Lead instructor, greens buyer, and amazing chef
Derek credits his success and mastery of the culinary arts to his formative years in his grandmother’s kitchen preparing daily meals for their large family.
Entry level food service positions at the local bakery and KFC paved the way for a full time position under French Master Chef Patrice Boely propelling Derek to professional training at a culinary school in Napa Valley. After graduation, Derek spent a decade in Northern California working his way up to Executive Chef.
During a brief hiatus, Derek took a break from restaurants to work at Starbucks quickly becoming a Starbucks “Coffee Master”.
Returning home to the Twin Cities, Derek’s growing interest in coffee led to a production roasting position at Peace Coffee. Peace’s rapid expansion led to a quick promotion to Peace’s newly created Quality Control department as R&D manager. Derek trained with Mane Alves of Coffee Labs International (CLI) and was certified as SCAA Green Coffee Cupping Judge, the earliest form of Q certification.
Over the years, Derek returned to CLI for their rigorous 5 day roasting class, attended 9 annual Roasters Guild retreat events, 2 SCAA events, made coffee sourcing trips to Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Brazil, and earned a certification as an SCAA Certified Lead Instructor. Derek has been a Station Instructor at several SCAA and Roasters Guild events. Further notable coffee career highlights include a third place showing in his first US Roaster Championship competition and providing cupping quality training in Sumatra over two growing seasons for a Dutch NGO.
During Derek’s 11 years with Peace Coffee, daily roasted volume increased from 500 lbs to over 3000 lbs per day. Derek’s responsibilities included maintaining 20 plus roast profiles a year, maintaining 15 plus blends, roasting and managing 15 different origins, creating 4 new seasonal blends every year, creating a minimum of 4 single origin special releases every year, managing 2 full time roasters, and cleaning and maintaining their Diedrich CR-70, Primo PR-50, Renegade 1 LB Roaster.
Derek describes Mill City Roasters as drawing on all of Derek’s passion for quality and culinary arts and coffee knowledge to help guide students to commercial success as quickly as possible.
Education coordinator, greens roaster, professional barista
Eliza Lovett is a barista, roaster, and coffee enthusiast. Her love of coffee blossomed at an early age as she accompanied her mom to coffee shops, gawking at the attentiveness and craftsmanship of the baristas. Her fascination never decreased, and when she turned sixteen she started working at the Peet’s Coffee and Tea her mother had frequented. There she learned the basics of coffee, being sent to coffee classes and soaking up all things coffee.
The year after starting working at Peet’s a coworker brought in Scott Rao’s brand new book: The Professional Barista’s Handbook. Eliza read it, then read it again, and again.
In 2010 Eliza moved to Colorado for college and started working at small shops in Colorado Springs. It was at these shops that she got her first crack at roasting coffee. In perfect congruence, Scott Rao published The Coffee Roaster’s Companion within her first year of roasting, shedding light on so many issues she had encountered trying to teach herself this seemingly mysterious craft. In 2016, emboldened by the Colorado Springs’ community’s positive reaction to coffee she was roasting, Lovett participated in qualifiers for the United States Barista Championship. She placed high enough to move on to nationals, but a severe injury the week before competition forced her withdrawal; thankfully, well on the path to recovery, she looks forward to participating in more competitions in the future.
Eliza’s passions for coffee and learning have sustained her coffee career since 2007. She joined the Mill City team in October 2017 as an education lead, spreading her love for coffee and enthusiasm for coffee roasting.