Chef Bardell Delivers Culinary Flair to Seniors

Chef Bardell

As an adolescent, Brad Bardell of Chesterfield, Michigan remembers taking an interest in cooking from scratch as he helped his mom in the kitchen. His dad, a self-employed artist, was his football coach and would take the team out for breakfast when they won. 
“My dad asked for an application at one of the restaurants after we won a game. I guess you could say I started in the business very early–as a young teenager washing dishes,” said Bardell.  
When an advisor in school asked him what he might be interested in pursuing, he said he wanted to be an artist. The counselor then asked if he ever thought of culinary arts. Admiring his dad’s artistic talent combined with his mom’s love for cooking sparked an interest in the culinary arts field.  
Bardell gained experience in high school through Oakland Schools Technical Campuses. There, students attend classes for several hours of technical instruction during their junior and/or senior year. Bardell also toured OCC and met instructors to learn more about the culinary arts program. 
High School commencement and job offer the same day 
It didn’t take long for Bardell to put his plan into action. In fact, Bardell, who grew up in Waterford, began his culinary training the day he graduated from Kettering High School in 1994. 

“My dad took me out for dinner at Pike Street Restaurant in Pontiac and told the busboy in the restaurant that I just graduated and was looking to become a chef. A few minutes later the executive chef came out of the kitchen and offered me a job.”

With the encouragement of several chefs to pursue additional education in the field and food show competitions, he enrolled in OCC’s Culinary Studies Institute in 1996 and worked at Pike Street Restaurant. During his apprenticeship, he gained valuable experience and mentors in the restaurant field.  
“I entered one competition and did well but I knew that was enough for me since it took up so much of my personal time.” 
His education and practical experience led him to several chef roles working for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Andiamo’s and Opus One to name a few.  
His passion for the profession continues to this day, but the hours can take a toll. Chef Bardell
“If you’re truly passionate about it, you wind up working a lot of hours which can be hard on the family,” explains Bardell. “It’s not a luxurious job and you may not make a ton of money unless you land on TV. But it’s incredibly rewarding when customers compliment what you are doing and order your specials.” 
From fine dining at restaurants to fine dining for seniors 
Now, Bardell is using his creative talent to offer more of a fine dining experience as chef at Waltonwood Main Senior Living in Rochester Hills. He was intrigued when interviewing for the position where the food was described as, “more of a country club menu instead of hospital food.” 
Bardell, who is married and recently adopted a son, appreciates the work life balance and improved quality of life. 
“I’m very happy working where I’m at now. I appreciate being able to have more time with my wife and the flexibility to take my son to sporting events, Boy Scouts and other events he wants to go to. He’s seen both sides and is so happy when he sees that his dad is more available.” 

While his life is more balanced, Bardell’s culinary skills and interests have not slowed. He’s leaning into his creativity and continues to branch out and flourish, like the many seniors he cooks for each day. He has also gravitated to tasting menus and farm-to-table cooking. He and his family are planning a move to an area with more land and potentially new culinary opportunities and exploration. 

“Long term, we would love to be in an area that could potentially be our retirement home—one with a barn and possibly catering options.” 

Advice for others thinking about culinary arts 

When it comes to advice for other students looking into pursuing a culinary profession, Bardell says think like an artist. 

“Follow your passion and think outside the box,” he said. “It also doesn’t hurt to look at magazines and watch Food Network for inspiration.” 

Learn more about OCC’s Culinary program. For more information about OCC, a campus tour, or transfer sessions, visit  Admissions at OCC.