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.
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
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.
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. .
Chef 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.
For the past ten years Penny has been dedicated to surrounding herself with inspirational mentors. Her inspiration was sparked when she first emerged herself with experienced educators who taught her that an open mindset, vulnerability, communicating and the ability to manage conflict productively are key tools in creating an environment that promotes personal and professional growth. After discovering this passion, she took the initiative to place herself in situations that built her knowledge in advocacy, special education, inclusiveness and diversity.
During this journey of self-development and growth, Penny had to make the tough decision to step away from the education system. Although Penny had minimal experience in the hospitality industry, she was drawn to Main Street Ventures restaurant group by their high standards in ethics, professionalism and commitment to exceed guest’s expectations.
After intense training to begin her career in the food and beverage industry, she began working alongside management who thrived by providing an environment that was inclusive and encouraged growth. She desired the ability the play a larger role in the industry and in-turn, sought to learn all aspects of the food and beverage industry. During her time with Main Street Ventures, she made a point to help her co-workers advocate for themselves by initiating tough conversations that resulted in productive results. She also received a company Merit Award for creating a system for daily and weekly sanitation for Front of the House staff. Her system provided clear expectations that improved the effectiveness of daily side work and provided documentation which resulted in holding staff accountable.
At this time Penny felt that it was necessary to move forward in the industry. After she learned about Culinary Cultivations, she knew the company was a perfect place to utilize the skills she had gained, while continuing to grow and learn in the industry. Joining the company as a server, Penny's role quickly grew. With her quality of service and attention to detail, combined with her ability to promote positivity and to productively communicate with other team members and clients, it was natural for her to join the Culinary Cultivations corporate team as the Event Staffing Manager. She plays an essential role in building and supporting our amazing and diverse team of front and back of the house professionals.
On a more personal level, Penny is an intentionally optimistic potlucker, who spends her spare time challenging the current education system's culture and advocating for social education for students and their families. She is inspired daily by her two amazing children, advocates, educators and leaders. Penny is dedicated to continuing her growth by consciously seeking out experienced mentors and taking every opportunity to learn. In Penny's world, expectations are clear, conflict is productive and kindness truly matters.
Liz comes to us from her hometown of Muskegon, MI, with eighteen years of marketing, sales and public relations experience. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Public Relations/Communications and has done work with some highly reputable companies including Stryker, Gannett and Mlive Media Group. Liz is our resident SEM, SEO and social media expert, in addition to being our community engagement and media connection.
Early in her career, Liz worked in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries doing marketing and sales. After having a child and staying at home for three years, her journey into digital marketing began. The digital world is constantly evolving which is what Liz loves about it. Change is exciting to her and new goals, situations and challenges are welcome in her world. Public Relations is something that comes naturally to Liz and she truly believes it is a part of any marketing and sales job.
Liz is also no stranger to stage and screen. She has been acting since elementary school. Her credits include plays, commercials, corporate videos and independent films, along with print modeling.
Beginning her career in events as a country club banquet server, she was an energetic 15 year old hoping to save up for a new car, however when Kate left for college she knew exactly what her focus would be. In 2011 she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management and a dual-minors in Club Management and Special Event & Meeting Planning from Ferris State University.
After graduation, Kate made her way to Detroit where she became a Food & Beverage Manager at The Detroit Golf Club. After 2 seasons, she sought southern charm and moved to Savannah, Georgia where she became the Catering & Event Coordinator at The Savannah Golf Club for another 2 seasons. Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Lake called her to come home and she enjoyed a summer at The Pentwater Yacht Club as the Clubhouse Manager.
In early 2018 Kate began her own Event Planning and Consulting company, Valley & Oak Events and hopes to continue to grow her own business while always helping out others doing the same.
Her passion is to see others happy, which is exactly what hospitality is based on. Being a natural leader, she has a hard time watching any task performed half-hearted. As a result, she is very hands-on at every event. Kate prides herself on her genuine personality and sincere care for the clients she works with. She believes building a strong relationship with every client better allows their needs to be met and exceeded.
When Kate isn’t being a boss-lady, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, biking and basically anything outside and with her dog Leo.
Jenn Fillenworth has worked in the food service industry for the past 12 years in several different positions. It was during her first job as a dishwasher for Bill’s Family Restaurant in Grand Rapids, MI that she fell in love with the industry. Her passion for food and nutrition led her to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Michigan State University. Following graduation, she completed a dietetic internship through Michigan State to earn her Registered Dietitian credential. After completion of her internship, she worked as a clinical dietitian specializing in the ketogenic diet for adults with Epilepsy.
During her time at Michigan State, she worked as a Food Service Assistant at Hope Network and was responsible for all meal preparation for the residents. Many of the residents had specific dietary needs and Jenn realized how beneficial it could be to be both a Registered Dietitian and a chef. She recently pursued her dream and started a culinary arts program at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education and also graduated from Central Michigan University with her Master’s in human nutrition.
Over the past few years, she has made multiple appearances on ABC, NBC, and Fox-affiliated television stations presenting recipes and nutrition tips to viewers. Recently, she has been working as a nutrition ambassador for the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. Grand Rapids locals can catch her blogging about local restaurants and chefs on GRNow.com
Over the past year, Jenn was spotlighted as a “Dietitian of the Month” by the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, served as a mixed pairing judge at the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival, and had an original recipe published in the Siggi’s dairy Cookbook.
Jenn looks forward to bringing both a culinary and nutrition background to Culinary Cultivations.
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.
Chef 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.
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.