Interview with Miniat's Executive Research Chef, John Draz, CCE, CEC, CRC
John Draz, CEC®, CCE®, CRC®, has been the Executive Research Chef for Ed Miniat LLC for over 13 years. His role involves developing gold standard recipes, developing initial formulas for new flavors, and presenting Ed Miniat's meat products in various customer applications. In addition to his career as a corporate chef, he’s also an educator, textbook author, and former restaurant owner.
Interview & Photo by Liz Sartain
Liz: Chef, you have several credentials after your name. What do all those letters stand for?
John: I have 3 certifications. Two are offered by the American Culinary Federation—the CEC®, or Certified Executive Chef, and the CCE®, Certified Culinary Educator. The Research Chefs Association offers the CRC®, Certified Research Chef, which demonstrates proven competence in both culinary arts and food product research and development and focuses heavily on food science rather than just culinary skills.
L: Based on those certifications, it sounds like you’ve had an extensive career in the food industry. Can you share a little about your journey with us? What piqued your interest in food?
J: My interest in the food industry began in high school. I was a banquet waiter in high school and enjoyed being around food, so I decided to start cooking in restaurants and hotels. I attended the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park. After graduating, I worked at the Chicago Ritz Carlton, then moved to the Winnetka Grill, and next to George’s, a restaurant featuring northern Italian cuisine. During that time, I was featured on the PBS television series, Great Chefs of Chicago. In 1985 I left the restaurant industry to assist Kendall College in founding of their culinary program. While there, I had the opportunity to develop the curriculum, oversee the building of the on-campus restaurant, teach, and serve as the first culinary director. In 1998 I was given the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of having my own restaurant, and opened Plentywood, an American cuisine restaurant in Bensenville. Then in 2001, I returned to teaching at Kendall College after the restaurant was purchased.
L: So how did you hear about the position at Miniat?
J: In 2004 a chef I knew who was working at a global CPG company mentioned that Miniat was hiring an Executive Research Chef. I interviewed and was hired for the position.
L: What do you enjoy about being a research chef at Miniat?
J: I appreciate how the company values its people and their efforts. As far as product development goes, it’s always very rewarding to see concepts I’ve worked on be on the menu at national restaurant chains.
L: You have such a rich career history. What would you say is your most notable accomplishment?
J: Co-authoring The Culinary Professional was such an interesting project, and would definitely rank near the top. I’m also very proud of receiving my RCA Certified Research Chef® credentials in 2015. The exam is 90% food science and a nice addition to round out my culinary skills.
L: Since you’re a chef, I feel like I should ask what your favorite dish or cuisine is.
J: I really enjoy the flavors of Louisiana cuisine—both Creole and Cajun. But would have to save my favorite dish is pork loin with oven roasted potatoes.
L: Sounds delicious! What do you enjoy doing outside of the kitchen?
J: I enjoy golfing, playing tennis, and painting landscapes in both watercolor and oil.
L: Thanks, for sharing your story with us, Chef John.