No Bull: Patrick Finley Is Taking Commercial Kitchens by the Horns

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Setting the gun sight on a trophy elk in Colorado is a bucket list item, for sure. As an avid outdoorsman, Patrick Finley (@commercial_kitchen_chronicles) loves to fish, hunt and camp every chance he gets. “It is a goal of mine to get into shape and live in the wilderness and take a trophy bull,” says Finley.

And when Finley’s mind comes back to reality for a bit, he talks about the fun he’s had cruising in his Jeep. “I always wanted a Harley, but the wife never approved. I would probably end up doing dumb stuff, let’s just be serious,” jokes Finley, who says he’s had a blast driving that Jeep and the Jeep community is full of all kinds of cool people. “I want to actually build it out and take it out to Moab, Utah.”

The Start

Finley started off as an electrician, wiring tract homes and got bored with it. Around the same time, Finley’s father worked for a company that got bought out by Ecolab, and he really wanted no part of working for a big corporation, “so he got me a job taking over his territory.”

Commercial Kitchens, service tech, installers, support the trades, heating, HVAC, refrigeration, KNIPEX, Klein Tools, Flue Gas analysisFinley then took an opportunity to jump into the food service industry, working three years “hot” only, but wanted more. He left to make more money and to receive refrigeration training. “I jumped ship for a place that gave me money and promised training. I got the money but training was ‘parts are on the truck, figure it out.’”

Over time, Finley developed sleep apnea and says he was a nightmare to insure, and he bounced around to several places. “I was falling asleep on the job and wrecking vans.”

Finley got the apnea under control and ended up at General Parts, Indianapolis, where he has been for the past 12 years. He is currently a lead service tech installing and servicing commercial cooking equipment. “They took a chance on me and I promised myself I would do everything in my power to not make them regret it. I became the guy that would not say no, and it has paid off big time.”

The Challenges and Rewards

Finley says that the biggest challenge of the job is the diversity of all the different things out there. “Take combi ovens, it’s an oven in steamer in one. There are a hundred different manufacturers out there, and they all do things a little different. The aspect of never knowing what you are going to find wrong, and overcoming that challenge,” says Finley.

And the reward? It usually resonates with most contractors. “Nothing beats going into a restaurant that can’t open for business or is struggling without a piece of equipment—and you fix it. You are their hero. I know it sounds cliche, but you are. Nothing beats that feeling of knowing that their day just got a little better or easier because of you. A customer may be freaking out because their walk-in is down and you get it running for them. It is cool,” says Finley.

Finley’s advice for getting into the trades is fairly simple. “Take a chance. You never know where you may end up and what your true passion is. I had no idea I would be where I am at. I had a dream as a kid in vocational school. I was going to be a union electrician, and when I topped out, I was buying a new corvette. Here I am now, fixing commercial restaurant equipment and loving it.”

Commercial Kitchens, service tech, installers, support the trades, heating, HVAC, refrigeration, KNIPEX, Klein Tools, Flue Gas analysis

If you’re interested in the trades, says Finley, start off watching YouTube or Instagram videos of men and women out here doing things. Then if you think you would like it, reach out to companies and see if you can job shadow. “Don’t be scared to check out different ones. There are people starting over in their 40s and absolutely crushing it,” says Finley.

It’s important to start showcasing what we actually do, says Finley. “So many people do not even know this career exists. I talk to people every day and they say the same thing, they have no clue. If you want people to get interested, you have to put it out there.”

The Social Effect

When Finley reflects about social media, he admits he never thought he would be where he is without it. He says he followed a lot of the tradespeople on his personal account before he started up the account Commercial Kitchen Chronicles. “Honestly, it was born out of jealousy. I see all of these guys with huge followings, yet no one was showing off my little corner, the foodservice repair industry,” says Finley.

Initially, by Finley’s own admission, he was clueless. “I would just post random pictures or short clips, horribly edited and terrible captions. I met a few people and even someone fairly close that helped me a ton.”

Finley still doesn’t understand how, but he actually won Best Social Media Content at the 2023 HVAC Tactical Awards, which coincided with the AHR Show in Atlanta, where met so many cool people. “Huge accounts, and I was nervous. I sat down at the ’22 HVAC Tactical awards and I looked up to see Eric Aune and Andy Mickelson. I was literally freaking out. I am a huge fan of their show and there they were. We talked all night and had a blast. Next day at the show, same thing, meeting all kinds of really cool people that were just down to earth, hard-working, blue-collar people.”

Social media has really helped Finley step out of his shell. “I am not like this normally; I am usually quiet and reserved, and very shy. It has helped me find my passion, and it gives me a great platform to share my journey in the foodservice repair industry.”

The Commercial Kitchen Chronicles Podcast

According to Finley, the Commercial Kitchen Chronicles podcast was started on a whim, really. He made a comment about starting a podcast about the foodservice repair industry form a tech’s view. And actually, Finley had long forgot about it, until he ran into his boss and he had heard about Finley’s idea and they wanted to support it. “So, it was born—a little rough at first. No cohost, and I was clueless. I had the equipment and no skills.

Commercial Kitchens, service tech, installers, support the trades, heating, HVAC, refrigeration, KNIPEX, Klein Tools, Flue Gas analysis“Now I have a few different guys that come on regularly and we all bring a different view to it. Dusty is fairly new to it. Jason came from the hospitality side of it before being a tech and understands both views on it. Rich is like me, full of passion and sometimes we may get ourselves into trouble, but we mean well.”

They all share a common goal: doing the right thing for the customer because if you take care of your customer, everything else falls into place. “We talk about everything in a kitchen, from equipment, to people to service and more. We interview other techs to share their experiences, manufacturers, chefs, office staff. If you have a story to tell, we would love to hear it.”

The Balance

And how do you make time to take that elusive elk hunting trip to Colorado? “I have not always been the best at this, prioritizing my time. I struggled for money for the longest time. I have three kids and a wife to take care of so I became addicted to that OT.

“Then it seemed like my work relied on me so most of the of time I would miss things. My son got injured playing football. He broke both bones in his lower leg. He ended up laying on the field for 30 minutes, waiting on an ambulance and I wasn’t there. That was a huge turning point for me.”

Finley began to focus more on his family, but I didn’t cut back on work necessarily, but shifted to getting up earlier. “Most days I still can get 12 hours in. I get a few hours with the wife or kids and it seems to work out. I actually take my vacation time now as well. I have made a lot of memories the last five or so years, but I missed out on a lot and it sucks.”

So, if you’re out and about at any future trade shows, make sure you say hello to Pat. “I will be in Chicago for a regional meeting for CFESA in August but after that, the AHR Show in Chicago. Also, I usually attend the National Restaurant Association Show, which is also in Chicago, and it’s always a blast. All of the latest and greatest equipment is on display there and it gives me a chance to see what is coming up that I will be installing and servicing.”

In the Tool Bag

  • Must haves: Veto bag and basic hand tools—majority are Klein with some Knipex.
  • M12 surge and M12 flashlight, and all Milwaukee M18 and M12 power tools.
  • I run a Fieldpiece SC680 for electrical diagnosis.
  • Refrigeration tools: All Fieldpiece, vacuum pump, reclaim, job link probes, digital gauge set ups.
  • I utilize a testo for flue gas analysis on combi ovens.
  • I am a huge proponent of refrigeration pressing and love my RLS system set up.
  • I am working on getting a press set up for water, drains and gas lines Hoping to end up buying a RIDGID RP 351. I do a lot of installs on combi ovens and they utilize 1.5- or 2-inch copper drains.