Interview with Adam Pagan, Executive Chef

By Annette Goldberg, SCNC Dietetic Intern

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting with Adam Pagan, the Executive Chef at 100 Bay State Road to learn more about the man behind the delicious meals.  Adam was born in Middleboro Mass and raised in Brockton.  He currently resides in Bridgewater, MA with his wife, Suzanne, and their children Nicholas age 7 and Leah age 9.  The kids enjoy school lunches at George Mitchell elementary school.

Adam graduated from Johnson and Wales in 1996 with an Associates Degree.  He has been in food service his entire career – starting at the age of 15 as a dishwasher.  Before joining 100 Bay State Road, he worked for Aramark at the Boston Convention Center.

Adam, why did you decide to join 100 BSR?

I like opening businesses/cafes, l thought it would be a challenge.  And I like the direction BSR is going with campus dining.

What is your position and what does it entail?

I am Executive Chef with 100 BSR.  I do work with Sargent Choice, special meals across campus, help with Catering on the Charles at GSU and the campus chef doing VIP events, etc.

What is the most important skill required to be an Executive Chef?

Time management.  It is a position where you need to be able to multitask – knowing what needs to be done first, second – in order.  It is a skill you learn as a cook.  If you need to make a pasta dish, you put the water on first.  It is all about time management and prioritization.

How does the Executive Chef differ from the Food Service Director?

My position focuses on the food.  The Food Service Director focuses on the financials.

What is the most challenging part of you job day to day?

Communication between staff members would probably be the toughest.  It is important to get everyone on the same page.  There are a lot of employees with a lot of personalities.

Tell me more about the walkie-talkies I see everyone carrying?  And how did you earn the code name “Blade”?

My code name “Blade” was given to me by a co-worker.  I’m guessing it has to do with working with knives.  We have used the walkie-talkies since we opened; they are awesome.  I used them at the Convention Center and it is a way to make communication easier.  We don’t have to check our phones or look around searching for somebody; it’s instant.  And when someone calls us on the walkie-talkie, we know it is work-related.

Is it true that people who work in food service and kitchen thrive on chaos?

It is more organized chaos.  Unorganized chaos drives me nuts.  I think back at the Convention Center when we plated meals for 10,000 or 15,000 people.   You could have 125 or 150 people in the kitchen at once, but if everyone knows what they need to do someone with experience can walk into that kitchen and tell it is running well.  The chaos is organized.  You know right away if the wheels are going off the bus….

What part of your job is the most fun?

This is a generic answer, but I would say the food.  Tasting is fun.  When you taste something and it is right on – that’s nice.

How does technology play a greater role in food service and the cafeteria?

It is the instant feedback.  You don’t wait for a survey to go out every three months; you have a survey everyday – instantly.  We have a Director of Social Media that manages our twitter account and forwards the appropriate tweets to the dining halls.   We utilize Facebook and Instagram as well.  All of our equipment utilizes the latest technology.  If our refrigerators go below or above the specified temperatures, not only does an alarm sound but an email is sent to our Director of Sanitation.

What are the unique challenges of serving a college population?

The different palates.  Everyone has a different flavor profile.  What they like, what they don’t like, what they grew up with.  People are more “foodies” than they used to be.  There is instant access.  The students can watch a demonstration on the food network and look up the recipe on their phone while they stand in line.  It is good for us because they are more informed but it can be a challenge at the same time.

What do you love about the student population?

I love the energy.  It picks you up when you walk around a place where everyone is on the move.  You feed off of other people’s energy and the fast pace is nice.

What do you wish the student population would do a bit differently?

I think going out of their comfort zone and trying new foods.  There are a few students who don’t hesitate to try something new.  But there are the other times when you put out the meatloaf and mashed potatoes; some students are going there every time.

What important piece of advice would you give to kids moving to apartments where they have to cook for themselves?

I would say don’t be intimidated, you really only need to know 2-3 cooking techniques in order to cook just about anything. Learn how to sauté, braise, and how to use a knife.

Who cooks and grocery shops at home?

Suzanne.  I cook a little bit at home but not much.  Our meals today are geared toward the kids.  We try to keep it standard and low maintenance.  I’m pretty easy to please.

How do you get your kids, Leah and Nicholas, to try new foods and eat healthy?

It can be tough with both Leah and Nicholas.  We always try to talk about it.  The kids do school lunches this year.  Our new big thing (which is awesome) is to talk about what they had at lunch every day and critique it.  We have fun talking back and forth.  For example, the kids came home and said they had nachos for lunch.  I asked them to describe it – which wasn’t flattering.  So, that Friday, I made them nachos.  We made them together with fresh salsa, etc.  They didn’t go near it, but it was fun to make and show them!  You have to keep trying.  It is easy to introduce and educate when you are in the food business.

What is your favorite healthy meal and your favorite unhealthy meal?

Favorite healthy meal –chicken breast.  It can be prepared simply – marinated with fresh salsa.  Favorite unhealthy meal– onion rings – anything fried!

A few of Adam Pagan’s recipes have been featured on our blog before:


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