Pete Grdina, Executive Chef for College Chefs at the Alpha Delta Pi sorority at Indiana University, loved to cook from a young age. Besides loving to cook, Chef Pete has a giving hand as well when it comes to his community with and outside College Chefs.
A Smart Move
Pete remembers picking blueberries with his mother at the early age of seven. “I did a lot of cooking with my mom,” he says of his early days in the kitchen. However, it did not take long for him to get a job doing the exact same thing--cooking. At the age of 15 Pete was working at a catering company. When he was 16 years old, he met a chef at the catering company that took him under his wing in the kitchen. “I never left since,” he says of that time. Pete also worked in a steel mill where he had to cook for many of the employees at just 18 years old. In 2001 he moved back home to take care of his mother, where she advised him to go do something he loved. Pete took her advice and enrolled in culinary school. He studied in Chicago and graduated in 2006. Pete talked about how challenging it was during culinary school. “I started with a class of 30 and only 8 graduated,” he says. After culinary school he worked at different restaurants here and there and then he decided he wanted something different. At the time he was working for the Hilton hotel when he found came across an interesting opportunity. He sent his resume and received a phone call from Owner of College Chefs, Chef Kevin Gadus. Pete happened to also attend the same culinary school as Kevin and Director of Operations, Chef Jake Sanders – Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Le Cordon Bleu.
Taking on a New Career
Once he concluded his interview with Jake, Pete accepted the job with College Chefs. Great benefits such as a collegiate schedule aside, Pete loves his creative freedom. He gets to work with the members at the sorority and plan menus out. “It is never boring because there is always something different,” he says of his ever changing menu. He explains that he likes the diversity. One of the girls favorite dishes is his coconut encrusted Tilapia. He is also famous for his cream puff swans, which he admits are time consuming but well worth it. The girls also love his other made from scratch foods. Chef Pete makes all his own breads and pastas. “The girls really enjoy the fresh foods,” hesays. During his four years with College Chefs, he has made a lot of memories. He loves to teach the girls how to cook; hosting cooking lessons when the girls ask. However, it cannot go without mention of his love in giving back to the community. Some of his favorite memories are at philanthropy events through College Chefs.
A Well-Rounded Chef
Being in the business for many years and getting to see many sides of the culinary industry, Chef Pete tells future chefs it is a tough career, but rewarding. Pete explains that one of the best things is you can create beautiful things you are proud of while making people happy. He also believes that when he is teaching other chefs, he does not make them do anything he would not do. “That seems to help a lot,” he says.
Chef Pete can honestly say that he enjoys going to work every day and seeing the girls at his sorority. “I really enjoy what I am doing in life,” he says. But when he gets some down time, you can find him hunting, fishing or possibly fixing up a house. Most importantly he is probably lending a helping hand while making sure they’re well-fed.
By Ashley Skoczylas