From Soup to Nuts

Duke chef working to enhance culinary program for Duke Dining

Jody McLeod cooks shrimp as part of a new recipe for a personal taste test. It’s one of many dishes he experimented with this winter to eventually be served in Duke's dining halls. Photo by Bryan Roth.

Name: Jody McLeodPosition: Executive chef, Duke DiningYears at Duke: 5 months

What I do at Duke: I’m in charge of the East Campus dining hall, the new culinary show space being built in the West Union, as well as the Freeman Center and catering events. I spend time in a test kitchen at the Devil’s Den building a culinary program for Duke by developing recipes and systems for our food. It’s about finding a different way to look at our food so cooks have an easier time and guests enjoy their food more. 

If I had $5 million, I would: Keep working at Duke, because creating a legacy would be cool to see come to fruition. I’d use the money to buy a small house just outside of Durham in a rural area with some woods and a backyard where my wife and I could walk and bike. I’d want a nicer truck. I’d also get my wife into whatever spa she wanted to. 

My first ever job: At the Chateau Lacombe in Alberta, Canada. I was 15 years old working as a commis (a chef that does food preparation and basic cooking) in this huge hotel. I had no clue what I was doing, but I was a fifth generation chef, so it was a great start. I helped with small parties for the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and do things like chopping vegetables, cutting small meats and making salads.

My dream job: I would love to be a television network chef because it’s a great way to teach people how to enjoy and love food while not being scared of preparing it.

The best advice I ever received: To keep my head down and shut up. I heard it daily from my father after I’d come home from a hard day in the kitchen complaining like a small child, which I was. He told me that one day I’d get to where I want to go, even if it starts with cutting carrots or peeling grapes all day.

What I love about Duke: The people I work with are exceptional. When I went to my orientation, the HR guy presenting said ‘you’re at Duke and we pick the best of the best, so if you’re here, you’re the best.’ I’ve been to orientations all over the world and this is something you generally hear, but I think it’s absolutely true here. I’m surrounded by brilliant attitudes and ideas.

When I’m not at work, I like to: I love cooking with my wife. We’re both trying to learn a much healthier lifestyle because it’s so easy to cheat with meat. You can throw gravy or bacon on something and it’s fantastic. We’re trying to learn a more vegetarian lifestyle.

Something most people don’t know about me: When I first started off when I was 15, I made goals for myself. I wanted to work for a huge casino company, so I became corporate chef for a massive company in Canada. I wanted to work for a multinational business and I was executive chef for the 2010 Olympics. I wanted to travel, so I got a job with Holland America cruises and went to 98 countries and 378 cities. One of the last things on my bucket list was to be an instructor or work for a school, so I was blessed to have Duke call.