We realized that often the people teaching food handling safety techniques to chefs and food service professionals alike were not actually in the Hospitality or Food Service Industry themselves. We then set out to reinvent the typical food safety training program with a more hands on and practical approach by forming Culinary Cultivations.
As a company, we wanted to create an educational, comfortable and chef driven experience for the students in our ServSafe certification programs. The driving force behind Culinary Cultivations originated from a passion for fresh, local, sustainable and safe food handling practices.
Our Mission is to bring our professional expertise and real world experience to the exacting standards as taught in our classrooms for all our ServSafe Training and Certification Programs; as well as a fresh and efficient approach to all aspects of food service and hospitality as dependent upon the unique needs of our clients.
Culinary Cultivations strives to become the go-to source for food service education, hospitality consulting and marketing in Michigan, Northern Indiana and the Toledo area. We will continue to maintain the importance of the highest levels of customer service in every one of our future endeavors. Our active community involvement and strong local partnerships are also central to our identity as a professional local resource, and we will continue to keep that as our focus as we expand. We aim to become an all-inclusive custom support network within the hospitality and food service industry by specifically identifying and fulfilling our individual clients' needs. Culinary Cultivations is your partner in all aspects of food service, from large-scale operations to unique fine dining establishments, encompassing locales beyond our current markets.
Chef Shawn Kohlhaas, a seasoned 30 year veteran of the food service industry, has been leading the way in new and fresh approaches in the culinary field. His passions have been in farm-to-table initiatives with an emphasis on local organic and sustainable practices.
At age 20, Shawn apprenticed under Master Chef Karl Wenzel and quickly absorbed the nature of the restaurant culture found along the eastern seaboard. Shortly after, Shawn and his father founded and created the Mountain Creek Tavern Restaurant. For seven years they masterfully executed a fine dining experience in a country setting with a menu focused on local and indigenous ingredients.
After selling the business, Shawn moved on to be the Food Consultant of Lowe’s Foods. There, he sharpened his retail knowledge until he was offered the prestigious position of Executive Chef for NASCAR. Here, he was responsible for the dining needs of all officials and executives on the NASCAR circuit. This opportunity challenged him to source everything from linens and china to food and localized specialty items for races which were in different locations every week.
Shawn moved to Grand Rapids, MI in 2004 where he found a new frontier in food culture. He quickly became the Regional Culinary Services Manager for the Unidine Corporation. With Unidine, he helped guide many culinary aspects for over 180 food service accounts from small retirement communities to multi-conceptual hospitals. He was able to institute high sanitation standards from his extensive training as a ServSafe Instructor and Proctor.
Main Principal and Lead Consultant for Culinary Cultivations.
Vice President for the Greater Grand Rapids American Culinary Federation
Chairman of the food safety advisory board for the Kent County Health Department
Host of The Local Feed show on WYCE 88.1 FM Grand Rapids MI
One of 20 instructors of over 10,000 instructors to help develop the Servsafe materials and program
Culinary Chair of the West Michigan March of Dimes Signature Chefs Charity Event
2013 ACF Professional Chef of the Year for Grand Rapids
2014 ACF Chef of the Year for Grand Rapids
2016 GRAPE Award for Excellence in the Culinary Field for The Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence
Desiree has been in the food service industry for almost 20 years working many facets of the industry from service to production. She started her love for the food service industry at the culinary arts program at the Sanilac County tech center. She spent two years there, where she received top honors and earned the principles award. After graduation Desiree moved to west Michigan to pursue her education by attending Baker College in Muskegon and receiving her associates degree in food and beverage management.
