Chef Talk with Chef Jim: Music, Food & Family

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On Wednesday morning, the lights to the Sysco Detroit Demo Kitchen flip on and within seconds music starts playing from Chef James “Jim” Woolsey’s office. Chef Jim walks across the kitchen in his converse picking up a few loose items, tidying up the kitchen. The Sysco Detroit demo kitchen resembles an intimate black box theater where a customer has front row seats to the show and if you sneak a peek into Chef Jim’s office you will see the iconic leg lamp from A Christmas Story. In the next few hours, the camera and video team show up, we review the recipe and actions and get busy rolling. During transition, I snag Chef for a few questions – with many tangents from the team on everything from cult classic movies to the live music.


MD: Chef, the conversation and menu ideation around plant-based is continually growing. Where are you seeing this play out the most?

JW: Heavy on the center of the plate. I’ve seen some awesome entrees in local restaurants embracing the plant forward dishes. You also see some core appetizers trending in this direction; hence, the charcuterie board in the Fall Issue of Foodie. 

MD: I see what you did there.

JW: Yeah, did you like that tie in.

MD: We are moving into the mecca of sports season from baseball moving into playoffs, football in full gear, hockey around the corner and basketball looming ahead. Let’s just say it’s a good time to be a sports bar; that being said, how do you attract the non-sports fan to buy into the social outing?

JW: You probably won’t be asking me to join your fantasy football team anytime soon, but count me for a viewing party. I’m about the game day food. With that being said, I definitely believe it is about offering really fantastic appetizers that aren’t under the stigma of sports foods. Give the traditional appetizers – chicken tenders, sliders, nachos – a fun twist or a new sauce. A sauce can truly transform a plate.

MD: We love talking about trends and this one has been around for a while now. What are your thoughts on chalk board menus?

JW: This is a Detroit Question.

He Chuckles.

I think they are great. They allow operators to change things up daily. When you are out, you’re out and you just erase the item and put something new in its place.

MD: What are some changes and challenges you see coming up in the fall and in the industry in general?

JW: For some challenges coming in the fall, I would say STAFFING. Staffing is always top of mind going into the holiday season. Make sure your operation is making a plan now for the upcoming months. As for some changes in the industry, consumers are all about the quick in and out service. Whether that means grab and go, fast casual or quick to order menu items, being prepared for that reality is essential. Start thinking about what that could mean for your operation.

MD: So I heard a rumor that you are in a band, so music is definitely a big part of your life. What type of music does your band play?

JW: Yeah, so we are a combination of Funk, Hip Hop and Rock. Music is huge in my life. Also, music really ties into every kitchen I’ve worked in since I was about fifteen years old. I can’t recall being in a kitchen without music.

MD: Okay, we are going to do a few rapid fire questions. Ready?

MD: Last show you went to?

JW: Radiohead

MD: Podcast or Radio?

JW: Both

MD: Netflix Series you binged?

JW: Ozark

MD: Life Motto?

JW: Music, Food & Family. That is what it is all about for me.


For Chef James “Jim” Woolsey’s recipe video go to Sysco Foodie USA YouTube channel.

Link to Recipe:


Chef Talk with Chef Jim: Music, Food & Family

By Meghan Doherty

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