Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Adam, Olive Garden kitchen supervisor

Adam’s love of food began when he was young, making fettuccine for his grandparents’ restaurant in Canada.

“It was a small restaurant, open breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said. “We could have made money if we closed for dinner, and we only had the one pasta dish. It was cheaper just to make it.”

Following my conversation with Ron the other day, I was lucky enough to have another conversation with a kitchen worker at a chain restaurant.

Adam is a clean cut dude, nice tight hair and neatly trimmed goatee. He said his job at Olive Garden is his first outside of single location restaurants in his decade or so in the industry.

“They really take care of employees,” Adam said, saying his wage is more than people who have been at another restaurant for several years.

I brought up my Applebees conversation, and he said that even he was surprised at the freshness of Olive Garden’s foods.

The pasta is cooked fresh in the morning, all the vegetables are fresh and cooked to order and the service time is prompt and strict. He said a server was fired last week for not meeting the service time guidelines.

The only parts of the food that aren’t fresh are the peaches in ice tea — though lemons and limes are cut fresh — which are frozen, and the chicken, also frozen.

The pasta is no longer made in house, but at one time it was. Adam said the Olive Gardens in Canada — where he’s from — still have the giant pasta making machines on display. But at this time that would probably staff eight people alone and take far too much work.

Being a kitchen employee at Olive Garden, I had to ask him if the trips to Italy were a real thing, or just a marketing scheme. He assured me they are real and he hopes to some day be on a trip to Tuscany.

Unfortunately, he said, only two people per region are chosen each year. There are eight regions in the United States, and Grand Rapids is in the Philadelphia region.

That seemed surprising since the commercials make it seem like most of the higher up cooks are sent. In reality, it’s mostly just managers.

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