Desiree began her professional career working under the tutelage of Chef Shawn Kohlhaas for the Aramark corporation in industrial food production as a food service supervisor. Within 1 years’ time Desiree was promoted to food service manager and was assigned her own account and location. She spent a year there building up a new food service program. After 1 year Desiree was able to build a new food service program for the Aramark client and was promoted to Food Service Director to replace her mentor as he moved on to continue to build Culinary Cultivation. After some time as a Food Service Director, Desiree wanted to pursue a different aspect of the food service industry. She decided to leave Aramark and pursue a career as operations manager at Culinary Cultivations. Currently Desiree manages the event staffing and the Servsafe classes for Culinary Cultivations as well as assists with larger consulting projects with the consulting team. .
Melissa Atkinson- Events Field Manager
For 20 years, Melissa Atkinson has been active in all aspects of the food service industry. Beginning with her first job in high school as a hostess at Crystal Springs Country Club, through the growth and development of the Anna’s House Restaurant chain as Vice President of Restaurant Operations, Melissa has a true passion and commitment to the food and beverage industry.
Her first management position came about in 2000 when she was made beverage and concessions manager for Crystal Springs at only 19 years old. She held many positions there from banquet server to bartender and gained a love and appreciation for the service industry. After moving to Grand Rapids for college in 2001, Melissa left the country club to gain experience in a full-service restaurant setting at Cheers Goodtime Saloon. Melissa was promoted to Front of the House Supervisor in 2003 and continued to develop her management skills over the next several years.
After Cheers, Melissa applied at the growing Anna’s House Restaurant’s East Beltline location for part-time work during an accelerated class load in college. This quickly became a full-time management position which turned into the District manager position within a year and then another promotion to Vice President of Operations. This included many operational development projects, team building and staff training for a now emerging company with a steady growth rate and reputation for being #1.
Melissa continued to develop the culture core values of Anna’s House Restaurants until her departure from the company in early 2017 to focus on family and seek new ventures in the food and beverage industry. Melissa has worked with the Culinary Cultivations team over the past few years during her time at Anna’s House and through a mutual love of the industry, we developed a strong professional relationship. Melissa’ wealth of knowledge in Front of the House operations and excitement she brings to our industry is parallel to none and she is a very welcomed and important addition to our team.
As the Events Field Manager, Melissa will be the main contact and liaison for our company for clients and staff members for all staffing. Her understanding of our business and the people who support our business will help build our culture and the quality of service we provide.
Cody Clements has an extensive background in the culinary industry. While studying history at the University of Arkansas, he worked in the front of the house at various restaurants, and developed an affinity for the kitchen. His cousin, a chef in Chicago, sparked his interest in becoming a chef and Cody moved on to the world of food at Grand Rapids Community College, where he studied culinary arts. Cody has worked in several kitchens, including Acqualina in Chicago and The 1913 Room, Cygnus 27, The Electric Cheetah in Grand Rapids, and Osgood Brewing in Grandville, where he held the position of Executive Chef.
During his time at Acqualina, the restaurant received a write-up in the New York Times food section. Cody developed as a cook at Acqualina under his Chef Mentor Adam Tanner, who also hails from West Michigan.
Cody loves to travel, and his passion for cooking extends into his home life. He can often be found in the kitchen whipping up dinner for this wife, when he’s not golfing or playing baseball. He has had his own consulting and personal chef business for eight years, and hopes to one day open his own restaurant in downtown Grandville.
Jason Maday has over two decades of experience in the food and culinary education industries. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and has since worked in places like the Williamsburg Inn in Virginia, Turtle Bay at Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.
Jason took the skills he honed throughout his various positions and began sharing them with others when the opportunity arose to teach a vocational culinary arts class at South-Doyle High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. For four years, Jason trained teenagers at South-Doyle, helping them to start their own journeys into the culinary world.
In 2005, Jason moved to Traverse City with his family. While there, he began working with the Traverse Area Catholic School system to start a new farm-to-table lunch program for students. The focus of the program was to avoid heavily processed lunches and move toward more natural and healthier food produced in house, utilizing as many whole foods and local foods as possible. Programs such as this not only allow students to eat healthy while in school, but can also teach them to maintain this habit throughout their lives.
