Meet Shane Schaibly, Corporate Chef and Vice President of Culinary Strategy of First Watch Restaurants, Inc. Chef Schaibly took the time to tell us a little about his background, work at First Watch, and what he sees as big on the food trend front.
FDR: Why did you choose a career in the culinary world?
Shane: It chose me! From the age of 14, I was attracted to the “bad boy” side of the business where it was OK to look different, talk different, act different – just be different. The profession encourages thick skin, shit-talking, fun, and camaraderie in the workplace. It also encourages tough love and acceptance – truly regardless of age, color, and sexual orientation, whatever. If you were willing to take the rousing, not cry about it, and put your head down and grind through service, you were in.
I loved that I could use both sides of my brain to do something I enjoyed and that would, maybe someday, make my parents proud. I tried “real” college (twice), tried the military, and ended up back in restaurants EVERY time. The organized chaos, the artistic side, and the family-like environment all made me choose a career in the culinary world. The people I’ve met, worked for, and worked with over the years have helped to shape me into the chef and the person I am today.
What brought you to First Watch?
I was ready to move on from my last position and had a friendly lunch with First Watch’s current President, then CMO, Chis Tomasso. He said they were looking for someone young and ambitious who would help transform the culinary program of the then 30-year-old company. He said: ‘We’ve always been known for our service and are about to embark on a journey to update our restaurants and décor, but we need some updating in the culinary department.’
Here we are today. Its been an amazing journey, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What’s new/exciting at First Watch?
In my four years here, we have implemented some amazing dishes and programs. Recently, we started the fresh juice program, an incremental add-on dish called Million Dollar Bacon, and Project Sunrise, which includes an amazing new coffee program sourced high up in the mountains of Colombia from the Huila region. We traveled there and met some of the women growers who produce the coffee. It has been a huge success. (Learn more about Project Sunrise.)
What do you see as the biggest food or beverage trend this year? What trend would you like to see more of?
Plant-based everything. From “meats” to beverages, it seems the industry is hitting its stride in commercially available, high-quality products that have distribution figured out. It will be a new age for those of us willing and wanting to see what these products can do for us. The products aren’t just made for vegans, vegetarians, or health-crazed people. It is our job as corporate chefs to see how we can work them into our everyday foods.
On the beverage side of things, there are some great products coming out that taste and have the viscosity and mouthfeel of real dairy. They work in hot or cold applications and allow us chefs to really use them on the culinary side as well.
Best new restaurant or dish you’ve tried or made lately?
I love all of the food halls that are popping up in Dallas, Tampa, New Orleans, Miami, Birmingham, Atlanta, and the list goes on and on. I had a unique opportunity to tour the new Legacy Food Hall in Dallas with the team from Front Burner Restaurants. I love the idea of these halls being a starting point for so many young chefs and start-up concepts – it’s a win, win. Customers get to sample different foods they’ve never seen before and these guys (and girls) get a chance at the entrepreneur side of the business without a massive risk or trying to find investors or backers.
Thanks to Chef Schaibly for taking the time to speak with us. For more like, check out all of our chef interviews.