By Emily Gibson
On Thanksgiving Day, 2001, Andrew Bullard took off work to spend the weekend with his family. When he returned on Sunday, his workplace, which was also his home at the time, was padlocked, and everything he owned was in a box on the loading dock.
“In that moment, I became unemployed and homeless during one of the worst economic times in American history,” said Bullard.
Today, Bullard spends his days overseeing all food service management on Trevecca’s campus as the Sodexo general manager. He took the position in mid-February and has spent the past weeks getting to know his staff, the students and coming up with strategies to improve the student dining experience.
Bullard was 15-years-old when he started his first job as a dish scraper for a convention center in Fayetteville, North Carolina. One day, an employee called out, and the chef, known as Thomas, asked Bullard if he wanted to do something else.
Bullard never scraped dishes again.
Throughout his high school career, Bullard learned how to make pastries and how to perform the technical side of operating a kitchen. During this time, the hotel’s executive chef quit, and Bullard was promoted to the pastry kitchen as the new executive chef.
After high school, Bullard attended college at Appalachian State in North Carolina with the intention of becoming a doctor, but Bullard soon discovered college was not what he thought it would be.
“My friends were going into massive amounts of debt to pursue degrees to get mediocre jobs,” said Bullard. “So, I dropped out of school, and I went and got a job.”
Bullard continued his education over the course of 15 years by taking a class when he could afford to pay for one.
After dropping out of college, Bullard took a job at another hotel as an executive chef. Bullard was 19-years-old and, according to him, living the best possible life a person could live.
Bullard had no expenses. He lived in room 212, he had unlimited access to the kitchen, and his salary was $50,000 a year.
“Hindsight is always 2020,” said Bullard. “I would spend all of the money that I would make as fast as I could.”
Then Sunday, Nov. 25, 2001, came, and Bullard went from living the best possible life to trying to survive with no savings, no job and no place to live.
While sleeping in his car one night, Bullard had a conversation with God, during which he made a promise. If he should ever have stability or money once more, Bullard pledged to never put himself in the same situation again.
In late March of 2002, while staying with a friend, Bullard received a phone call from Harris Teeter Supermarkets. Bullard did not remember applying for the company, but he accepted the position and spent the next 10 years there.
“If it were not for the grace of other people, I would have truly been living on the street,” said Bullard.
Once Bullard was financially able, he began saving, and eventually he moved up through the ranks at Harris Teeter, assuming the position of regional training manager. In 2008, Bullard was asked to open the new Harris Teeter stores in Nashville, Tenn.
Bullard accepted the new position and made Nashville his permanent residence, working at places including Publix, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and a healthcare system. While all of these jobs paid well and allowed him to advance his career, they also required a lot of travel.
Bullard was in the middle of a blizzard in Greeley, Colorado when his 5-year-old daughter Facetimed him and asked when he would be home.
“I decided it was time to find something else to do,” said Bullard. “Something that’s local so that I can be here for the kids and family.”
He took a job back in the city, but he had always been interested in working in an education setting.
After visiting and touring the campus, Bullard decided Trevecca was where he wanted to be. His staff is glad he is here after being six months without a full team.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” said Geraldine Vahey, resident and retail dining manager. “We have a full team of managers again, and things are moving the right way.”
Kaylah Richey, senior business major, has worked for campus dining since her freshman year, two general managers ago, and she said she has not seen a manager try to do what Bullard has done in less than a month.
“He’s actually trying to learn everything,” Richey said.
Bullard spent his first week as general manager in the Apple Dining Hall kitchen scraping dishes, just like when he was 15. Bullard wanted to see how much food was being thrown away, after which he strategized a way to reduce waste by putting up signs throughout the cafeteria.
Since then, Bullard has recorded a 30% decrease in food plate waste, as well as a 10% decrease in actual food costs.
In addition to small changes like food waste management, Bullard is focused on training all employees, expanding food options by doubling the food items in the Hub, and using more locally sourced food by partnering more with Trevecca’s Urban Farm.
And next semester, students can expect photo booths, increased ways of giving feedback about food and more food options.
According to Bullard, those are the plans for this year, but further into the future, he plans to build an internship program for business and entrepreneurship majors so that students can receive hands-on experience through the application of the business process.
“I believe he knows what he wants to do with this place,” said Vahey. “He knows where he wants to go in the future with us, and he’s going to stick to that path while helping us.”