Recently, Jason has returned to the high school classroom. He works with students interested in culinary arts at St. Francis High School and also periodically offers adult cooking classes. Jason is the Dining Room Manager at The Cook’s House, a local sustainable restaurant in Traverse City that is known for being in the top of its class when it comes to artisanal dining.
Jason will now utilize all his cooking and teaching experience, industry knowledge and passion for culinary education as a part of the Culinary Cultivations team, teaching ServSafe certification courses as well as working as the North Michigan consultant for the company.
Alysia Forbush is a graphic designer and photographer with a passion for designing detailed, creative and modern graphics. She attended Ferris State University, where she received an associate’s degree in graphic design, along with a certificate in direct marketing and a bachelor’s degree in advertising/integrated marketing communications.
Alysia has taken the skills she learned at Ferris State and applied them to many projects for local businesses. She has created logos for the Newaygo County Silent Observer program, Preston Defense and Lean on Me Fitness, a personal trainer company.
Marketing materials such as posters, banners and even t-shirt designs focusing on companies are also part of her repertoire. Alysia has worked to create designs for Northeastern University banners, brochures for Ferris State University’s annual DECA conference, and t-shirts advertising Ferris State’s College of Business.
Alysia brings her passion and skills to the Culinary Consultations team, joining as the new graphic designer. She has created brochures and magazine advertisements for the company, and will be working in the future to support our clients’ graphic design needs.
Tiffany Ewigleben has extensive experience with digital media marketing and content development, currently working with a digital marketing company focused on the legal profession as well as Culinary Cultivations. A Northern Virgina native, Tiffany was drawn to Michigan 8 years ago by educational and employment opportunity. In her free time, she enjoys reading (voraciously) and spending time with her family — husband (and local Executive Chef), Jameson, and two sons, Loki and Thorin. Tiffany also works as an occasional freelance writer for many Michigan based blogs, magazines, websites, and news outlets.
Chef Jason focuses his zeal for food in the creation and development of new culinary brands. Marshmallogy, a gourmet marshmallow business in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has proved to be a great creative outlet allowing him to produce over 70 flavors of marshmallows in just 2 short years. With flavors ranging from vanilla to cucumber and chocolate to roasted garlic! More recently, Jason has been hard at work building Case-Porter Beer Jelly, a Grand Rapids based jelly business whose launch will be early 2015. Initially focusing on the craft beer industry and their culinary programs, Case-Porter will soon be a staple in the larder of any foodie. Too, while utilizing his breadth of experience, he has been hired to consult for the opening of a new bagel shop in Grand Rapids. With that being said, Jason began his culinary journey as a child. His mother studied Home Economics in college and certainly passed her passions on to him. Professionally speaking, in the late ‘90s Jason was working in a wine shop developing his palette for fine libations. As a home brewer, he created one of the first retail home brew supply departments in Grand Rapids. Later, he moved to a beverage wholesaler learning that aspect of the distribution supply chain. After attending culinary school in the early part of the new millennium, Jason’s culinary perspective really started to take shape. He has worked all over the kitchen leading teams in Grand Rapids, Chicago and Indianapolis as an Executive Chef. Jason has also spent time in the kitchens of Michelin starred chefs like Grant Achatz at Next and Michael Carlson at Schwa. During the summer of ’14, Jason joined the team at Culinary Cultivations whose work paves the way in culinary innovations for Michigan. His capacity here is as a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor as well as consultant on various projects.
Torrence lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan, having grown up out in the countryside just east of the city. In 2009 he launched “The Starving Artist,” working as a private chef and culinary instructor. As “The Starving Artist,” Torrence handles everything from private parties to public cooking classes to farm dinners to restaurant and bar consultation. He maintains contact with his clients and students through his food writing and culinary-focused social media, and through his efforts with The Starving Artist, he has since become one of the foremost culinary educators in the area.
Torrence studied Liberal Arts at Grand Valley State University, with his emphasis in sociolinguistics and aesthetics. He also studied culinary sociology in Florence, Italy, in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Food History.
