM) is an organization geared towards all types of professionals in the foodservice industry. If you work in a kitchen or an office, if you are a regional manufacturer rep or manage the food program for a large corporation, if you are an executive chef or a food broker, SHFM has a place for you. Our purpose is to be the think tank for the foodservice world and contribute towards the development, innovation, and future of foodservice.

Finally, our traditional final question: What and where was the best meal you have ever had? 

I am sure that I have yet to experience my most memorable culinary experience, but since I have to choose one that has already happened, the following comes to mind: A home cooked meal in the small kitchen of an Airbnb on Anna Maria Island in FL. My entire mom’s side of the family had flown in from 5 different countries to spend 4 days together, and I convinced my Nonna (Italian grandmother) to cook dinner with me and feed 10 people. The menu that we put together was the classic Italian we can all envision, but what makes this the best meal was not the consuming of food, but the preparation. I was cooking alongside my 80 year old Nonna, and listening to her subconsciously teach me tips and tricks that she had learned over the course of all her years on this planet. In the end, I don’t remember anything that we actually ate, but I remember all of us cooking in a tiny nook of a kitchen and 4 generations of family members from all over the world enjoying a home cooked meal together under one roof. That meal will forever be ingrained as a reminder of the power that food has to bring us together.

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