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 and 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 lb. to over 3000 lb. 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, and 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.
Joe brings insatiable curiosity, a passion for community, and a lifelong devotion to science to his roasting instruction.
He first discovered his muse as a barista at Grace Café in Cape Girardeau, MO. Coffee gave Joe the perfect opportunity to blend his interests in science, horticulture (he spent his 21st birthday on Nicaraguan coffee farms), and art into a life’s work.
Joe then moved to Saint Louis to work as a full-time roaster for Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company. Working with this family-owned company was truly like going to coffee college. While there he packaged, flavored, delivered, roasted, brewed, sample roasted, and cupped, gaining deep experience in all sides of the business. He then transitioned from the roasting side to the training side, ultimately becoming the company’s training lead.
As his knowledge and expertise grew, Joe moved ever deeper into the industry. His initiation into the Barista Guild of America and Barista Competitions stirred his interest in green coffee and nudged him to a passionate exploration of coffee at the farm level.
Joe’s coffee credentials include:
- BGA Chapter Representative, 2009-2010
- Roasters Guild Executive Council, 2013-present
- Level 2 SCAA Barista Certificate
- Level 1 Roasters Certificate
- SCAA Specialized Instructor
- SCAA Subject Matter Expert in multiple areas
- Published author in numerous coffee-related periodicals
- Course instructor for multiple SCAA Certificate tracks
- South Central Regional Barista Champion, 2010-2011 season
- Barista Championship judge
- Instructor at Coffee Fest trade shows
- Head judge for The Roasters Choice competition
- Member of the SCAA Nominating Committee
- SCAA Special Recognition Award, 2015
Joe feels incredibly fortunate to have a successful career from what began as a curiosity. He now spends his days talking with roasters about green coffee, roasting theory, taste, evaluation, and how to move the industry forward.
He teaches courses all over the country, spending time on various machines with literally hundreds of different coffees every year, listening as other coffee professionals share their thoughts, and sharing his growing body of knowledge and experience with others.