Thomas brings a new kind of energy to our kitchen. Not only is there new delicious food coming out of the windows, but Thomas fosters a desire to reach and disciple people by way of his experience in the culinary world. In fact, he and his family discovered the Food Service Manager listing by searching the Internet for “chef ministry employment.” For Thomas and his family, it’s not just about the food; it’s about inspiring something a little bit bigger.
Thomas’s love of cooking started as a kid, learning all he could from his mother, and it simply never went away. At 17, he worked as a busboy at a local restaurant in his hometown of Minneapolis, which led an opportunity to become a cook. This served as his springboard into the hotel and hospitality industry where he worked with the Radisson Hotel chain for nearly 6 years.
In 2005 Thomas and Polly, then 4 years married, opened their own restaurant in the resort area of Okoboji, Iowa, and in 2006 they participated in a life-changing short-term mission trip to the East African country of Tanzania.
Thomas will tell you that this was the time when his career as a chef and his family’s desire for ministry intersected. They returned to East Africa several times over the years, and in 2012 they made the move from the States to pursue their Tanzanian ministry full-time. We really appreciate the kind of perspective that their Tanzanian ministry has cultivated, as it deeply contributes to our initiative to be a leader in the global camping community.
A short while after returning to back to the US, Thomas took a job as a food manager and production chef for a non-profit organization called Operation Blessing, a division of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the 700 Club. In short, his job was to travel in a semi-truck-turned-mobile-kitchen to areas of disaster relief and make sure hungry people had something to eat. The work was incredibly demanding. Disaster strikes anywhere, and at any time, so Thomas would sometimes need to move from one job to the next with little warning, and there would be long stretches of time where he would be away from his family.
Now, he Wileys can often be seen working together in the HoneyRock kitchen, preparing food alongside other summer staff, which is something they love about being here in the Northwoods. It would be an understatement to say that Thomas has big plans for how we do food at HoneyRock. His goal is to be the best in the industry, and that means really good things for you. From homemade, HR signature recipes (there’s this new kind of cinnamon honey butter that’s being served that is absolutely fantastic) to turning the kitchen into a kind of leadership development laboratory, the whole culture of our culinary experience at HoneyRock is catching a new, tasty wind. Needless to say, we are expectant of the Wiley’s ministry and food for years to come.