He learned his culinary technique from his family, a francophilic group of gourmet farmwomen and huntsmen, who taught him that the best way to honor a harvest, to gather a family together, to entice a lover, or to turn a group of strangers into friends is to cook impossibly well for them. Once his basic skills were learned through years of drills and family dinners, he learned the rest of his skills from books and from 15 years of work in restaurant kitchens, having held every position from busboy to bar manager, from sommelier to executive chef.
Torrence has gained special credential in the mixology field as one of the only members of the United States Bartenders’ Guild in West Michigan, and his cocktails have been finalists in several regional and national competitions, as well as taking several top prizes in the Grand Rapids Cocktail Competition. He continues to teach regular classes on cocktail making and history, and developed several restaurants’ cocktail programs.
As a creative outlet and social experiment, Torrence founded the Full Moon Supper Club in 2010, an open-to-the-public, non-profit, floating dinner party, that has since become the longest-running and most-successful underground restaurant in Michigan. With monthly themed dinners and hundreds of active participants, The Full Moon Supper Club has been regularly highlighted in the media as one of the most exciting groups in the West Michigan food scene. Currently, Torrence is the founder and interim President of the Grand Rapids Cocktail Guild, and the Grand Rapids chapter of the United States Bartending Guild, and is also the Spirits Writer for Grand Rapids Magazine.
In January 2014, Torrence opened Propaganda Doughnuts, the region’s first-and-only from-scratch doughnut shop and patisserie, with a 1940’s pulp-fiction spy-novella theme, winning several local and national awards, as well as winning top prize on The Food Network’s “Donut Showdown”. In November 2014, he opened a new restaurant, The Bandit Queen, a spice-trade-themed Ramen bar focused on traditional east-asian cuisine with a local farm-to-table emphasis. Torrence is currently the Spirits Specialist for a West Michigan restaurant consulting firm, and is presently organizing several exciting new culinary projects to arrive in the very near future.
Torrence is also working on a series of cookbooks, keeping his garden healthy, and practicing his accordion daily.
Angela Steil is a Certified Cicerone® based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is the founder and owner of the her own beer consultancy, as well as the affiliate consultant for the state of Michigan with Leaders Beverage, a consulting company based in Chicago.
Angela recently began her work with the Culinary Cultivations team, lending her beer knowledge to provide education, troubleshooting solutions, presentations and consulting assistance to clients within the beer and culinary realm.
Her education in beer extends not only to the passing of the Certified Cicerone exam, but also to attending the Micro Matic Dispense Institute's Advanced Training Course and both judging and head judging beer competitions. She currently is studying for the Advanced Cicerone exam before she tackles her ultimate goal of becoming a Master Cicerone.
Before turning her main focus toward consulting, Angela worked in various front-of-house positions from serving to bartending both in New York City and Los Angeles. The most recent opportunity was as a bartender at the Los Angeles Belgian beer bar Little Bear, which was featured in the top 100 Best Beer Bars of 2013 list in Draft Magazine.
Upon returning to Grand Rapids, Angela was offered a position as the House Certified Cicerone and Beer Director at Gravity Taphouse Grille before the business opened. In this role, she directed a 64-tap craft-beer-forward beer program, conducted staff and general public beer education, and worked on the floor as the in-house Cicerone. Angela was instrumental in getting Gravity up and running, but left in May of 2015 to begin her own consultancy.
Since her arrival in Grand Rapids, Angela also has become a regular writer for the MittenBrew online publication and has been featured in various local and nationally oriented publications. She has assisted in building the curriculum for the Grand Rapids Community College Craft Brewing Program, and consulted with various companies both locally and internationally. Ernest Magazine, of France, the Gillmore Collection and the Women's City Club are among the clients she has worked with.
It's not just beer that piques Angela's interest. She also enjoys the world of cigars and distilled spirits and is in the process of learning more about both mediums in the constant hunt for the next great palate experience.
