“If you’re doing sincere work, the right place will find you,” said Tommy FitzGerald, who is proudly welcomed as the new sous chef of The Urban Platter at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.
Expertly trained and mentored by dozens of renowned chefs spanning the globe, FitzGerald is one of the most well-known and foremost chefs in Grand Rapids, receiving such accolades as 2017’s Chef of the Year from the Greater Grand Rapids American Culinary Federation.
According to FitzGerald, Mercy Health “found” him, as he “ate at The Urban Platter for six months while my mom was a patient at both Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and Mary Free Bed, and I thought the food was great,” said FitzGerald. “Before she passed away, my mom ate her last meal from this kitchen.
“At Mercy Health, I would love to help ensure that our patients are getting the best care — not only the best clinical care— but also through the food we serve them.”
It’s not just about the food for FitzGerald; it’s also about the people whose lives could be changed when given the right employment opportunity. “I truly believe everyone has a place to work in the kitchen, and I want to reach out to people of all abilities.”
FitzGerald demonstrates a long history of educating others through empathy, as he is the founder of Kitchen Sage, a workforce development program that introduces Grand Rapids’ young adults to the hospitality profession. During this six-week program, the Kitchen Sage instructors Justin Stermin and Karen Chaffee train participants about food safety, first aid and other marketable skills, with the end result being that participants are employed full-time in the hospitality industry.
Building on his foundation of mentoring young adults, at Mercy Health FitzGerald aims for the Nutrition Services department to serve as an employer that encourages a strong work ethic in youth, while grooming them to become future colleagues with Mercy Health. The hope is that the Nutrition Services Department is the foundation for any position at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.
“Through a job in Nutrition Services at Mercy Health, they can experience working in health care,” said FitzGerald. “Although their perspective might initially be that of a tray delivery person, they can see firsthand how a nurse interacts with patients and also be trained on how to appropriately engage with patients and their loved ones. What a great way to introduce them to health care!”
Although he has only been here for a few weeks, FitzGerald is proud of the Nutrition Services team and doesn’t hesitate to show it. “When I recently worked a weekend shift, I ‘wrote up’ my colleagues for all the great things they were doing,” FitzGerald said. “We ask them to do more and more, and they continually rise to each new challenge.”
FitzGerald’s aspirations don’t stop at providing a great educational and work experience for colleagues, he also strives to change the perception of The Urban Platter into that of a destination for local foodies.
“I want this to be a place where people from local businesses come for lunch daily and where people seek out for their first dates.”
Make sure to stop by The Urban Platter to say hi to Tommy Fitzgerald! The Urban Platter is open from 6:30 a.m.-7:30 pm. and 11 p.m.-1 a.m., seven days a week.