In 2017, it is estimated that more than one million people will be diagnosed with cancer around the world. This alarming statistic affects people and families everywhere. Chances are, you know someone who has been affected by this terrible disease.
Cancer survivors and supporters in communities all around the globe will come together on Sunday, June 4th to honor the 30th annual Cancer Survivors Day (NCSD). Each year, the first Sunday of June is dedicated to recognizing cancer survivors, celebrating life, and raising awareness of the challenges survivors and their families face.
Kevin Gerhard and his son Maverick are both cancer survivors. Not only do they share a father and son bond, they also work closely together at Maximillian’s Catering. A company Kevin started in 2005 after running a successful deli on West Ridge Road during the Kodak Park glory days in 1996. Kevin began his career in catering much earlier; when he took a job at Huey’s Deli in 1977. This is where he met his first mentor in the food industry, where he fell in love with feeding a large number of people and discovered that he had God given talent for it. It was his calling.
Maximilian’s Catering’s tagline is: “Good Food Done Better”, the highest quality product with the highest form of customer service.
I have personally known Kevin Gerhard since our days together in grammar school at Our Mother of Sorrows and then on to Cardinal Mooney High School. Back in the day I referred to him as “Meany Pants”. He insists he was always quiet and shy. Flash forward forty one years, and I can use these words to describe him: honest, trustworthy, loving, hard working and authentic . When asked how his Type A personality helped or hindered his success in the hospitality industry, he told me that chefs are usually highly passionate, highly explosive, highly motivated individuals and his addictive personality blends with the organizational skills needed to accomplish the logistical nightmares of the career, the ability to juggle 10 or more balls at once is a necessity.
When we inquired to the rationale behind each of his career moves he told us that at beginning of his career, studying under the right chefs and then taking a job at every facet of the food service industry, learning the kitchen and different cooking methods and then moving on to the next one totally expedited his learning curve.
While growing up Kevin counts Joseph Newhart and Edward Callens as role models. These two men took the time to teach me how to, how not to, how they do things in the industry. In four minutes they taught me their 40 plus years of cooking experience and expertise.
With the competitive, sometimes fickle, and ever changing catering world, Kevin and Maverick are able to keep Maximilian’s Catering fresh and energized with the development of new recipes and new ways of serving food. One of the advantages of working with his 19 year old son is that Maverick is aware of the current trends in the industry and how the millennial generation affects the hospitality business. He credits Maverick with coming into the business with new energy, new blood and a desire to keep them moving forward while keeping the traditions and work ethic of yester year.
Kevin shared with us some secrets as to what accounts for his longstanding success in the hospitality world.
Perseverance, never giving up, rising to new challenges
The very same traits he displayed when he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 50, four years ago. This proud and humble man shared his three biggest accomplishments in the following order:
My three children will be my greatest achievement personally; finding a career that I actually love, and helping my 4 year old son Maverick get through his cancer and survive it, and beating my cancer.
What inspires Kevin Gerhard and why? The challenge of being a better cook, person, father and friend than I was yesterday; to better my life and career.
He considers himself to be the luckiest man in the world. I never go to work because I love what I do and I smile all the time doing it. I am the richest man in the world because I get to work with my best friend and son Maverick Gerhard every single day of my life. We have shared a special bond second to none, not only getting each through our cancers but working and enjoying every day together, growing closer as the years go by. I get to teach my son a trade and help provide a future for himself.
Every Thursday this duo opens the doors to their Webster location and hosts a “Men’s Night” which consists of Kevin’s grammar and high school friends as well as friends from his entire life gather, get together and talk, discuss and laugh at life’s events while eating and drinking like kings. The concept originated when one of my closest friends came to our new catering kitchen every Thursday after work to exchange recipes and cooking methods and then we would enjoy the fruits of our labor. I have been very fortunate to have many close friends and relationships. I love hosting parties and bringing people together. Men’s Night has now blossomed into a mosaic reflection of my life.
If he could not be a caterer, he would be a culinary professor, because he loves teaching what he has learned. Even to yours truly— who is culinary challenged, he lovingly opened his kitchen and shared his recipe for traditional homemade Thanksgiving stuffing in 2010.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary definition of Maverick is “an unorthodox or independent-minded person”. A free spirit, individualist, original—Maverick Gerhard is just that. A lot like his dad but also his own person.
He hopes to take over his father’s catering business in the future and bring it to the next level. He also wants to reopen a deli front business because he misses the memories he had working at the family delis and sub shops. He also would like to start his own business and name it Maverick’s.
This “Maverick” realized at a young age that he would never find a better mentor than his father. I love working with my father at our family business because it does not feel like work and I have unlimited possibilities. I know that I will always be supported 100% in whatever I do. I look forward to the day that I can teach my children the family business.
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