Reflecting upon my journey as CEO of DIG, I look back fondly at my start in the workforce—ironically earning my first paycheck at another fast casual concept. From those earlier years when I was just starting out and learning a lot, I have always had a love for people and food. And at DIG, those two passions collide in the best way possible.
Before I joined the DIG team, I attended Stanford University, where I earned my bachelor’s degree, and Harvard University, where I then earned my Master of Business Administration degree. I’ve spent years in the consumer industry, working for popular nationwide brands like General Mills and Weight Watchers. Then later gaining experience in the technology sector, I served as CEO of Aaptic, where I led the company—an app startup—to profitability. Those years spent dedicating my time to the growth of various brands really motivated me to help take DIG to the next level and truly hone in on my growing passion for leadership.
What DIG ultimately strives for, and what’s been at the forefront of its mission since inception, is bringing home-cooked goodness to our communities in a fast, affordable, and nutritious way. To us, knife skills are life skills. I know my team would agree with me when I say, I believe that tasty and healthy food should be accessible. Initiatives like our DIG Dinner Box really bring that idea home, no pun intended.
If anyone takes a look at our social media—trust me, it’s worth the follow—they’ll notice that we also like to have fun with cooking and try new ways to engage with the community. That’s an aspect of my job that I really try to lean into. Being out in the field, interacting with our guests, and seeing the happiness that our food and our team’s energy brings to people’s day is amazing. As a leader, that’s something that I believe every CEO should strive for. Working alongside your team at every level possible can make a world of difference to the comradery and the culture that is created within your restaurants. It also allows for leadership to really understand the brand from the inside out, consistently cultivating ideas, opportunities, and growth.
What was your first job?
My first real employment was as a “cookieista” at a Mrs. Fields cookie shop in college. On the one hand, it was just the typical sort of job a kid gets to fill in the cracks between other things. But on the other hand, it helped me start to understand how satisfying it can be to provide food for people, and the fun of seeing the smile on their faces. In a sense, it’s all coming full circle with my role at DIG.
What’s your favorite menu item at DIG?
I’m a carnivore, but actually, it is the Maple Glazed Crispy Tofu. It’s really good, but it is also sneaky in that it tastes like it’s fried. But, it’s actually baked, and it’s vegan. So, I feel like I’m getting some decadence for free.
What’s your favorite cuisine aside from DIG?
Honestly that is tough, because food and I are very good friends. But I would probably pick Chinese—in particular, dumplings and dim sum. I think I gravitate toward tapas-style small portions, because then I can feel more excited about eating a lot of them and trying a lot of different things.
Who inspires you as a leader?
I’ve been on a roll lately watching sports movies with “rising up” themes. So, I think I’ll go with Herman Boone, who led a racially integrated high school football team in Virginia in the 1970s to an unlikely state championship. Denzel Washington played him in the movie “Remember the Titans.” What passion, what focus, and what an amazing real-life story about putting a team together and achieving the impossible.
What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?
What a flattering question, given how much talent and energy there is among restaurant executives already. Here’s my take: While it is important to have an executive perspective, I have found it so important to stay in the field. In spite of any analysis, offsite or strategic work session, I have found that most of the answers are found within the 4 walls of the restaurant – talking to employees, talking to customers and working on the line.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
Although I would be mocked at work for my hands-on culinary skills, I really like to cook! I like finding excuses to have people over, to try cooking new things for my family, and to get better at the craft. Also, I have a huge and constantly rotating stockpile of “Law and Order” on my DVR. “These are their stories. DUN DUN!”