Nearly everyone who knows Gerry Fernandez and the work that he does for The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), describes him as a man of vision, dedication, and passion. As President and Founder of MFHA, an educational non-profit organization that makes the business case for developing cultural intelligence in the workplace, Gerry has been recognized over the years for his work in educating members on, and advocating for, the business benefits of cultural diversity and inclusion in the foodservice & hospitality industry.
With over 40 years of experience in the industry, Gerry has held leadership positions with several well-known companies including The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Hemenway’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar, The Capital Grille and General Mills, where he got his start in diversity and inclusion work.
Gerry’s career-altering moment happened while still employed as a National Account Manager for General Mills. Gerry attended a Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF) conference that sparked the idea for MFHA. “I thought, if there is a need for a women’s group to promote opportunities for women, then there ought to be a group to promote opportunities for people of color,” he shared. MFHA was the first organization to bring about a national discussion on diversity management in the hospitality industry just a year later.
Gerry’s most recent recognition comes from Nation Restaurant News’ “Power List” 2014, featuring the 50 most powerful people leading and shaping today’s restaurant industry, cited as a Top Catalyst for promoting change. This is the second time he has been named to the coveted list, which counts mostly C-suite executives from leading companies and organizations in foodservice.
An engagingly energetic Speaker who practices “straight talk”, he travels across the US and internationally, bringing authentic perspective on building Cultural Intelligence that raises the topline, improves the bottom- line and builds cultural authenticity into the brand. He is also a sought-after motivational speaker, inspiring others to find new ways to recover and succeed over life’s setbacks, based on a personal tragedy.
Gerry holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Foodservice Management from the same school, where he also earned a Culinary Arts degree, and an honorary doctorate in Business Administration. Gerry has three sons, six grandchildren and lives with his wife, Debra (Jackson) in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Personal mission statement: “I’m a man of action, with the desire to serve others by applying the gifts of leadership, passion, and creative energy given to me by God.” – Gerry Fernandez