Our Better Together Series tells the story of our people while recognizing various cultures, backgrounds and life experiences and embracing one of our pillars – inspire through food. Through celebrations like Black History Month, Women’s History Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we are learning from one another.

This year, we’ve heard so many inspiring stories from our people. Here are just a few of our favorites.

KEVIN HARDY, CHEF MANAGER

Kevin comes from a line of trailblazers. His grandmother was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. Coming from a tight-knit family, he cherishes the time he spent in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, who inspired him to become a chef.

Kevin has fond memories from growing up, watching his mother, grandmother and aunt cooking in the kitchen around the holidays.

For Sunday dinners, family and friends would gather at his grandmother’s house around a table full of food and spend the night enjoying each other and laughing.

Kevin holds the traditions that were passed down from generations within his family close to his heart, with food being a large part of that.

JULIE PEARSON, DIRECTOR OF DINING SERVICES

Julie was largely impacted by the strength of her parents. Her father served as Chief Warrant Officer II in the U.S. Coast Guard and was often traveling overseas. During that time, her mother stayed home with Julie and her three siblings while also working full-time.

Her parents were told at a young age that she would never walk. Julie carried her parents’ example of strength with her as she navigated her disability throughout childhood. After 18 years of surgeries, therapies, prosthetics and pure persistence, Julie walked. Being in the culinary field where she is constantly on her feet is proof of her perseverance.

Julie always leads by example and works each day to instill this strength and resiliency in her three daughters.

MELISSA YAO, CATERING MANAGER

Melissa grew up in a very traditional Chinese and Filipino home. She was always taught what family “should” look like and the ideologies and traditions of her heritage were strongly enforced. Being part of the first generation in her family to be born in America, Melissa has had to learn how to balance the different cultures, traditions and beliefs that she has been exposed to and that make her who she is today.

As part of her Chinese culture, Melissa’s family loves to share food with others. “We love to feed people and make everyone feel like family when they come into our homes,” she shared.

As she has gotten older and become a mother herself, she has enjoyed teaching her children about their culture and has learned to truly embrace her multiple ethnicities.