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56 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • APRIL 2017 because of their reputation. "The reality is," Kuczera says, "I have never marketed for a customer." Kuczera met Rich Melman, the chairman of LEYE, just as her initial project with Buchanan was being completed. Melman said, "I open up on time and on budget. Are you the person who can get me that?" She answered, "That is me." Melman signed her on and, as a result, EDI has worked as design consultant for more than 90 of LEYE's restaurants. Other clients include Gibsons Restaurant Group, Ditka's, Big Bowl, Heaven on Seven, the Boathouse at Disney, The Polo Bar Ralph Lauren in New York and Beatrix, a LEYE concept that won FE&S' Facility Design Project of the Year Award in 2015. While EDI focuses on the commercial segment, a B&I design ended up being what Kuczera calls the project of a lifetime: upgrading the food- service program at the Chicago Bears' Halas Hall, headquar- ters for the Chicago Bears football team. "We were brought in to take a look at the cafe," Kuczera says. "It serves people who work in offices as well as the athletes. It was fascinating to learn about athlete feeding. These highly trained professional athletes eat differently from you and me. There is a lot of carb loading." The EDI team worked with trainers and nutritionists to focus on equipment that would best support the diet needed for ultimate athletic performance. They designed food stations and an exhibition kitchen with a hearth oven. Gaining Client Participation is Key One of the biggest challenges, Kuczera says, is gaining full client participation in the process. To address this issue, she and her team have come up with several strategies. They start with what they call the "Big M," i.e., the menu. If the client doesn't yet have a firm idea of what the menu will be, she asks them to go back and do their homework. Only then can EDI start to build the design details that will support that menu. Next they work through a series of checklists during a number of meetings. These issues-pending lists, the result of years of experience, move the project along. When they are nearing completion of the design, EDI consultants ask the client to engage in exercises that plot out what happens at each station: Where are they getting the food? Where are the plates? Where do they get the garnish? "Follow-through is a religion for us," Kuczera says. "We know how to follow schedules and how to be that "inside guy" for restaurants. Operators may know food and hiring, but they don't necessarily know about building a restaurant. We have found a niche where we are a good translator of all things construction related: architecture, design, engineering, the whole process." While EDI focuses primarily on kitchens, the company also works in front-of-the-house design. This extends to any- thing that delivers food and drink to diners, and ranges from kitchen equipment to bars and coffee stations. Philanthropy is Foodservice Related Two primary philanthropic projects dear to Kuczera's heart are foodservice related. One is the Lakeview Pantry, a food pantry for homeless people in on Chi- cago's northside. She provides both financial and volunteer support and was an initial team member of the Pantry's capital campaign for a new building that opened in 2016. Through an association with Dave Raymond, otherwise known as Sweet Baby Ray, who has barbecue restaurants and a catering business, she got in- volved in the Illinois Barbeque Alliance, formed to promote fellowship and support the local community — and barbecue. Kuczera and Sweet Baby Ray have spearheaded a project to build a kitchen in the building housing the Firehouse Com- munity Arts Program in North Lawndale, a high-crime sec- tion of Chicago. The Firehouse project works to help at-risk young adults change the trajectory of their lives for the better. The Personal Side Kuczera has been practicing yoga "since before it was cool." She credits yoga for the fact that she has no ulcers today. Another favorite hobby is eating and drinking. She compares selecting a favorite restaurant to choosing a favorite child — an impossible task. One of her favorite reads is the Bible. She says, "It's filled with horror and action, mystery, crime, superheroes and romance. It's got every genre you could ask for, and it's the centering point for my life today." Kuczera's success has come from a passion for the busi- ness and an inner determination to translate her clients' dreams into reality. She doesn't compromise and doesn't give up. When working with legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka on a project, he called her a "ball buster." She explains, "He meant that I had spine and the guts to stand up to his partner's negotiating style — and stay firm. It's my most treasured — and unique — compliment." CONSULTANT Birthplace: Detroit Education: B.A. Michigan State University Hobbies: Yoga, eating and drinking Favorite Books: Dennis Snow's "Lessons from the Mouse and the Bible" Philanthropy: Lakeview Pantry and the Firehouse Community Arts Center Dream Retirement: Giving restaurant tours as an ambassador for the Chicago Department of Tourism GET TO KNOW BETH KUCZERA