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Forged by the Sea, My Journey into the Foodservice Equipment Repair Industry

By Michael Angello – Branch Manager, Tucson

As I reminisce about my 15 years in commercial food equipment service, it has occurred to me that I have never really thought about the path that led me to be a part of this amazing industry.  Now that I am looking back, I realize that I never knew anyone in this industry, heck, I did not even know it existed!  I, like most people, never thought about what happens when equipment breaks down or even that there must be someone out there to fix it.

The Beginning

My current path, or journey as I call it, started when I separated from the military. I was looking to start a new career in a town that I had just move to.  I had ‘chosen’ to move to the Arizona desert as my wife’s family had already relocated there from Philadelphia and ‘we’ decided to follow. I had been sailing in the US Navy for 6 years and made the decision to separate myself from the seas. Having arrived in Tucson, I answered a classified in the local paper for an HVAC installer and technician. This may have been the first job that led to my current career but not the spark that started it all. That as I think back started much, much earlier.

Years earlier, as I was about to graduate high school and the thought of four more years of education did not appeal to me. I wanted a career that I could jump into, but what would interest me? That was the question that most high schoolers struggle with and I was no different. I had just taken the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and little did I know that I would soon be contacted by recruiters. A week later the phone was ringing off the hook, every branch of the military wanted me, saying I scored very well. The recruiter that made the best case was from the Navy and their nuclear power program. I was sold! The allure of getting to work on a nuclear power plant was something that sounded amazing and to an 18-year-old kid like myself the offer of $20,000 cash when I graduated from the school certainly did no harm to the idea of signing up

The Military

Boot camp came and went faster than I had ever thought. The military then whisked me away to South Carolina for some special training in nuclear power.  The last thing in the world I wanted to be doing was sitting in a classroom again, but I had to pass to stay on track. The school was grueling, as it was 8 hours of instruction, 5 days a week, and then 45 hours of mandatory additional study! With almost a 70 percent failure rate I was glad and proud to make it through. With 6 months of hands-on learning in an operational nuclear power plant, I really hit my groove. I discovered that I loved working with my hands and learning how to work on equipment that is the size of a house with all its intricacies. This is what my mind really thrived on. I had found my passion in life!

After graduation, I received my first assignment on the USS Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier.  Working in the reactor room with all the equipment was a blast. I was learning electrical, gas, steam, and refrigeration.  Little did I know at the time, these would be the cornerstones of restaurant equipment repair. Most people do not know that while serving you always have two jobs on an aircraft carrier.  One was in the reactor room, monitoring and fixing the equipment. The other was a work center where I oversaw the damage control department for the reactor. This was ensuring that watertight doors functioned properly, firefighting PPE for the reactor department was in good repair and ready, and the filters for fresh air were cleaned regularly. This not only involved interactions with multiple departments, it meant forging good working relationships with them, so our monthly service visits went smoothly. When we were finished with our work, the crew knew what we had done, and they knew what to expect. These departments were my customers and I was determined to keep them happy. This taught me the vital skills of customer service and above all, customer care.

Foodservice Equipment Repair Career

Once I served my contract, I decided it was my time to leave. I had 2 young children and a wife, who believe it or not, I wanted to spend time with. My second career may have started with a job offer as an HVAC installer but my passion for fixing equipment started with my service to my country.  A year into my first job, the company closed shop. I was back looking for something new. Unexpectedly, I happened to be driving behind a service van advertising employment for commercial cooking equipment repair technicians. I quickly wrote the number down and called in. I interviewed that very next day and was hired on the spot!

Even though the years have flown by, looking back I appreciate that I have loved every minute in this industry. This is my career, my blood, my sweat, and my tears. I have gone from serving my country to now serving my community in foodservice. As I look back, I am reminded that community is a very powerful thing because it was in talking with an old industry friend, I learned that there was a service manager position available at General Parts. Now after 4 years behind my desk, instead of in the field, I find myself looking back and realizing, I am where I am supposed to be! Whatever the future holds for me I know it will be in food service support as I cannot see myself anywhere else.