Fessy Foodies: Alumni in the Food Industry

After leaving Fessenden for secondary school and college, graduates embark on a number of different career paths. With over 7,500 alumni in every corner of the globe, they can be found in board rooms, operating rooms, classrooms, and art studios—among many other places. However, one thing they all have in common is the importance of the lessons from Fessenden that they bring with them wherever they go.

From oyster farming on the ocean, to developing software products for restaurants, to consulting for Michelin-starred eateries in New York City, the following Fessenden alumni are making an impact in the food industry. Learn more about them below.

Feisal Lagos ’98
New York, New York

Tell us about your job. What does a typical day look like?
After years of toiling in the kitchen until the wee hours of the morning, working precisely and quickly to complete a battery of seemingly insurmountable tasks, my typical day now is much less intense. In focusing on the most important part of my career, the learning years, I’d say there was no typical day.

Each day was difficult, unglamorous, and filled with failures; the reward was growth. Despite the challenges, one thing is certain: when the first guests walk in the door, and your chef (or your leader, mentor, or employer) announces, “first table!” it’s time to shine. Then, before you know it, dinner service is over, and it’s time to break it all down, wipe the slate clean, and coordinate tomorrow’s performance.

In my current job as a consultant, I share the failures I was lucky enough to experience while working at Michelin-level restaurants for several years. The goal is to impart the best practices I have adopted and distribute the wealth of information and know-how I’ve absorbed from the best in the business. Today, I work with Michelin-starred chefs, collaborating on multiple dinner series in New York City, and with restaurateurs helping to build teams and systems for great new restaurants with the aim of pushing the boundaries of their respective cuisines and ensuring product consistency and brand success.

What is your favorite aspect of your job? The most challenging aspect?
Teaching is both my favorite and the most challenging aspect of my job.

Can you find any parallels between lessons that you learned at Fessenden and what you are doing today in your adult and professional life?
Honesty, compassion, and respect. And the School’s motto, “Labor Omnia Vincit,” which means, “work conquers all.” What I can say with certainty is that I am a Fessy boy. I make choices and decisions based upon the cumulative effect of my childhood, a big part of which was my time at Fessenden. The most important thing boys learn at Fessenden is excellence in character. The rest requires hard work and patience.

Do you have any advice for Fessenden boys today?
Character is what you do when no one else is around—remember that and you’ll be fine.

Thomas Cecil ’10
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Orchard Systems
Raleigh, North Carolina

Tell us about your job. What does a typical day look like?
It varies from negotiating deals with national banks to deep dives into product features. There’s really no “typical day.” I’m grateful that this path has afforded me many experiences that would otherwise be reserved for senior-level executives at prestigious companies.

How did you get into the food industry?
My co-founder and I started an online ordering company while we were students at Dartmouth. That quickly grew to almost half a million dollars in revenue over the course of the nine-month school year that we managed it. Ultimately, this led us into the restaurant point-of-sale software industry because we thought (and still think) that most of the solutions restaurants rely on aren’t equipped for what their modern customers demand. Fast forward a few years, and now Orchard—a venture-backed food service technology company—offers a portfolio of software products in addition to its own custom-built operating system!

What is your favorite aspect of your job? The most challenging aspect?
The best part of this job is the responsibility. There are very few opportunities in life where you are completely on your own to figure something out and there are objective measurements determining your success and failure. Accordingly, I’ve been exposed to many business lessons at a young age. This independence is also the most challenging aspect because there are no training wheels. Failure is a very real possibility, and that drives both our company and myself to improve every day.

What is your favorite Fessenden food memory? Favorite meal at Fessenden?
Jean-Guy Poirier’s bread, of course. Always great. That’s a meal all to itself!

Do you have any advice for Fessenden boys today?
Remain curious and just enjoy the ride. I would give anything to be back at Fessy as a student!

Will MacKay ’99
Owner/Operator of Little Narragansett Bay Oyster Company
Stonington, Connecticut

Tell us about your job. What does a typical day look like?
One of the joys and challenges of operating a farm, whether it’s on land or in the ocean, is that there are no typical days. However, most of my time on the farm is spent tumbling and sorting oysters as they grow.

How did you get into the food industry?
I ate an oyster for the first time 10 years ago, and I couldn’t believe how good it was. When I found out I could make a living farming oysters on the ocean every day, I was hooked.

What is your favorite aspect of your job? The most challenging aspect?
My favorite part of my job is being outdoors on the ocean—seeing the sunrise over Little Narragansett Bay, jumping in the water to cool off in August, taking an extended lunch break to chase albies out at the breakwater. The most challenging aspect of my job is that it’s a farm, and each farm is unique. Nature is constantly changing, so there is a lot of trial and error.

What is your favorite Fessenden food memory? Favorite meal at Fessenden?
The chocolate chip cookies were always incredible, but I loved the Congo Bars—nothing like a brownie-shaped chocolate chip cookie with a glass of milk!

Do you have any advice for Fessenden boys today?
I’m sure people have mentioned it to you before, but you are all extremely fortunate to be at Fessenden. Take advantage of this opportunity to pursue your interests. Engage your teachers and peers. Always challenge yourself. Read lots of books.

This article originally appeared in the 2019 issue of Red & Gray Magazine. View the full issue here.
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