Restaurant exec serves up advice for CAFNR students as Prof for a Day

Darren Gray, director of culinary innovation at Fazoli’s Restaurant Management, LLC, arrived right in between two winter storms to spend some time with students in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Feb. 3.

Gray was hosted by CAFNR as a Professor-for-a-Day, a program that brings in top-level executives to offer current students a look into what they can work towards after their time at the University of Missouri.

“The program connects CAFNR students with successful people in CAFNR related fields, many times alumni,” Christine Pickett said, coordinator for the program.

Gray graduated from MU in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in food science and nutrition. While deciding where to attend graduate school, Gray received some valuable advice from one of his MU professors who told him that he had already taught Gray everything he knew and it was time for him to learn new material from a new instructor.

Gray said having a great relationship with professors was one of the most important things he learned while being a part of the MU and CAFNR community. He eventually attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating in 1993 with a master’s in food technology.


As director of culinary innovation at Fazoli’s, Gray helps in creating Fazoli’s dishes, as well as working on the nutritional value of the menu.

Gray expected to follow in the footsteps of his parents and stay at his first job forever. However, other companies offered him opportunities, and before landing at Fazoli’s, Gray worked for Weaver Popcorn Company, Papa John’s International, Yum! Brands, and Frisch’s Big Boy.

“Be aggressive, take opportunities,” Gray said, “and don’t let anything stand in your way.”

Sean McNealy

About the Author Sean McNealy

I’m Sean McNealy, a sophomore at MU from Rockford, Ill., and I am new to the science and agricultural journalism program. I came into Mizzou as a fisheries and wildlife sciences major, but decided during my sophomore year to also pursue a degree in science and agricultural journalism. Proximity to both large metropolises, such as Chicago and Milwaukee, and unique state parks, really fostered my love for the city and for the outdoors. This led to my desire to pursue a degree I could apply to both rural and urban settings. I found science and agricultural journalism and thought it would be a great way spread the message of conservation, something that is very important to me. I currently don’t have a set career or profession I would like to go into, but as long as I’m happy doing what I love, I’m open to anything.