You might have seen SpaceX launching the most powerful rocket to date. But it's chef Ted Cizma that makes sure thousands of rocket scientists have enough fuel to launch humankind into space.
SpaceX has employed Cizma since 2011 to feed workers at its Hawthorne facility. While most companies of this size have in-house food service operations, practically all of them engage outside vendors to set up and run those operations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, SpaceX's enigmatic leader, Elon Musk, did not want to do things the normal way and opted instead to hire a chef to design a food program in-house. Cizma has built the food program from scratch, hiring his own workers, building restaurants and kitchens in the facility, and finding his own vendors. Today Ted has close to 200 staff serving more than 100,000 meals at all of their locations in the US.
Cizma opened the award-winning Grace Restaurant in his hometown of Chicago in 1998 and its sister restaurant Elaine in nearby Naperville in 2001, both of which he later sold to consult to luxury resorts and hotels throughout the country. In 2000, Food & Wine magazine named him its Best New Chef in America.
The son and grandson of butchers, Cizma was once known for his signature game dishes – a very non-vegan chef. Yet since 2011 he has served tens of thousands of meals a month in California, Texas and Florida, feeding SpaceX employees like rocket scientists and astronauts and preparing lots of vegetable-forward dishes like a "Crispy Cauliflower & Avocado Tacos with Pico de Gallo".
The result is corporate cafeterias that focus on health, on local purveyors and local produce, and on a work culture about which Cizma feels immense pride.
Maybe one day Cizma will serve food on Mars.