Grand Rapids native Meridith Lauzon found her way to Traverse City not long after graduating from Ferris State University with a Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management with a minor in Special Events and Meeting Planning.
She has been in the hospitality business her entire working career, beginning by washing pans for her dad in his catering business. After accepting a job at Applause Banquets and Catering she began to work her way through jobs in the front and back of the house to learn all she could about the hospitality, specifically catering, industry. Meridith decided to go all in with catering and began working towards her Degree at Ferris State University.
In 2008, Meridith participated as a student pourer in the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer and Food Festival, where she met Bryan Ulbrich, owner of award winning winery Left Foot Charley in Traverse City, MI. Impressed with her abilities, Bryan offered her an internship at Left Foot Charley. After her internship was complete, Bryan offered her another job- Tasting Room Manager. Excited to explore more of this unique facet of hospitality, tourism, and service, Meridith eagerly accepted the position. She currently works at Left Foot Charley as their Operations Manager.
In 2015, she played an essential part in a committee that received a Governor's Award for Innovative Tourism Collaboration for Education and Training.
Meridith lives in Traverse City with her husband Richard, son Eli and dogs Chloe and Belle. She enjoys cooking new things from the garden, hiking, biking and enjoying the natural beauty of the Traverse City Area.
Javier Rodriguez is currently a junior at Grand Valley State studying Advertising/Public Relations and Marketing. Javier has worked in the restaurant industry for about 4 years being a server. Currently serving at Applebee’s. In his free time he enjoys going out with friends and being a part of Grand Valley’s Mens Club Volleyball team. Another little hobby he enjoys is photography.
Becky Spaulding received her Associate in Arts degree from Grand Rapids Community College, where she became involved with their newspaper, The Collegiate. After one semester learning AP Style, interview methods and editing, Becky was promoted to News Editor, and got her start using InDesign to create and format newspaper pages.
From GRCC, Becky moved on to GVSU, where she has taken numerous professional and creative writing courses, and has furthered her practice with page layout and design, along with copyediting. She worked for one year as a copy editor and staff writer for the GVSU Lanthorn newspaper, a bi-weekly publication.
Becky is currently enrolled at Grand Valley State University where she is completing her Bachelor’s degree in professional writing and editing. She has a great passion for the written word and through great practice and education has become a talented writer and editor.
Becky has now joined the Culinary Cultivations team as their writer and content editor. Becky started as an intern for the group back in early 2013 and has recently moved up to her current position. Becky has helped to create and edit content for their website, their ServSafe certification courses, standard operating procedure manuals for clients and many other important projects. Becky now rejoins the Culinary Cultivations team in writing and editing content for the company and its clients.
Kristin Howe has worked as a Dietitian for 12 years in many aspects of food and nutrition. Following graduation from Michigan State University, she completed an internship at the Tampa VA Hospital to earn her registration credential. Initially working in community nutrition by educating families regarding healthy eating and nutrition through a county program, she returned to her passion of clinical nutrition with a focus on long-term care and rehabilitation settings. She started a successful consulting business which has served to provide expert nutrition education, clinical support, kitchen management, food service regulation auditing as well as employee training for the last 7 years.
Her passion for food and nutrition began in high school and led her studies, jobs and volunteering in the years following. She has worked in every aspect of the kitchen from dish room and catering to management and education. Kristin has served on boards for local dietitian organizations and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Through her consulting business, Kristin has provided services to many national companies including Unidine, Creative Dining Services, Porter Hills Communities and Goodwill. Her passion for nutrition and standards for quality, leadership and professionalism continue to lead her career and opportunities.
Running a restaurant is risky business. Putting great food on the table, time and again, is a seemingly impossible task. Layer in business operations, planning, and food safety, and it's easy to get in over your head. Culinary Cultivations gives food service professionals the tools to manage all of these issues. Through their experience and diverse backgrounds the partners at Culinary Cultivations can help food service professionals safely and effectively manage all aspects of their operation and succeed.