Steven Couch, accredited chef and extraordinary thinker, takes the phrase “Food for Thought” to a new level. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Steven Couch is a chef and nutritional scientist currently residing in the city of Grand Rapids. His undergraduate education at Michigan State University helped mold his future and point him in the direction of success. As a Dietetics major, Couch was presented with the opportunity to conduct research in South Africa to collect data on the public perceptions of biotechnology in a country that was introduced to its first GMO crops ten years prior, he explains. It was this life-changing experience that enabled Couch to really trust his passion and pursue a career driven by his interests, despite the fears that surround the concept of taking risks.
I can honestly say that nothing is impossible, and if you are passionate and deliberate, you can make it.
Of course, however, Couch’s success story does not come without twists and turns. After being laid off of his job at Michigan State University, he moved to Grand Rapids, against his parents’ wishes, to attend culinary school. “I moved to the city without any family or friends, and that was really tough. However, the best decisions usually are.” Couch’s risk-taking led him to work in Scotland for seven months. Sent by his culinary professors, Couch worked at the historic St. Andrews Old Course as a chef commis. His experiences in Scotland helped him to develop not only as a chef, but also as a person. “I have always loved food, being creative, and serving others. I really think it was this career that chose me.” Steven Couch now works as a chef on the number one watched local lifestyle and entertainment show in Michigan, Take Five and Company, on WZZM-ABC 13. Starting his work day at 8am, Couch prepares for his segments and starts filming by 9am. “I honestly feel more comfortable in front of the whole viewing audience of Michigan than I do in front of three people.” After filming and hitting the gym, Couch has a full-time chef position at Michigan’s number one luxury hotel, the JW Marriott. He also coordinates corporate wellness events for the rest of JW Marriott’s staff. To end his busy day, Couch goes home to his brother and cousin and cooks dinner. His entire day revolves around his passion. “Are my days long? Absolutely; but I love what I do, so that is what keeps me going.”
In the next three years, Couch plans to move his career into the direction of research and development, using his passion for cooking and scientific background to develop new food products for large production chains. In the next five years, Couch would like to try his hand at entrepreneurship and become a personal chef. “I’ve even got the name picked out: Mr. Eat Right.” He also plans to teach classes in Grand Rapids about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and teach others how to cook meals from scratch using healthy ingredients. Soon, Couch will also be a contestant on Season 2 of “Guy’s Grocery Games” which will air on the Food Network in the summer of 2014. “I can honestly say that nothing is impossible, and if you are passionate and deliberate, you can make it. When I start to forget that, I can always pull from the experience of being flown out to San Francisco to be a part of that wonderful show.” Much of Couch’s success is due to his willingness to take risks. However, he also owes many of his achievements to his role model, Angus Campbell, an ACF Certified Master Chef from Scotland. He is also the man responsible for sending Couch to Scotland for seven months. “Not only is he an incredible story-teller, world-traveller, and educator, he is a true artist, who can really see the beauty in food. I always say that he can truly see ‘in color’, creating inspiring menus and incredible plate presentations. Even when I am at home, I find myself carefully building my bowl of cereal in the morning because of him, not just slopping it into a bowl.” Couch emphasizes the importance of seeking inspiration from a variety of places and a variety of people. This includes travelling as often as possible and using the “Age of Information” to your advantage.
To prospective chefs, Couch offers the advice of letting go of fear. “Don’t be afraid of doing what makes you happy. Learn everything you can, from anyone you can, every time you can. Because you never know when you are going to need it. A lot of the times, it isn’t what you know that gets you where you want to be, it’s how you handle ignorance.” Couch believes that individuality should be celebrated. He also believes that there is no such thing as “impossible” when it comes to your dreams. “I remember reading that if you think you can or if you think you can’t, then you’re right. So, the right mind-set is a positive mind-set.”
Interview by Oyin Ogunkanmi
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