Of course they also entertain ideas from their customers. One of the by-products of having food play such an important role in the work culture is that it stimulates conversations on the topic. Rupert says employees are always talking about recipes they’ve found or dishes they’ve tried or seen on TV, and the culinary team is often willing to try them. And then there’s the cultural diversity that comes with the territory. Rupert says Epic employs staff from fifty-five different countries. “We have learned a great deal about curries, regardless of where they’re from, because our population here knows a thing or two about curries. And because feedback is a big part of Epic, they know that we receive it and that we try to make it better.”
The scope of the work is hard for the layperson to fathom. Epic purchases food by the pallet—between eight and sixteen aday. Here’s a better way to think about it: An average recipe for Asian beef and broccoli stir fry calls for one hundred sixty pounds of beef tip, four hundred pounds of broccoli, ten pounds of ginger and seven gallons of soy sauce. “People can relate to that,” says Rupert. Ingredients are sourced locally “as much as feasible,” he says. And they’re always trying to do more.
“We really truly nourish people here, and it’s actually one of our stated goals to do it with integrity and respect,” he says. “My goal is to not just provide excellent service to the team leads, but to model excellent service all the time and to always be trying to figure out what is excellent service in any given situation. If I provide that to the team, they in turn model it and provide it to our co-workers. And I truly believe it becomes part of the culture if we model it to our customers.”
Reflecting on a career that is one of the more storied in Madison culinary circles, we return to the concept of pride in one’s work, again in Rupert’s own words.
“If you’re really fortunate enough to find what it is you’re supposed to do, if you have a gift for something, life seemingly offers up lots of opportunities to do it. And that’s really what’s happened. I work harder now than I’ve ever worked before and I derive more satisfaction. I would say I’m later on in my career, but I’m learning more now than I’ve ever learned. I have to solve problems that I never thought five years ago I would have the ability to solve. And a lot of that is actually teaching managers to be better managers as I learn myself how to be a better manager. So the cooking part is just icing on the cake. Really, I get down there and I’m happy cutting up watermelon. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. As long as I’m in the kitchen it’s a good day, it’s a really good day.”
Nancy Christy and Neil Heinen write Madison Magazine’s monthly food and culture column, “Genuine Articles.”
Employees Dish: Find out what what Epic employees have to say about Rupert and the culinary team.