ProStart Mentor Profile—Isaac Pappion, Associate Team Leader
Prepared Foods, Whole Foods Market, Metairie
Experienced enough to lead them, respect drives his style
On a recent Friday, Chef Isaac Pappion found himself in the state-of-the-art commercial kitchen at Grace King High School for his first mentoring session with the Louisiana ProStart program. His first impression was amazement at the size and range of equipment in the kitchen, which was funded through a Community Development Block Grant following Hurricane Katrina.
“I didn’t realize that the kitchen would be so huge or I would’ve have prepared something more elaborate for the students,” Pappion said. “I prepared two dishes, a broccoli crunch and a julienne vegetable medley, both they could easily prepare for their families or friends.”
Pappion has had many mentors along the way and he credits their willingness to share their trials with him in an effort to help him grow in his chosen profession. Although, he found himself in a restaurant kitchen in high school, he stated that the ProStart program would have definitely helped him have a greater understanding of what a chef’s lifestyle is all about.
“That’s why I’m so passionate about working with the ProStart students,” he added. “I see a lot of myself in many of them, an eagerness to learn more and be the best.”
Although he started as a dishwasher, he filled in wherever they needed him and quickly moved up as a line cook. Upon his high school graduation, he enrolled in the Delgado Community College Culinary Program and worked at Whole Foods [the first time] to pay his tuition.
“Delgado’s Culinary Program was really comprehensive, but there’s nothing like being in a kitchen,” he said. “The camaraderie, the adrenaline rush and atmosphere just can’t compare to any classes I had.”
At the age of 28, he’s had a varied career in the restaurant industry having worked at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen under the tutelage of Chef Paul Miller, Chef Greg Sonnier and Le Pavillon’s Chef Benjamin Doolittle.
“It was really important for me to diverse my culinary training and with Italian under my belt, I choose K-Paul’s to learn the authenticity of Louisiana cuisine and then went on to learn the French culinary traditions,” he shared.
He also did a three-year stint with the Windsor Court’s Grill Room where he found himself in a kitchen management position leading staff that had several years on him.
“Just because I’m so young, doesn’t mean I’m not experienced,” he said. “I quickly learned in order to lead those older than me, I needed to be respectful and receptive. That helped me gain their respect.”
He’s impressive to say the least. He shared his love of leadership books to him help be a better manager and leader. In his position at Whole Foods, Pappion feels he can apply what he’s read daily and learned from other chefs during his career path to effectively supervise a staff of 64 in what many refer to as the “World’s Largest Restaurant.”
“Being able to give my time to a program like ProStart is such a great ego boost,” he said. “I’d recommend being a mentor to anyone in the industry, especially those who may want to become better presenters or brush up on their public speaking skills.”
For more information on how you can influence the next generation of restaurant industry talent in Louisiana, call ProStart Coordinator James Blanchard at (504) 454-2277 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.