I grew up in a big Italian household and was accustomed to the family meals, gatherings, and entertaining from an early age. I remember getting a lot of energy being around food and curiosity about all those preparing the meals. Even through high school, I was at the countertop or in home economics learning and becoming more and more passionate about food.

After making the mistake of thinking I wanted to be a meteorologist, I eventually came to get my culinary and bakery degree from New York’s Culinary Institute of America. My first gig as a real-life chef and baker was with Maggiano’s restaurant in Chicago. That “temporary” job ended up being my career, and Corner Bakery Café, [which was originally the bakery side of Maggiano’s], started shortly thereafter.

We started out as just a bakery. I liked being part of brands that are still trying to figure it out, and we were no different. We had the bread, sure, but what next? People were looking for more, so we made sandwiches for the bread. Then we made salads for the sandwiches, and so on. We were a food-first concept right from the start, and it’s how we challenge ourselves even today to come up with new ideas and concepts. Everyone with the brand has an energy, and it keeps all of us moving and staying motivated.

I never like the thought of ideas dying on the vine. I love great ideas, and if someone in the kitchen comes up with a great idea, I don’t hand it off to someone down the supply chain. We go through it, develop it, and figure it out right there. That’s what caused Corner Bakery to be on top of the changing industry that is quick service.

People want to eat healthier these days, and I wholeheartedly believe that our role to play is giving them that option. As operators and brand executives at Corner Bakery, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to put our menu ahead of our competitors with healthy and fresh options. Eventually, I’d like to be able to sit back after being out of the game and still see our brand delivering on options and expectations of the customer.

What was your first job?

My father was a surgeon, and I used to work in the kitchen at the hospital.

What is your favorite menu item at Corner Bakery?

Berry Almond Swiss Oatmeal.

What is your favorite restaurant or type of food excluding Corner Bakery?

Any place where I can learn something new about food.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

Mountain biking.

What is the best piece of advice quick-serve executives should hear?

A line from a poem I was given from one of my leaders. The poet is Max Ehrmann and the line reads, “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”

Business Advice, Fast Casual, Menu Innovations, Sandwiches, Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs, Story, Corner Bakery Cafe