UD graduate Lemond Adams goes from kitchen to classroom

Lemond Adams goes from chef to studentWhen University of Delaware graduate Lemond Adams decided that at age 30 he wanted to leave his job as a sous chef in Philadelphia — one who had worked with some of the best chefs in the city and helped open three restaurants — he was certain of just one thing, that he wanted to go back to school.

Adams was not sure what he wanted to study but as has often been the case in his life, his wife had the answer. When she suggested food science, Adams knew he found the perfect match.

“My wife said, ‘You love food and I know you like science’ so she started researching and found food science programs. I looked into the subject and thought it was awesome. I had never heard of it before but I was like, ‘Yeah, this is perfect,’” said Adams, who graduated in May with his bachelor’s degree in food science from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

After checking out Rutgers and Drexel universities, Adams’ wife suggested that he apply to UD. Adams traveled to Newark to visit UD and set up a meeting at Townsend Hall. The only problem was that when he got off the train, he started walking north toward main campus instead of south toward the CANR campus.

“I walked all the way up to Smith Hall and I’m like, ‘Where’s Townsend?’ and everyone I asked said, ‘It’s all the way back down there.’ So I walked all the way back down and I was a little late for my meeting, but I just loved everything about the University and the college,” said Adams. “I met with Dr. Rolf Joerger [associate professor of animal and food sciences] and he was a great person to talk to and answered a lot of my questions, and then I applied.”

Adams, who had experience with higher education after studying culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, started at UD in the fall of 2012 and after the initial shock of walking into one of the larger lecture halls with students half his age, settled in to life as an undergraduate and found that his experience and age helped him in his studies.

“I would talk to the professors more and I wasn’t as shy as the younger students,” said Adams. “If I didn’t get something, I wasn’t afraid to ask. At the same time, sometimes in some of those lecture halls, you can raise your hand to ask something and everyone turns around like, ‘Who is the old guy back there with the questions?’”

Adams also could draw on his experience working as a sous chef for Jose Garces, winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic best chef award and the coveted title of Food Network’s Iron Chef, at Amada in Philadelphia.

“I started working at Amada and then I opened up one restaurant for Jose and that’s where I met my wife. Then I opened two more restaurants, another one for Jose and one for [restaurateur] Stephen Starr,” said Adams. “I was one of Jose’s sous chefs so essentially I was second in command and at times first in command. There was a period of time when I was in charge of Amada, which was fun and stressful at the same time.”

That stress and the desire to spend more time with his family led Adams to UD, where he found that being an undergraduate with a family can have its own challenges, most notably time management, which got a lot tougher in 2013 when Adams and his wife welcomed a son.

“He was born in September and I was actually in a lecture when my wife started going into labor,” said Adams. “I texted her, ‘You OK?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be fine.’ And I said I wouldn’t be there until 3 and it was 10 a.m. About five minutes went by and she said, ‘Yeah, come now.’ Of course, I was up at north campus and my car was parked in south campus so I didn’t know if I should walk down or if I should wait for the bus. I didn’t know what would be faster.”

Now that he has graduated, Adams works at David Michael and Co., an ingredients supplier in northeast Philadelphia, and he said that he wouldn’t be where he is today if it hadn’t been for his wife and his family.

“She’s really been my support and my backbone through this whole process, encouraging me, pushing me on and listening to me complain — essentially being that support for me,” said Adams, who noted that his wife started this entire process. “It’s funny because she started doing research and suggested food science, she came to me and said, ‘well, what about the University of Delaware?’ and every move that we’ve made thus far has been great.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.